Advantages and disadvantages of a Clean Core in SAP S/4 HANA

SAP has recently focused its attention on the Clean Core principle. In this blog, you will read what a Clean Core entails and its advantages and disadvantages.

SAP Clean Core

SAP uses the term Clean Core to indicate that ideally, no customization is built into an S/4 HANA system. This keeps the core of the S/4 HANA system clean, preventing customizations from ‘getting in the way’ of standard SAP software. This approach is quite black-and-white and can be nuanced. Customization in an S/4 HANA system does not necessarily mean that the system lacks a Clean Core. There is a gray area between a 100% modification-free Clean Core system and a system full of customizations.

This gray area is where I (Julia Kuipers) focus my attention in this blog. A system without customization has a Clean Core by definition, meaning no customizations can cause issues. However, most S/4 HANA implementations require customization. How you implement this customization determines to what extent you maintain a Clean Core.

First, I suggest you ask yourself whether the newly acquired S/4 HANA system for your organization is an ERP package or a development platform.

Is SAP S/4 HANA an ERP system or a development platform?

If you view the system as an ERP package, you benefit from SAP’s years of global knowledge and experience across various processes with every upgrade. If you see it as a development platform, all the customizations you develop can hinder the optimal use of the ERP package with all SAP’s knowledge. If you view the system as an ERP package and place a separate development platform alongside it, such as the SAP Business Technology Platform, you benefit from both SAP’s knowledge in the ERP package and the seamless integration between the ERP system and the development platform without them getting in each other’s way.

You want to leverage SAP’s knowledge within your organization. Therefore, examine how much your process deviates from SAP’s standard process in the S/4 HANA system. Can you bridge the gap with a proper system configuration? Great, that means your process aligns with the standard process, allowing you to make optimal use of it. If not, you roughly have two options:

  1. Adjust your process to align with SAP’s standard process, developed based on extensive knowledge of this process at various companies. This is a good choice if the process is not crucial for the organization’s competitive edge
  1. If it is a distinctive process, it may be worthwhile to innovate and chart your own course. Then ask yourself if the time, effort, and cost are worth it.

If it is an important and distinctive process, customization in a Clean Core manner is often justified.


Deviating from the standard always involves risks and extra work While a standard SAP process without customization upgrades smoothly, this is not always true for processes with customization. This often requires checks and adjustments to keep it functioning. Sometimes a solution no longer works and needs to be completely rebuilt. In the worst case, some organizations stop upgrading altogether, which is a shame, as you miss out on SAP’s latest knowledge and technologies, which you have paid for. Also, remember that this can affect your system’s security.

Advantages of Clean Core

Below are some advantages of a Clean Core approach:

1. Upgrade stability

If you use no customization or only customization in places designated by SAP, upgrades proceed smoothly. You have little to no extra work and can execute each upgrade quickly after release, keeping your system up-to-date and secure.

2. Latest knowledge and techniques in your processes

With SAP BTP as an extension platform, you can quickly adopt the latest techniques, such as AI. Regular updates to this platform ensure you quickly have the latest knowledge and techniques.

3. Easy migration to a cloud solution

If you want to migrate to a cloud solution like S/4 HANA Public Cloud, the migration is straightforward. With a Clean Core, your customization fully complies to be transferred one-to-one into the new cloud system.

4. No vendor lock-in

You avoid vendor lock-in because you don’t necessarily need to build customization in ABAP. You can also use languages like Java or JavaScript, which is useful when switching to another system that supports these languages. Additionally, it’s generally easier to find people proficient in Java or JavaScript than in ABAP.

5. ABAP Cloud development model

Using the ABAP Cloud development model instead of classic ABAP fits well with a Clean Core strategy. The biggest advantage is that this development model works on both S/4 HANA on-premise and S/4 HANA private cloud and is even the only development model on S/4 HANA public cloud and the ABAP runtime on BTP. Thus, it doesn’t matter on which system development occurs; the ABAP version is the same everywhere. This is especially interesting in more complex landscapes with different systems.


Disadvantages of a Clean Core

Despite the many advantages, you should also consider some aspects of a Clean Core approach.

1. NAcquiring new knowledge

    If you use the latest techniques to adapt your system in a Clean Core way, your employees must learn these new techniques, or you must hire the right knowledge. This costs time and/or money.

    2. Different solution approaches

    Sometimes a simple adjustment in a non-Clean Core system is more complex in a Clean Core system. This requires more expertise, time, and/or money to realize.

    3. Difference in maturity

    Some SAP modules are advanced in the Clean Core principle, while others receive little attention. This sometimes makes it difficult to get your system fully Clean Core.


    As you can read, applying a Clean Core policy to your S/4 HANA system has many advantages but also some disadvantages. Each organization must weigh how much they want to apply a Clean Core policy. Where is the balance for your organization? Which advantages outweigh the disadvantages?

    That can be complicated with the different ways to approach this. Do you want to discuss this or have an idea and need experienced developers with knowledge of the latest SAP techniques to implement the Clean Core policy? Contact us so we can help your organization clean and keep clean the core of your S/4 HANA system. Still on ECC but considering a migration to S/4 HANA? We can help with that too! This is the perfect time to review your customizations and apply a Clean Core policy from day one on your new, clean S/4 HANA system.

    With a Clean Core, your organization can focus on its competitive edge.

    Want to know more about S/4HANA and the Clean Core principle?

    If you want to know more about S/4HANA and the possibilities of the Clean Core principle within your organization, feel free to contact us for a (digital) coffee.

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