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When an SAP S/4HANA selective data transition makes sense

An SAP S/4HANA selective data transition might be the best approach for a customer's ECC conversion. Learn how this approach differs from brownfield and greenfield implementations.

Editor's note: Here, in part four of our five-part series on SAP S/4HANA conversions, we discuss the selective data transition approach. In part one, we covered the basics of a transition to S/4HANA. Part two explained the brownfield approach to migration and the preparations involved. Part three covered the actual execution of a brownfield migration.

Let's start with a basic question: Why would a company consider using a selective data transition approach as an option for its SAP S/4HANA move?

Think first of alternative approaches, starting with a brownfield migration. In a brownfield approach, an organization's original configuration set is maintained, bringing along all historical master data and transactional data to the new S/4HANA system. But many companies are dissatisfied with their current SAP ERP Central Component (ECC) system configuration and don't wish to continue maintaining more than 20 years of legacy data.

Meanwhile, a greenfield approach to implementation -- aka "starting from scratch" -- may be a good way to fully redesign business processes and establish a new configuration set. However, data conversion is typically limited to master data and open transactional items, leaving historical transactional data behind entirely.

With the selective data transition approach, a company can enjoy the best of both worlds: establishing new business processes based on a new configuration set, all while extracting, transforming and loading historical data subsets in order to maintain important data. Organizations can then alter or enrich the data to conform to the new configuration, business processes and reporting needs.

In essence, the SAP S/4HANA selective data transition approach allows organizations to reuse the parts of their existing ERP system that they want, while redesigning the parts that they don't want.

SAP S/4HANA survey chart

What is involved in an SAP S/4HANA selection data transition?

Multiple tools are necessary for executing a selective data transition. The approach uses standard SAP tools and/or third-party data tools, including SAP Data Management and Landscape Transformation software, as well as Enterprise Transformer for SAP S/4HANA. These tools enable a company to selectively transfer various types of data, including the following:

  • ABAP repository of objects and developments
  • Configuration (customizing) data
  • Master data
  • Transactional data (open items and a subset of historical closed items)

These are time-tested, proven tools fit for today's world of mergers and acquisitions, where divesting a company and carving out a subset of its data for a new SAP system is commonplace.

The selective data transition approach is a strong alternative to a greenfield net new implementation.

Differences from the greenfield approach

The SAP S/4HANA selective data transition approach is a strong alternative to a greenfield net new implementation. For customers moving from an existing SAP ECC system to S/4HANA on-premises or S/4HANA Cloud extended edition (formerly SAP S/4HANA Cloud, Single Tenant Edition), a selective data transition may be ideal.

The selective data transition approach has some similarities with a greenfield approach in that data is extracted from an SAP ECC legacy system, transformed with data cleansing and enrichment tools, and loaded into a new S/4HANA environment. In other words, both approaches follow an extract, transform and load data conversion process.

However, in a selective data transition, not all data is moved -- and the data may be transformed or enriched in ways that wouldn't typically occur using a greenfield approach. The "transform" step, for example, may include the restructuring of data to utilize business partner capabilities rather than legacy customer and vendor structures. Data may also be otherwise enriched as part of the "transform" process.

In all, the advantages of an SAP S/4HANA selective data transition include the following:

  • The ability to maintain existing business processes or completely redesign business processes, while aligning historical data
  • Reducing the total data set by converting a subset of the total master and transactional data in the legacy ECC environment
  • Data model changes/enhancements that allow for possible field and value mappings of a historical data set

In part five of this series, we will discuss what a greenfield approach looks like with real-world examples.

About the authors
Alex Borovkov is director of S/4HANA Movement at Chicago-based IT consultancy Dickinson + Associates.

Brad Hiquet is vice president of client engagement, S/4HANA Movement, at Dickinson + Associates.

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