Migration to SAP S/4HANA – Basics (Part I)

On February 3rd, 2015, SAP published its new SAP product line SAP S/4HANA, including numerous new features with the new SAP HANA database technology, the SAP cloud platform models, and the Fiori user interface for simplification of the user experience. This is by no means an enhancement upgrade of SAP ERP (SAP ECC or older), but rather a new fourth-generation SAP business suite. In the context of big data services, the HANA in-memory technology enables faster processing of database tasks in real time, which can, in addition, represent a competitive advantage with suitable cloud options.

However, since this is a new business suite for a company’s ERP landscape, the integration of SAP S/4HANA requires a complex transfer, depending on the system. This includes not only procedural and architectural adjustments, but also the revision and definition of security authorizations within the new SAP landscape. These measures should be considered not only with regard to the renewal of the IT landscape and the associated improvement of competitive positions, but also because SAP will currently only offer support, updates, and licenses for SAP ERP systems until December 31, 2027.

In order to make the system conversion to SAP S/4HANA as easy and smooth as possible in the authorization context, this multipart blog series will go into the basic steps of the master data migration process.

First steps: The choice of SAP S/4HANA deployments

Prerequisites that you must think about with your authorizations and the provisioning of end users, you need to clarify which SAP S/4HANA deployment scenario that is suitable for your IT infrastructure and create a template to be used in the migration cockpit going forward. A distinction is made between four product variants, the compatibility of which you must validate by project management individually for the respective company structure.

SAP S/4HANA AnyPremise: On-Premise or managed by cloud provider Hyperscalers

  • Local ERP solution (cloud add-ons are possible).
  • Comparison to the current source system ERP with a self-hosted server or an external host.
  • Infrastructure and software are in the hands of the customer (excluding support).
  • The use of third-party tools and different GUIs are possible.

SAP S/4HANA Cloud essentials edition (ES)

  • Cloud-based ERP solution on a shared instance (without local interfaces).
  • Software as a Service (SaaS).
  • Infrastructure and software are supplied via SAP (including authorizations).
  • No use of third-party tools and different GUIs are possible.

SAP S/4HANA Cloud extended edition (EX)

  • Cloud-based ERP solution on a dedicated instance (without local interfaces).
  • Software as a Service (SaaS).
  • Infrastructure and software are supplied via SAP (excluding authorizations).
  • The use of third-party tools and different GUIs are possible.

SAP S/4HANA AnyPremise Private Cloud managed by SAP (HEC)

  • Cloud-based ERP solution with SAP server.
  • IaaS: Infrastructure as a service.
  • Infrastructure is supplied via SAP (excluding software and authorizations).
  • The use of third-party tools and different GUIs are possible.

Based on this classification, it can be seen how far-reaching the impact can be, depending on the choice of the product variant and data model. When choosing between them, you should note that important factors include, for example, the extent to which cloud features are used, the number of in-house developments, and the complexity of your company structure and business processes. Furthermore, you have to individually decide how self-sufficiently you would like to administer your system and the server, whereby the monetary calculation plays a role.

Which migration option is right for me: Brownfield or Greenfield?

After you have dealt with the approaches and interfaces for SAP S/4HANA, you then have to decide how you can roadmap this in your system. Since SAP S/4HANA is a new product line, the authorization concept cannot simply be transferred from SAP ERP (SAP ECC) to SAP S/4HANA. This is not just a software update. A distinction must be made between the two approaches: Greenfield and Brownfield. The two digital transformation approaches are defined as follows.


With the Greenfield approach, the SAP S/4HANA system is completely reinstalled independently of the existing system landscape and the relevant data or migration objects are transferred from the old system to the new. Basically, a new implementation. With this SAP solution, your HANA migration should only contain the data that is actually required. The transfer of the system relates to the processes or authorization characteristics, and must, therefore, be integrated and adapted in the new system.

In addition, SAP S/4HANA offers many additional features as standard. Because of this, the customer’s custom code ABAP developments should be reviewed against the new standards, including the technical integration. There is also the approach of Greenfield implementations, which is best suited for situations where new SAP customers cannot transfer existing data from non-SAP legacy systems. Ultimately, all processes in SAP must be fundamentally defined here.


With a Brownfield approach, the existing SAP system (ERP 6.0) is migrated to the new SAP S/4HANA release (e.g., 2021 initial stack). However, you must note that this approach can only be used if the current authorization concept and in-house developments have been set up in accordance with standard SAP practices.

Besides this standard-compliant path to SAP S/4HANA you can use a pure technical conversion but then, consider that you only lift and shift your unhealthy authorization concept from SAP ERP to SAP S/4HANA. Thus, you should do an authorization redesign afterward.


With SAP S/4HANA, there are many new possibilities and features that offer a competitive advantage. However, in order to use these effectively, the new product line must first be integrated into your system. Besides the entire authorization migration project processing, Xiting offers you a system analysis including an SAP S/4HANA readiness check, so that you know in advance what you need to consider. We not only help you from a technical point of view, but also offer you project-based support from experienced consultants. If you would like to find out more about our best practice approach or need comprehensive advice prior to an SAP S/4HANA migration or redesign, we are at your disposal. In addition, we offer numerous services and products to support you in maintaining your authorization system. Just take a look at one of our weekly webinars and see for yourself.

Read part 2!

Xiting E-Book: SAP S/4HANA – The future of the SAP product range

Xiting E-Book: SAP S/4HANA – The future of the SAP product range

An overview of the new 4th generation product line and its features in the authorization context.

Alexander Sambill

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