True SCM Blog #3

What is a Greenfield or Brownfield SAP implementation?

So you hear Greenfield or Brownfield on an SAP project. Perhaps some of the more technical SAP people say this and you’re completely dumbfounded by what that person just said. Both of these terms are approaches to the new SAP implementation and have their challenges and obstacles where it leans more heavily on the brownfield approach for obvious reasons which I will discuss in this writing.

A Greenfield project is a new SAP implementation meaning that the business previously ran another enterprise ERP such as Oracle, Peoplesoft, Netsuite, AS400, IBM Maximo, and so on (think mid-market organizations). These firms and their users don’t typically understand SAP besides the basics so this type of approach is simply difficult in that the business users will have minimal exposure, if any, to SAP and how it really works. Processes may be similar in many ways, but very challenging in other aspects, as with any new ERP system.

For example, terminology and semantics can be quite confusing when people are referring to something that means the same thing in their previous system. The adaptation to the new system field names is a daunting task in itself. For example in SAP what is called a material can be referred to as a SKU (Stock Keep Unit), Item, UPC, EAN, GTIN, buyer part number, customer material number, and I’ve even heard it more recently referred to as a “bar code” which means the material, not an actual scannable barcode like you would be led believe.

On the other hand, the Brownfield approach is much easier than compared to a Greenfield in that these firms are upgrading from an older version of SAP, such as ECC 5.0 or ECC 6.0. The approach is to implement the new SAP S/4 HANA system in parallel with the old SAP system. The SAP systems integrator (SI) then helps their customers to migrate to the new environment by migrating their business processes and workflows from their old system.

All things considered, the decision to go either on-premise or in the cloud when migrating to SAP S/4 HANA will be highly dependent on what your organizational needs are. On one hand, Cloud offers you a higher degree of standardization while on-premise or any premise (SAP or Cloud Hyperscalers) provides a higher degree of flexibility. Lastly, the decision makers or executives within your organization will decide (or have already decided) on either option based on costs, licensing requirements, upgrades, implementation, security, infrastructure, resources, and configuration.