Evaluating Clean Core Best Practices


After completing this lesson, you will be able to Describe the best practices from SAP on how to achieve a clean core.

Clean Core Best Practices

Clean Core Best Practices

Advice for clean core projects: preparation, key principles, best practices and ensuring success

In Unit 1, we looked at why we use clean core. We saw the specific challenges that organizations face that need a change in approach to their IT architecture that adopting clean core meets. In Unit 2, we briefly discussed the different dimensions of clean core. We looked at the different impacts of a company’s clean core approach, depending on whether they used a greenfield or brownfield approach to adopting SAP S/4HANA Cloud. In Unit 3, we explored the benefits of clean core to the various stakeholders of an organization, such as users, IT staff, and executive management.

In this final unit, we return to the five dimensions of clean core that we introduced in Unit 1. We examine each one in detail in this final lesson and cover a few recommended best practices from SAP. These practices are applicable to all the dimensions that companies are encouraged to adopt which enable making (and keeping) a clean core as straightforward as possible. It is important to note that not every possible best practice is mentioned in this lesson but rather some of the more important ones that companies must consider.

General Framework for Thinking About Clean Core Projects

Watch the video to get an overview of the clean core best practices.

Achieving and keeping a clean core is a marathon, not a sprint. Make sure to have a well thought out strategy.

Preparing for a Clean Core Implementation

The first step in solving a challenge is admitting that there is a challenge to begin with. So it is with clean core. In the previous unit, we saw that the challenges of The Gritty Pixel’s sudden increase in growth led to the decision to progress with a transformation project. Once that decision was reached, the journey began. In preparing for a clean core implementation the specific topics to be considered fall under two areas:

  • Conducting a comprehensive assessment of business processes.
  • Establishing a strong governance framework.

Conducting a Comprehensive Assessment of Business Processes

This task could potentially involve many individuals involved in business process design and also execution. From users who apply the individual steps of a process to middle managers who oversee multiple teams to high-level executives involved in analytics and trend analyzation. A greenfield implementation as we discussed in unit 2 is a great opportunity to not only ask the question "how do we do something better?" but also "must we do that at all?". SAP S/4HANA Cloud along with SAP Business Technology Platform offers the ability to redesign processes in a simplified way making use of both human centered tasks and automated tasks in whatever proportion is appropriate, given the company, industry and process in question. Now is not the time for shyness. A company can be bold and innovative. To successfully conduct this assessment, companies can use the following template framework to get started:

  • Evaluating existing business processes, systems, and data structures.
  • Identifying areas of improvement and potential challenges.
  • Engaging stakeholders to understand business requirements thoroughly.

Establishing a Strong Governance Framework

A strong governance framework is crucial to the success of a transformation project. And this strength starts at the top. Senior management of an organization must be committed to the project not just in words but also with funding. Sometimes, establishing a clean core can be difficult. With a greenfield approach technical transformation and business transformation happen simultaneously. However, with a brownfield approach technical transformation tends to happen first. Since a brownfield project is centered around a system conversion there can potentially be a lengthy timeline analyzing and cleaning custom code especially if there exists a considerable amount of technical debt accrued through the years with legacy systems. Therefore, it is imperative that the IT staff who bear the main responsibility for analyzing and transforming the system know that they have the total support from senior level management. A good template to start with in establishing this framework centered on the following:

  • Developing a governance structure with defined roles and responsibilities.
  • Ensuring top management commitment and ownership.
  • Aligning IT strategy with the organization's overall strategic goals.

Key Principles for Clean Core Implementation

Once preparations for a clean core have concluded and the project implementation has commenced in earnest, the project leaders must remain aware of the goals. To get and keep a clean core across all dimensions. That is the "lighthouse in the storm" so to speak and must guide every decision and milepost. In particular project teams must pay attention to the following:

  • Streamlining Business Processes.
  • Rationalizing Data Structures.
  • Simplifying In Both Greenfield And Brownfield Scenarios.

