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Difference between Greenfield and Brownfield Implementation in SAP

When it comes to migrating to SAP S/4HANA, you’ll be provided with three distinct choices. The first one is greenfield implementation, where you’ll have to begin from a new slate. 

The brownfield approach (system conversion) is the second and the more popular option. In this case, you will be able to keep some specific parts of your customization intact.

And finally, there’s another technique known as the hybrid method (selective data transition) that lets you use the best features of greenfield and brownfield implementation.

So, which one should you choose?

Well, if your enterprise doesn’t have enough data or customizations to migrate, it’ll be better to stay away from the hybrid procedure. But, even if you do that, what else should you go for?

As a rule of thumb, your decision solely depends on what you want to do or how much you’re thinking about migrating. Let’s keep reading to learn more about it.

Greenfield Approach – A Brand New Implementation

A greenfield approach is all about performing a proper reengineering of a corporation’s SAP related workflows or processes. So, with it, you will start from scratch and will have to create the whole system and infrastructure on SAP again.

Additionally, this procedure will also wipe out whatever customization you’ve done on SAP ECC. So, you’ll be able to rectify whatever mistake you had made before.

The Pros

Like any other technical method, the greenfield approach also has its fair share of advantages and disadvantages. For instance, if you’re the owner of a legacy enterprise, you probably have created lots of different codes and workflows in your system.

And to some extent, the whole environment has gotten a little bit complex too. So how do you get rid of whatever you’ve created and begin from an untarnished slate?

By using the greenfield approach.

Furthermore, as it can be done in the cloud or on-premise, the method can let you pre-define a migration object or two at the beginning. Also, as you are removing everything and beginning from literally nothing, it can result in faster time-to-value and lower total-cost-of-ownership.

However, the primary advantage of the greenfield approach is that it enables you to transform with a brand new system. Thus, you’ll get the flexibility to drive various topics, including the simplification and standardization of the project.

The Cons

Nonetheless, as we said, this method has its own shortcomings as well.

For example, in theory, you can get the core elements of your business and SAP S/4HANA up and running within three months. But, in reality, moving all your data into a blank system can take much more time than that, as it’s quite a significant undertaking.

If you’re unlucky, it might take you a year or so before you can get started.

Besides, the greenfield method tends to be riskier than any other implementation strategy too. That’s because, with it, you’ll have to redevelop various customizations that are important to a business procedure or the entire enterprise.

This can take a considerable amount of time and may lead to confusions or errors as well.

Brownfield Approach – Updating the Existing System

Unlike the greenfield method, where you delete the entire system and start from the beginning – the brownfield approach feels more like an upgrade. With it, you’ll get your SAP S/4HANA up and running while migrating your existing SAP systems and workflows in the new version.

With this technique, you will also get the opportunity to reevaluate your migrating decision in a proper manner. Editing and changing a module or two can also be done during the process.

The Advantages

The best thing about the brownfield method is that it lets you keep all of your customizations that you’ve been using to manage dataflow. Therefore, the runtime of the project gets shorter, reducing the risk of making an error or a disruption to your business.

Moreover, as there’s no new implementation included in this aspect, it can enable you to focus on your business rather than something else.

The Disadvantages

Although brownfield is a better option than greenfield in general, it still has some problems or issues that may affect your business proceedings. For example, as you are able to keep almost everything, including the customizations and workflows, intact, it can prevent innovation. 

And the success of this implementation will focus solely on how well the existing system and workflow of your business work. Additionally, the complexities that may get unearthed due to keeping a system intact, this type of implementation should be done on-premise.

Brownfield is suited for people who are thinking about keeping their current infrastructure on SAP S/4HANA. But, even if you want to convert rapidly to SAP S/4HANA from SAP ECC, the process will still be viable for you.

Greenfield vs. Brownfield Approach – The Differences

According to a report, almost 44% of people tend to opt for a brownfield approach while only 14% put their trust in greenfield. However, this should not be a verdict for any organization to go for the former instead of the latter. The choice of migrational approach will depend on how you want to drive your objectives. Hopefully, learning about the differences between these two will shed more light in this aspect.

Factor Greenfield Brownfield
Are you thinking about performing a phased business roll-out? It’ll be possible with Greenfield, as you can delete everything and start anew with it. Brownfield lets you keep a certain part of your existing system. So, it’s unnecessary.
Does your current system fulfill all of the required conversion prerequisites? If it meets all the prerequisites, then there is no need to start from the beginning again. Brownfield will be ideal in this case, as you can carry forward your existing structure.
Are you thinking about keeping all of your transaction data history and solution enhancements? Isn’t possible with greenfield. Can be done with brownfield.

The Bonus – Selective Data Transition (Hybrid Approach)

With the hybrid migration model, it’ll be easier for you to collaborate between both greenfield and brownfield approaches efficiently. This way, you’ll be able to mitigate the risks associated with SAP HANA and ensure that you’re not losing your progression in any manner.

With selective data transition, you can also redesign any part of your business and extract the parts that you don’t want to use. However, there’s a downside to this approach too.

Unlike the aforementioned two, you can’t perform the transition if you don’t have a 3rd party tool with you. It, in turn, can increase the risk of your data getting stolen or damaged.

In any case, you may have to choose selective data transition, if you are thinking about –

  • Reducing the effort of re-implementation by reusing some specific segments, such as – logistics, while redesigning the others, like finance.
  • Thinking about going live in phases (by business unit or by country).
  • Merging or splitting an existing SAP ERP instance.

Greenfield or Brownfield – What Should You Choose?

Before you choose between brownfield or greenfield, it will be important for you to learn a bit about your business and how you want to progress. Here are some questions that you need to ask yourself to get more information in this context.

  • Does your organization prefer a safer or gradual approach instead of rapid innovation and execution with a tinge of risk?

So, if you want to go through a more conservative route, it might be best to opt for the hybrid or brownfield approach. But, if you want to be on the cutting edge of everything, greenfield is the way to go for you. It may take a little more resources, but it’d still be the best option.

  • Is it important for you to retain your historical data?

If it’s not too significant for your business, you can delete it all and start anew by choosing the greenfield method. However, if you want to retain everything, brownfield will be the key.

  • Are you still using a business process that doesn’t suit your organization anymore?

Sometimes, organizations try to get out of their previous infrastructure and try something new. If you want a fresh start, always go for a greenfield approach.

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