In case you have the chance to add an S/4HANA migration or implementation project to your CV, you’ll sooner or later hear the words greenfield and brownfield. They describe the approach on how to implement SAP S/4HANA.
- Greenfield: start with a new S/4HANA system. Everything is new. Apps, code, processes, a new system, a new start.
- Brownfield: Start migration from an existing SAP system and taking over to the new S/4HANA system the existing code and processes.
The reality at SAP customers is not as simple as you hope it to be, therefore both approaches are only the extreme opposites of what you might face in a real project. Therefore, besides greenfield and brownfield, there are also other names used to describe different strategies – or the absence of one:
- Bluefield: migrate what is necessary (brownfield) and implement new what you can (greenfield).
- Orangefield: see bluefield.
- Blackfield: Migration option and deadline defined by management, independent of the status quo of the project, SAP system, processes or resources (people, budget).
- Redfield: abandon all hope. Just get the stuff somehow from old to new.
You can find more names used mainly by consulting companies that want to differentiate.
Let me add a new name and definition to the dictionary: Avocadofield. I read about the term on Twitter. The provided explanation did not fully convince me. I had the impression it missed too much of its potential. I suggest the following definition of an avocadofield approach for S/4HANA:
“Implementing S/4HANA by rewriting legacy code, introducing new applications, while not evaluating, adjusting and redesigning business processes as well as adopting SAP standard.”
Basically, avocadofield is brownfield; it looks just looks like greenfield from the outside. Everyone that never really takes a closer look and deep dives to the core, won’t even notice that it was never greenfield. All the greenfield stuff is only there to hide and conceal the brownfield core.
Take a look at an open cut Avocado. The core is brown, surrounded by green flesh. The green flesh is the new applications, the rewritten code, the applied clean ABAP or clean core principles. All this work kept developers and project teams busy. New applications might be introduced, like the Fiori Launchpad and several Fiori apps. From the project perspective, this is greenfield: redoing old apps, maybe in a new, better technology, spending time, budget, resources. The brown core, that is the business processes. While everything looks green from the outside, the core is brown. The same processes, features, customizations, properties, etc used since decades are still there. In the core, the processes, customizations might still be the same as defined back at when R/3 was implemented.
While new applications (green: Fiori, mobile) might be made available in the S/4HANA project, they are built around legacy processes. Imagine a mobile user that now can use a mobile phone to request the exchange of a broken item: take an image, send it. Via e-mail, or by submitting it via a web form. On the receiver side, the mature and proven manual process continues: someone reads the e-mail, approves it manually, etc. A new process might have added image recognition to find out the material number of the broken item and requested it automatically as the value is below a certain value. Validation of people on site could be done via QR Code scanning. A newly implemented Fiori Launchpad might look like greenfield, but what when the tiles go mostly to the legacy (Z-) transactions in use since 20 years? What if the new applications / transactions are ignored? From the outside, the S/4HANA system might look, it even might feel new, but it does not act new. It is the old processes that was taken over to S/4HANA.
Are you on an avocadofield S/4HANA project? The odds are not in your favor. It is very easy to say greenfield, but not touching the business processes. Changing them is more than just installing S/4HANA. Business processes define how the company works. To a certain degree they also define the company’s self-perception. It is hard to change business processes. Don’t trust that the functional consultants are going to do this. It is super easy to not change a process. Or to just adjust it a little bit. Because: the current process is proven and it’s an established process. Changing it contains risks. And when risk comes into the project status update, the functional consultants have a very good excuse to bill their time, yet not change too much, if they change something at all.
For companies, this is an unfortunate situation. Money is spent on the greenfield part, new coding and apps. This might even bring some benefit to the business. But the opportunity to go to the core of their business, to redefine the processes, to unlock new potential, this opportunity was missed. This is really bad. That the approach was treated as greenfield makes it even worse. Opting officially for brownfield implies that everyone knows that it is brownfield. Everyone knows that the processes are not touched. That to gain the benefits of S/4HANA, additional work must be done. But with avocadofield, company thinks it is greenfield. That the benefits of greenfield are included. But as it is on the process level only brownfield, the company is betrayed. And doesn’t even know it.
Changing processes is not what a company can or will do constantly. After spending resources on an S/4HANA project, it is hard to go back at the project and then start redefining the processes. Greenfield, even in avocadofield, is time consuming. It is not easy for the developers. It is a lot of work. And it costs money. A lot. After go-live, it will take time before a company can or will start their next big S/4HANA project. If at all. Maybe they only want to go the update route ever 4+ years. Adopting SAP standard processes, adjust their own ones, maybe come up with new ones? After a S/4HANA project ended, it is unlikely a company has the chance to do this. This must be done before. The next time a company can look at their processes the same way they could with S/4HANA is when they are going to implement the successor of S/4HANA, starting somewhere in 2035+.
Avocadofield might be the worst option for companies choosing to implement S/4HANA. Try not to be on an avocadofield project.