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SAP ECC vs. SAP S4/HANA: What You Should Know

Mike Puterbaugh - July 28, 2022

Similarities Between SAP ECC vs S/4HANA SAP

Both ERP versions share most core functions and features. Both ERP systems support business operations for various departments, including manufacturing, procurement, sales, distribution, customer service, quality control, facility maintenance, and accounting. Each system provides a unified business operation platform, centralizing enterprise data in one database.

Both systems allow customers to standardize and automate regular tasks. Both systems use a modular approach and maintain a single source to report operations. Both their designs allow businesses to configure the components they need according to their preferences. The differences mainly relate to the benefits that various types of businesses can enjoy in light of their technologies.

Differences Between SAP ECC vs S/4HANA

While SAP S/4 HANA has many commonalities with SAP ECC (and other SAP ERP offerings that it came to replace), there are some notable points of difference. S/4 HANA is a redesigned version of SAP ERP and SAP R/3, emphasizing real-time, advanced analytics and processing.

Capabilities that differ between S/4 HANA and ECC include:

  • Database support—ECC supports multiple databases from various providers, including Db2, Informix, and Oracle. S/4HANA only supports the SAP HANA database. The in-memory nature of SAP HANA ensures fast reaction times.
  • Merged finance and control—the S/4 HANA universal journal structure merges finance (FI) and control (CO) operations by storing the cost element together with the general ledger (GL) account. ECC maps FI GL accounts to primary CO cost elements.
  • Customer and vendor data—ECC keeps vendor and customer files separately. S/4HANA produces Business Partner records that combine the shared elements of the vendor and customer data structure.
  • Deployment options—S/4HANA offers a wider range of deployment options, including public and private cloud, on-premises, and hybrid cloud environments. ECC is an on-premise system, and while it also runs in environments hosted in a public cloud, it does not have a cloud-specific version.
  • Advanced features—S/4HANA leverages more advanced functions and technologies, including automated processing, embedded analytics, AI, machine learning, and a digital assistant called CoPilot. ECC does not offer these advanced features.

ECC to S/4 HANA: Migration Considerations

Although SAP offers documentation and extensive migration and conversion tools, much of SAP’s customer base still uses ECC. Many customers are reluctant to migrate to S/4 HANA because they have already invested heavily in their established ERP system. Another major reason to delay migration is that SAP presented ECC as a solution offering a single source of truth. Customers installed ECC believing they would only need one digital system to provide accurate data on business operations, covering procurement, sales, distribution, accounting, etc.

Many companies don’t see the need to give up ECC, especially if their primary focus is on internal processes on on-premise systems. SAP ECC is all the software they need for now. However, some companies have more complex needs that ECC cannot meet.

For example, companies dealing with multiple external contractors, suppliers, customers, and business partners may need to consider the changing business environment. Many industries overhaul their technological standards and introduce new regulations, tools, and user experience demands.

In companies operating in dynamic industries, employees require greater visibility and control over sales, inventory, compliance, and pricing. Organizations are increasingly normalizing remote work and cloud computing, boosting apps like cloud hyper-scalers and SAP Cloud. Business administrators must build strategies to account for new business trends and technological advances that emerged after the inception of ECC.

While ECC remains a useful tool for running business processes within an organization’s proprietary infrastructure, it is not well suited to the evolving needs of many modern businesses. Therefore, a growing number of organizations can benefit from migrating to S/4 HANA. Existing SAP customers using legacy systems such as ECC and SAP R/3 must prepare their business for SAP S/4 HANA migration.

ECC to S/4 HANA: 3 Migration Options

There are three approaches to converting a business environment from ECC to S/4 HANA.

Related content: Read about these approaches and more in our guide to S4/HANA migration

Brownfield Conversion

The brownfield approach lets organizations convert their established SAP ECC environment and move to S/4 HANA. They do not have to disrupt or reimplement their current business processes. This approach is suitable for businesses that want to retain their existing processes and business data management systems, enabling fast digital adoption and innovative development. Sometimes called an upgrade, the brownfield approach involves converting applications and migrating the database.

Greenfield Conversion

The greenfield approach, also known as reimplementation, involves performing a new implementation of S/4HANA and using the old ECC software as a legacy system. It is suitable for businesses that require a new implementation of their business management system, allowing them to adjust business processes to leverage S/4 HANA’s innovations. It eliminates the need to handle cumbersome legacy data.

Selective Data Migration

The selective data migration approach is a technical, table-level migration. It applies preconfigured rules to control the transformation and extract transactional and master datasets. Using this approach, various organizational entities, such as legal entities, can migrate to S/4 HANA. It allows customers to define new configurations to enhance their business processes and supports historical data storage, conversion, and transformation to match the new S/4 HANA configurations.

Securing SAP S4 HANA with Pathlock

Moving to S4 HANA can be a massive undertaking that requires careful planning and preparation. Far too often, companies forget to think about how their access control and security strategies will change until they are getting close to going live on a new platform. S4 HANA will often require a new approach to access control that can adapt to the new landscape and challenges.

With Pathlock, organizations using SAP S4 HANA can automate many of their SAP security processes to provide 360-degree protection across the SAP system landscape. The Pathlock platform can provide complete capabilities, including:

Financial Impact Prioritization

Pathlock automatically prioritizes your most critical violations by quantifying access risk by tying violations to real dollar amounts of the out-of-policy transactions.

Comprehensive Rulebook

With Pathlock’s catalog of over 500+ rules, Pathlock can provide out-of-the-box coverage for controls related to SOX, GDPR, CCPA, HIPAA, NIST, and other leading compliance frameworks.

Real-time Access Mitigation

Pathlock allows users to quickly investigate and respond to potential risky transactions by reviewing access, de-provisioning users, forcing 2FA, or even allowing Pathlock to respond intelligently in real-time, terminating suspicious sessions and blocking transactions in real-time.

Out-of-the-Box Integrations

Pathlock’s out-of-the-box integrations extend workflows to the provisioning and service desk tools you already have in place, such as ServiceNow, SailPoint, Okta, Azure AD, SAP GRC, and more.

Lateral SOD Correlation

All entitlements and roles are correlated across a user’s behavior, consolidating activities and translating cross-application SODs between financially relevant applications.

Continuous Control Monitoring

Pathlock identifies the largest risks by monitoring 100% of financial transactions from applications like SAP in real-time, surfacing violations for remediation and investigation.

Interested to find out how Pathlock can help to automate your SAP Security program while keeping your landscape secure and compliant? Request a demo of Pathlock today!

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