How do you Migrate to SAP S/4HANA? What is S/4HANA Migration Approach?

An abbreviation of SAP Business Suite 4 SAP HANA, SAP S/4HANA is SAP’s next-generation enterprise resource planning (ERP) software based on the advanced in-memory SAP HANA (High-performance Analytic Appliance) database. The SAP S/4HANA process is used to align and orchestrate business functions such as finance, human resources, procurement, sales, manufacturing, and services, as also data processing, advanced analytics, and improved user experiences in real-time.

The SAP S/4HANA module integrates natively with line-of-business solutions from SAP SE. Apart from the intelligent ERP functionality, the suite also consists of supplier relationship management (SRM), customer relationship management (CRM), supply chain management (SCM), and product lifecycle management (PLM) functionalities.

The SAP S/4HANA Migration Process

The SAP S/4HANA migration is a complex and critical process for businesses using SAP’s ERP solutions. Here are the various steps to be followed for migrating to the SAP S/4HANA module:

1. Assessment and Planning:

Business Case: This defines and identifies the reasons for the SAP S/4HANA migration, especially the business benefits, strategy, and objectives of moving to S/4HANA.
Readiness Assessment: The current SAP landscape is evaluated and analyzed, including hardware, software, and customizations, to determine its readiness for migration.

Data Analysis: Data quality is analyzed, and data cleansing and migration requirements are suitably recognized.

Licensing: The SAP licensing agreements for the organization are reviewed to ensure that it has the necessary licenses for SAP S/4HANA.

2. Choosing the right SAP S/4HANA Migration Approach:

Here are various migration approaches for SAP S/4HANA:

a) Greenfield Approach (i.e., New Implementation): This consists of starting a new SAP S/4HANA implementation. This approach is generally used when the existing SAP system is highly customized or outdated.

A greenfield installation includes rebuilding the entire enterprise resource planning infrastructure from scratch on top of the SAP S/4HANA platform, i.e., process flows, workflow automation, integration, and configuration—without importing existing system structures.

A greenfield deployment and software implementation is really expensive, requiring the adoption of an aggressive training and adoption regimen to acquaint users with UI changes, workflow logic, and S/4HANA’s tool base. A greenfield migration approach is ideally suited to enterprises with legacy, outdated SAP applications and infrastructure that is ancient or several years old.

b) Brownfield Approach (Full Migration and System Conversion): This involves converting the existing SAP ECC system to SAP S/4HANA. Though less disruptive, this approach but needs more effort to align and adapt customizations.

A brownfield deployment (system conversion) is ideal for customers who want to switch to the SAP S/4HANA module, but plan to preserve their custom applications, workflows, and data structures, avoid costly disruptions to their ERP ops ecosystem, and instead, migrate and adapt their processes to the SAP S/4HANA platform. A full migration approach is suited to enterprises that are “all-in” on the SAP application suite and SAP S/4HANA implementation partners who are assisting as third-party support.

c) Hybrid approach: A combination of the Greenfield and Brownfield approaches, the hybrid approach is normally adopted by enterprises or businesses who want to build certain parts of their new SAP S/4HANA ERP from the ground up, use SAP applications and partners for some migration, but desire the flexibility and agility to integrate best-of-breed applications and change future processes.

The below diagram summarises the three key transition scenarios for the SAP S/4HANA module:

3. Data Migration:

  • Define a clear data migration strategy, including data extraction, transformation, and loading all Extract, Transform and Load (ETL) processes.
  • Use SAP’s Legacy Transfer Migration Cockpit (LTMC) or third-party tools to move data to the SAP S/4HANA module.
  • Perform extensive testing and validation to ensure data integrity during the SAP S/4HANA implementation.

4. Custom Code Adaptation:

  • Review and adapt custom code, such as ABAP (Advanced Business Application Programming) and SAP Business Warehouse objects, to be compatible with the SAP S/4HANA implementation process.
  • SAP provides tools like SAP Readiness Check and SAP Code Inspector to help identify code issues.

