S/4HANA migration: which approach best fits your business? Greenfield, Brownfield or Hybrid?

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Whether your company is already running on a legacy SAP application or is considering joining the SAP environment as a newcomer, one thing is certain: you’ll need to run on SAP S/4HANA by the end of 2027. 

A successful migration is based on 2 key success factors: 

  • Your migration strategy 
  • Your migration team 


Table of Contents


The first key success factor of your migration is your migration strategy.

The S/4HANA product consists of two editions: 

  • SAP S/4HANA On-premise 

  • SAP S/4HANA Cloud 

There are 3 ways to deploy SAP S/4HANA: 

  • Deployment on-premise: locally managed server / database; 

  • Deployment in the cloud: hosted public server / database; 

  • Deployment through a hybrid model: hosted private server / database. 

The first decision to be taken in your migration process is to define whether you stay on-premise, move to cloud or choose an hybrid model?

The next step of the migration strategy is the approach to be chosen according to various criteria: Greenfield, Brownfield or Hybrid.


In a Greenfield deployment, you start from scratch. This approach is usually recommended : 

  • When a lot of heavy custom coding has been accumulated;

  • When the legacy system is no longer efficient;

  • When the core business or the company’s strategy are in constant, rapid state of evolution;

  • For SAP newcomers.

The main steps of a greenfield deployment are : 

  • A new SAP system is configured;

  • Old data are cleansed and mapped with new features of the SAP S/4HANA system;

  • A data load plan must be defined.


Note that the greenfield approach is a time-consuming process as it requires:

  • a complete in-depth overhaul of the system to solve pain points during the implementation;

  • a significant input from key users to ensure the data conversion.


brownfield is not S/4HANA implementation. 

SAP recommends this approach for a system conversion from the existing SAP ECC to SAP S/4HANA. 

This means that the actual data and specific programming are maintained as they are. 

It’s a technical upgrade of the system. 

Brownfield is not suitable if you have decided to migrate to S/4HANA cloud.

With the brownfield approach, there is : 

  1. no data cleansing ;

  2. no data mapping ;

  3. no data migration.

S/4HANA’s new tools for more IT landscape’s flexibility to digital transformation and intelligent enterprise are integrated in further steps after the conversion. 



A hybrid deployment is a combination of a brownfield and a greenfield. 

A hybrid deployment aims at taking the advantages of both approaches. 

It reuses the customizing and developments of the existing ERP and enrich it with new features of S/4HANA.

We could compare the transition as build and / or renovate a new house. 

With the greenfield deployment, you build a brand-new house on an empty field while with a hybrid approach you renovate the house keeping the same standards or update them to new required standards. 

In both cases you will have a house with fire detectors, solar panels, and condensing heating to replace an obsolete boiler. 

At the end of the process, we get a passive ecological house. 

If the actual house’s configuration is no longer adapted to the high technological standards required, then you will need to take the decision of rebuilding a new house.

Otherwise you can go forward with hybrid.

  • Mix of greenfield and brownfield

  • Existing system update

  • Enrichment with selective data

  • Fits for cloud


The second key success factor of your migration project is your team.

Migrate to S/4HANA requires you to dedicate the adequate team within your business. You will need to select employees who know your business process perfectly.

In most cases, it is difficult for a company to manage a S/4HANA migration on its own.

You will certainly require an external support.

As a team of experienced SAP Consultants, S4IC has been involved in many S/4HANA migration. 

We can provide you an end-to-end assistance, from the migration approach to adopt to the migration process itself.

We have developed specific tools to facilitate the migration from ECC to S/4HANA on-premise and on the cloud.

If you need more details or advice for your path to S/4HANA, contact us