Streamlining Business Processes

This focus is actually a continuation of the "Conducting A Comprehensive Assessment Of Business Processes" in the "Preparing for a Clean Core Implementation" mentioned a few minutes ago. In general project teams must emphasize the following:

  • Identifying and eliminating unnecessary process steps.
  • Reducing process deviations and exceptions.
  • Applying industry best practices and standardization.

Rationalizing Data Structures

As the mathematician Clive Humby has said "data is the new oil". Cleansing that data is part of any clean core project. Customers must keep the following in mind:

  • Assessing data quality and conducting data cleansing activities.
  • Reducing duplicate or redundant data.
  • Implementing a data governance framework.

Simplifying in Both Brownfield And Greenfield Scenarios

As we mentioned earlier, greenfield projects are centered on new implementations and brownfield projects are centered on system conversions. Customers sometimes think simplification and innovation is only possible with the former. However, this is not the case. Converting is not incompatible with innovation. Whether preserving the best of the old or starting from the beginning, companies must nevertheless also remember to:

  • Minimize customizations to standard functionalities.
  • Minimize extensions. When necessary, ensure that they are done in accordance with the SAP S/4HANA Cloud extensibility model.
  • Evaluate and retire outdated or underutilized applications.
  • Adopt innovative technologies such as Artificial Intelligence and Robotic Process Automation.

Some Best Practices for Clean Core Implementation

Let's look at a few more best practices project teams must keep in mind in their clean core efforts:

  • Aligning with SAP's Reference Architecture.
  • Adopting SAP's Activate Methodology.
  • Applying SAP's Tools and Technologies.

Aligning with SAP's Reference Architecture

Part of any transformation project is final decisions on system landscape. It is a rare project and a rare landscape where no integration is needed. Companies must keep the following in mind to help keep the landscape clean:

  • Adhere to SAP's recommended system landscape and modular architectures.
  • Use SAP's industry-specific best practices for standardization.
  • Maximize the potential integration capabilities by using SAP Integration Suite.

Adopting SAP's Activate Methodology

SAP Activate gives customers a one stop source bringing together best practices, a proven implementation methodology, and guided configuration tools to deploy SAP S/4HANA Cloud. As part of using the SAP Activate framework customers must remember to:

  • Embrace agile implementation practices for faster and efficient rollouts.
  • Engage stakeholders through collaborative workshops and prototyping.
  • Apply SAP's preconfigured industry solution accelerators.

Applying SAP's Tools and Technologies

We've talked extensively about the different tools available that customers can use at various stages and with various dimensions in getting and keeping the core clean. To finish, here are two more tools that project teams can keep in mind:

  • SAP Data Migration Cockpit for efficient data migration.
  • SAP Fiori Custom Code Migration App to analyze custom code that must be migrated. 

Overcoming Challenges and Ensuring Success

All projects, no matter how successful in the end may face a challenge or two along the way. Aspects such as data, integrations, and extensions get lots of attention early in the project design and throughout its implementation. It's usually the little things that get overlooked. Project teams must remember to pay attention to the following:

Change Management and User Adoption

As soon as possible, a project must have a comprehensive organizational change management plan. Users themselves must be an integral part of the creation of that plan. It must not just come from the top down. It's also important not to forget to prioritize end user training and their support to drive adoption the ultimate goal of any transformation project.

Continuous Improvement and Innovation

Feedback from all stakeholders must be encouraged. This feedback must form the backbone of continuous improvement and innovation of business processes. Likewise, the feedback must be used by the IT department to regularly evaluate system performance and fine-tune configurations. Finally, customers must stay up to date with SAP's latest offerings and product road maps as a further catalyst for innovation.


Achieving a clean core is the key to a successful ERP implementation, and SAP's best practices provide invaluable guidance to organizations embarking on this transformative journey. By emphasizing streamlined business processes, data rationalization, and simplified system landscapes, businesses can achieve operational excellence and apply SAP's powerful enterprise solutions to their potential. With a comprehensive understanding of clean core principles, organizations pave their way towards a future-proof ERP system that drives growth, efficiency, and competitiveness in a rapidly evolving business landscape.

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