5. System Conversion:

  • If using a brownfield approach, we have to perform the system conversion using the SAP Software Update Manager (SUM) tool.
  • This process involves upgrading the SAP ERP Central Component (ECC) system to SAP S/4HANA, adapting custom code, and ensuring data consistency and accuracy.

6. Functional Testing:

  • Thoroughly test your SAP S/4HANA system for functional correctness. This includes business processes, integration, and custom development.
  • Conduct regression testing to ensure that existing functionalities perform as expected.

7. User Training and Change Management:

  • Train end-users and administrators on the new SAP S/4HANA system.
  • Implement roadmaps for organizational change management to facilitate user adoption to the new SAP S/4 HANA platform.

8. Go-Live and Post-Migration Activities:

  • Plan a cutover to the new SAP S/4HANA system, ensuring minimal disruption to business operations.
  • Monitor the system closely after going live to address any issues promptly.

9. Optimization and Continuous Improvement:

  • ontinuously monitor and optimize the SAP S/4HANA platform to ensure it meets the organization’s changing, evolving business needs.
  • Consider leveraging SAP’s innovations and updates to further enhance the enterprise’s ERP capabilities.

10. Documentation and Knowledge Transfer:

  • Document the entire SAP S/4HANA migration process, customization, and configuration for future reference.
  • Ensure regular, periodic knowledge transfer to internal teams for ongoing system support for the SAP S/4HANA platform.

Best practices for the SAP S/4HANA migration journey:

To make your SAP S/4HANA migration journey a success, we reiterate the best practices to be adopted for the migration:

  • Plan and prepare: Thoroughly plan the migration like a project every step of the way, including defining the project scope, timeline, budget, and resources.
  • Comprehend the existing system, customization, and data structure.
  • Determine the System topography: including the system functionalities and customizations required and its alignment and integration with other systems.
  • Roadmap for Data migration: that includes data validation, clean up, and data mapping.
  • Testing the SAP S/4HANA migrated system comprehensively to identify and remedy potential bottlenecks, disruptions, issues, and challenges before finally going live
  • Establish organisational change management SOPs, guidelines, and processes: to make sure that everyone is aligned to the migration journey, and its impact to organisational and systemic roles and processes.
  • Examine and evaluate the efficacy of customizations made in the outdated, legacy system and decide if they are required in the new SAP S/4HANA system.
  • Assign a dedicated project team: with the necessary technical and functional know-how and expertise to lead the migration journey.
  • Trusted vendor partnership: Partner with a trusted vendor or consultant with extensive experience in SAP migration to ensure a smooth and successful migration.
  • Monitor and adjust: Continuously track and monitor the migration process and make adjustments as needed, in real-time to ensure that the project stays on track, in conformity with expected timelines, and meets the desired outcomes and goals.

BPX – Your SAP S4/HANA Migration expert:

Every organization’s migration story is unique, as the specific steps, challenges and customizations vary each time. Thorough planning and testing are crucial to a successful SAP S/4HANA migration. Thus, it is essential to engage a trusted SAP migration expert or consultant to manage the entire migration process end-to-end, especially if your business lacks the in-house expertise to perform this critical activity.

BPX can help you to successfully plan and execute the entire migration journey, guiding your business every step of the way. A process consulting & BPM company with 11 years of experience, BPX caters to 500+ clients in 12 countries worldwide and is spread across 21 diverse industries. Headquartered in Pune, India, BPX specializes in defining SOPs using BPMN 2.0 and process automation (i.e., IT Solutions like SAP, Signavio, Celonis, and other key process digitization tools). So, if you are a business leader looking to successfully migrate to SAP S/4HANA and transform your enterprise, your search ends here, connect to our consultants now. We will understand your strategic needs and requirements, enabling you to tap into the various benefits of a SAP S/4HANA migration, scaling up your business, and boosting efficiencies to firmly entrench yourself on the road to success!

Author Bio


Rupal Agarwal

Chief Strategy Officer
Dr. Rupal’s “Everything is possible” attitude helps achieve the impossible. Dr. Rupal Agarwal has worked with 300+ companies from various sectors, since 2012, to custom-build SOPs, push their limits and improve performance efficiency. Rupal & her team have remarkable success stories of helping companies scale 10X with business process standardization.

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