March 24, 2021

How to Choose the Right SAP S/4HANA Implementation Path for Your Business

Megan Ferringer

Last year, SAP announced a 2027 end-of-support deadline for Business Suite 7 software. For many companies, this means a move from SAP ECC 6.0 to SAP S/4HANA is no longer a matter of “if” but “when.” In fact, a recent SAPinsider survey revealed that a majority of respondents (61%) who have not started using S/4HANA are currently using ECC.

While 2027 may seem far away for some, the reality is that making the move to S/4HANA sooner rather than later can greatly benefit your business with more agility and an improved user experience—all while opening the door to becoming an intelligent enterprise. S/4HANA empowers users to connect people, systems and data, and take advantage of next-generation technologies like the internet of things (IoT) and advanced analytics—including artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning (ML). And while becoming an intelligent enterprise means different things for different companies, the benefits are undeniable: businesses that choose to adopt S/4HANA now are taking the first step to achieving innovation on-demand and competitive differentiation in the future.

Despite these benefits, however, many SAP users are at a standstill. According to the same SAPinsider survey, more than one-third (38%) of SAP customers that have not yet started using S/4HANA do not see a clear integration path with their current ECC 6.0 solution. That’s because, for many businesses, the path to  S/4HANA isn’t always straightforward: an S/4HANA implementation strategy largely depends on your unique IT environment, meaning there’s no “one-size-fits-all” conversion path to SAP’s next-generation ERP.

Breaking Down Your Three Paths to S/4HANA

To help you navigate your S/4HANA journey and find the right path for your business, Navisite’s SAP experts have identified three common conversion models.

Greenfield Approach: The Greenfield approach is a full re-implementation (i.e., you’re starting from scratch). This is the recommended path for companies that need a net-new implementation—one that allows them to redesign undesirable business processes based on a new configuration set.

This path guarantees the benefits of new innovations, including SAP HANA, SAP Fiori and more, and incorporates the industry’s latest best practices to standardize processes on the digital core.

Because Greenfield implementations involve completely redesigning business processes, however, there is more effort, time and resources involved. One other important point to note: with Greenfield, data conversion to S/4HANA is typically limited to master data and open transactional items, leaving historical transactional data behind (i.e., you lose all history of completed transactions).

To get a real-world view of how the Greenfield conversion model works, check out Navisite’s case study detailing how PFC Brakes modernized its business by doing a Greenfield implementation of S/4HANA on Amazon Web Services (AWS).

Selective Data Transition (SDT): Using this conversion model, organizations can reuse the parts of their existing ERP solution that they like, while redesigning the parts they don’t—with the ability to migrate relevant business data (both master and historical data) from ECC 6.0 to S/4HANA. So, unlike the Greenfield model, you won’t lose your history of past transactions—rather, they are carried over to your new environment. SDT is often used by organizations going through divestitures, mergers and acquisitions, where business leaders want to carve out only pertinent company data to restructure S/4HANA for the new organization.

SDT enables organizations to modernize legacy business processes while retaining valuable historical data, but this powerful combination doesn’t come without a price. It’s a more complex and lengthier conversion model because of the specialized tools required to extract configurations and data from existing environments for conversion to S/4HANA.

Brownfield Approach: The Brownfield approach is the most common path our experts see in the field. It involves a complete technical in-place conversion of an existing ECC 6.0 system to S/4HANA. Put more simply, it allows companies to maintain their existing structure (configuration set) and upgrade it to run on S/4HANA, while also bringing all master and transactional data to the new system. Brownfield is an ideal conversion model for companies that want to retain their existing business processes and data, but also want to enable quicker adoption and development of new innovations. 

Brownfield is the fastest and most cost-effective route to S/4HANA. And, once the project is done, you’ll have the foundation to continually adopt various elements of the intelligent enterprise.

For a detailed dive into the Brownfield conversion methodology, check out our eBook, “How to Move to SAP S/4HANA Successfully.”

Which Path Is Right For Your Business?

The best path to S/4HANA depends on your current IT estate and your future goals. It also depends on where you are in your cloud journey—because, for many companies, a move to S/4HANA serves as the catalyst to also move to managed cloud services with a hyperscale cloud provider, such as AWS, Microsoft Azure or Google Cloud Platform.

To learn more about the three S/4HANA conversion models, the pros and cons of each, and how to decide which is best for your business, read our eBook, “How to Move to SAP S/4HANA Successfully.”

Whatever path you choose to take to S/4HANA, we’re here for you. To find out how Navisite can help with your specific S/4HANA conversion, learn more about our end-to-end SAP managed services.

About Megan Ferringer

Megan is the Content Marketing Manager at Navisite with more than 10 years of experience helping brands discover and tell their stories. From working at a global non-profit organization to boutique marketing agencies in Chicago, she champions the power of storytelling across all industries.