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3 strategies for SAP ECC to S/4HANA conversion projects

In part one of this five-part series on SAP ECC to S/4HANA conversions, learn about the history of transformation at SAP and three approaches to migrations.

You've probably heard SAP will support maintenance for core applications of SAP ECC 6.0 software through 2027. Additionally, customers now have the option of purchasing extended maintenance at a 2% premium through to 2030. The extension doesn't mean there is time to waste, however.

Digital technologies that enable modern work will continue to be essential. It is critical for customers to embrace the Intelligent Enterprise model now more than ever to ensure their success. Current customers of legacy systems like SAP R/3 or ERP Central Component (ECC) must prepare for S/4HANA, which is the future at SAP.

Why is SAP focusing on S/4HANA?

S/4HANA represents a technology shift for the industry 25 years in the making.

In the early '90s, companies began moving from mainframe computing systems to client server environments -- a transition fueled by the explosion of the internet and corresponding need for a "Y2K solution." At SAP, this was represented by the conversion from mainframe application SAP R/2 to client server application SAP R/3.

In 2015, the company announced SAP S/4HANA, marking the next generation of SAP ERP software. S/4HANA is powered by a shift from in-house client-server technologies to digital technologies incorporating cloud and mobile enablement. While its core retains back-office functions, it now also enables far-reaching technologies and capabilities, including the following:

  • Using the advanced in-memory platform/database of SAP HANA
  • Serving as the "digital core" that enables the Intelligent Enterprise model
  • Working as the backbone for business operations that use emerging technologies such as IoT, AI, robotic process automation, cloud integration, big data management and customer experience
SAP S/4HANA chart
Research by ASUG and DAG gauges customers' attitudes toward SAP S/4HANA.

Like SAP ECC, organizations can use S/4HANA as a modular application. This means a client can deploy the functionality in phases as needed.

S/4HANA is released in annual cycles, with a new version in late summer or early fall each year.

Strategies for SAP ECC to S/4HANA conversions

Companies looking to do an SAP ECC to S/4HANA conversion typically have three paths to choose from.


A brownfield approach to conversion allows organizations to migrate from SAP ECC to S/4HANA by converting their existing SAP environment without reimplementation or disruption to existing business processes.

Current customers of legacy systems like SAP R/3 or ECC must prepare for SAP S/4HANA, which is the future at SAP.

The approach works well for companies that are satisfied with their business processes and data management but need to enable quicker adoption and development of new innovations. While sometimes referred to as an "upgrade," the brownfield approach is, in fact, a database migration and application conversion.


A greenfield approach is often referred to as "reimplementation." A company performs a new implementation of SAP S/4HANA and uses its existing ECC system as a legacy.

The greenfield approach works well for companies that need a net new implementation, because it allows them to redesign undesirable processes based on the latest innovations in S/4HANA. They no longer worry about clunky legacy data.

Selective data transition

A technical migration at the table level, the selective data transition approach uses preconfigured transformation rules to extract specific master and transactional data sets. Selective data migration to the new S/4HANA platform can be based on legal entities or other organizational elements.

Selective data transitions enable a customer to define a new configuration set and improve business processes. It allows historical data to be kept, converted and transformed if desired to fit the new S/4HANA configuration.

Move on to part two of the series, which kicks off a discussion of these three migration methods, starting with brownfield migrations.

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