What is SAP Greenfield?

SAP Greenfield is the implementation of SAP S/4 HANA without taking over existing system structures. The system is completely new. This involves risks - but above all opens up opportunities.

There are several ways to switch to SAP S/4HANA. One of the possible ways is New Implementation or Reimplementation, that is, setting up a new IT system for a new environment. In the case of a SAP S/4HANA implementation, experts also speak of SAP Greenfield or SAP S/4HANA Greenfield.

The term Greenfield stands in the figurative sense for a new start "on a greenfield site". Greenfield is a term that originally comes from urban planning, but is now also used in software development. Such an approach does not have to take into account existing IT systems or individual developments.

Close to the SAP standard with SAP Greenfield

When SAP S/4HANA is reimplemented, all processes and systems are completely reinstalled and adjusted - always close to the SAP standard and SAP best practices. This is comparable with the situation of a company that is starting from scratch with ERP software.

In such cases, the existing business processes and data are first analyzed and optimized to prepare the transformation to the new ERP software. Once the system is up and running, the master data is migrated and the users are trained. This is followed by the go-live.

The other option: SAP System Conversion

In contrast, a system conversion involves upgrading the existing SAP ERP system to SAP S/4HANA. Experts refer to this as the brownfield approach. In such a case, the initial system is the basis for the transformation. The new system is therefore not built "on a greenfield site", but rather where buildings and facilities basically already exist.

Existing processes and individual developments are thus transferred to the new system - and with them existing legacy, such as developments that have become obsolete or old code. The heterogeneity and complexity of the old system is thus largely preserved.

Further disadvantages of the brownfield approach are that a later switch to the SAP S/4HANA cloud can only be implemented with considerable effort and effort, and the best practices cannot be used.

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SAP Greenfield vs. SAP Brownfield: Which is the better approach?

Which approach is best suited for a migration to SAP S/4HANA and which path companies choose depends on numerous factors.

Technically, both migration scenarios are usually technically possible, as well as corresponding middle ways such as Bluefield (selective migration), which are usually based on system conversion and are characterized by selective data migration.

The decisive factor is the current stage of development of a company, what its current system landscape looks like, what IT architecture it is aiming for and what effort it wants to invest.

Basically, it can be said that the more complex, older and heterogeneous an ERP system is, the more likely it is that this system will hinder a company in its further development - and the more likely it is to consider the greenfield approach to migration.

On the other hand, the closer a company's system is to the SAP standard and the leaner its technical setup, the more likely the brownfield approach can be the right solution.

From Non-SAP, SAP R/3 or SAP ERP to SAP S/4HANA

The greenfield approach is particularly suitable for two groups of companies.

  • The first group consists of companies that either do not yet use an ERP system or work with the ERP system of another manufacturer and now want to switch to SAP. For these SAP newcomers, reimplementation is the only way forward.
  • The second group includes companies that already work with SAP. These are companies that use an ERP system such as SAP R/3 or SAP ERP 6.0, but would now like to establish a more efficient and flexible IT system landscape with the introduction of SAP S/4HANA.

The advantages of SAP Greenfield

The advantages of Greenfield are that companies migrate in one step to a leaner and company-wide uniform IT system that is close to the SAP standard. This increases flexibility. At the same time, operating costs are reduced.

By connecting to the SAP cloud and using apps, the new system can also be kept permanently up-to-date. SAP S/4HANA can thus exploit its full potential: various new analysis options, scalable and automated processes in real time, the use of artificial intelligence.

However, existing additional developments from the previous ERP world cannot be adopted. Often, however, this is no longer necessary because SAP S/4HANA already contains many functions in the standard version.

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The SAP Greenfield approach may take longer

If SAP S/4HANA is introduced with the greenfield approach, the existing ERP system will initially continue to operate in parallel. The introduction therefore does not affect the current business processes. The previously used system will be switched off on Day 1 and SAP S/4HANA will be started.

In contrast to the brownfield approach, the introduction with SAP Greenfield is more complex and can take longer because data must first be comprehensively analyzed and cleaned up as required. In addition, processes must be rebuilt and more training is required.

It should also be borne in mind that the greenfield approach generally requires more comprehensive change management because the changes are more extensive for the users.

The switch following the greenfield approach

Basically, a greenfield project starts with a detailed analysis and the conception of an SAP roadmap. Consultants and users develop a roadmap and the design of the future IT architecture under SAP S/4HANA.

This phase is followed by implementation, initial training and testing. Finally, the users are trained, the data is uploaded and the system can go live. The go-live is followed by the optimization of the system.

Meinolf Schaefer01 1444x1444px

Meinolf Schäfer, Senior Director Sales & Marketing

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