Understand the implications of SAP ILM


Many organizations undertake SAP data archiving assuming that, because they are archiving legacy data, they have an ongoing ILM (information lifecycle management) strategy.

They are wrong and if your business falls into that camp, this article will explain the difference between archiving and ILM and most importantly, why it matters.

What is SAP ILM?

Data archiving is a very important aspect of data management. The rationale for archiving is primarily cost-related and relates to reducing data volumes. ILM goes way beyond that and tries to strike a good balance between total cost of ownership, risk and legal compliance. To be able to implement an ILM strategy, you will need a good data management strategy as a foundation. In addition to managing data volumes, ILM also manages data retention requirements, including things like ultimate destruction of information.

Although ILM is about data, much of the activity around ILM takes place outside of the computer system. Its effectiveness is culturally determined, governed by the levels of communication between different departments in your organization. The ILM cannot operate in isolation. It should be supported by relevant stakeholders, using appropriate products and tools to manage the management of structured and unstructured data, as well as data from live and legacy systems.

The ILM definition of SAP alludes to this. He explains that ILM includes the policies, processes, practices, and tools necessary to align the business value of information with the most appropriate and cost-effective IT infrastructure. It starts from the moment the information is conceived, until its final disposal.

Common error

1. SAP Data Archiving vs. SAP ILM

Many people are confused about the difference between SAP Data Archiving and SAP ILM and they think that one can replace the other. They believe that information lifecycle management can replace data archiving, but in fact archiving is only an important subset of an ILM strategy. If you already have an established data archiving strategy, this is a great base for SAP ILM to start with. From there, you can gradually work your way into a full-fledged information lifecycle management process, starting to establish data retention policies.

2. Data Retention vs. Data Residency

Data retention is another often misunderstood term, people often confuse it with data residency. They are totally different, but both are essential to the development of IPM policies.

Residency refers to how long data resides in the SAP database before being archived. Retention is the length of time data is available for display from an SAP system before it can be deleted. This is regardless of whether it resides on the SAP database or is extracted from the archive before being destroyed.

When managing data in a complex compliance environment, different countries will have different rules regarding how long records must be kept before deletion or destruction. As part of an automated SAP ILM strategy, different retention and residency periods are defined for different organizational structures, so data management is specific to local legislation for that data set.

3. Data deletion vs data destruction

The final SAP ILM concepts to explain are deletion and destruction of data. Many people think they are used interchangeably, but in the context of ILM suppression and destruction are two different concepts.

When we talk about data deletion, we mean the physical deletion of a technical unit in the system. When we speak of the permanent destruction of information, we mean the deletion of all data records and their references, so that certain information or its existence can never again be found.

4. Implications for GDPR compliance

Understanding this distinction is very important for GDPR compliance. For example, when data is archived, it is written to the file system and then deleted from the database. It is still accessible and viewable in its archived state. Final destruction of this information would mean deletion of the archive file, all references to it, and its copies in the system, including change documents and associated messages. This is about the right to be forgotten and an ILM strategy will help your business stay GDPR compliant.

In addition to ensuring GDPR compliance, an SAP ILM strategy offers many other benefits. It makes the finance team happy, meeting financial compliance and auditing requirements. This makes the IT team happy by reducing the complexity of the system as fewer resources are needed to manage the IT environment. And that makes the sustainability or CSR manager happy, because your business will use less energy year after year.


Data archiving is an important part of ILM but is only one element. Using ILM to keep control of the TCO of your SAP environment is what every business should be looking for, in addition to archiving. Implementing a continuous ILM strategy early in the process, particularly if you are considering a migration to S/4HANA, will minimize migration costs, control future data growth, and ensure ongoing compliance.

About the Author

Satya Prasad is a SAP ILM delivery manager at TJG Group and an expert in data management and archiving strategy. TJC Group helps organizations overcome complex issues within SAP Data Volume Management (DVM), from archiving data in live SAP systems to deleting legacy ERP systems, ensuring you are compliant with data privacy laws (GDPR), and tax and audit obligations by being able to quickly extract the right data. We are an SAP partner with over 20 years of experience providing DVM consulting services and SAP-certified software. Our 500 customers span a wide range of industries and sizes and are located around the world.

Feature image: ©Alexey Novikov


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