xSuite Blog

Expert Knowledge on Digitalization & Automation of Business Processes

xSuite Blog

Expert Knowledge on Digitalization & Automation of Business Processes

In a Nutshell: Archiving with SAP ILM

Topic: SAP | Archiving


The term “Information Lifecycle Management” (ILM) inevitably comes up in any discussion of GDPR-compliant handling of personal data in SAP. This article offers a brief introduction to the topic.

What is Information Lifecycle Management?

SAP ILM is a concept to automatically archive, block, or delete data, documents, and metadata. ILM is based on different SAP business functions, and available for (newer) SAP ECC systems as well as SAP S/4HANA. ILM is designed with the purpose of ensuring that the handling of personal data is GDPR-compliant.

As its name suggests, Information Lifecycle Management takes a holistic approach to data and documents, from creation and use to archiving and deletion.

Enterprise resource planning and the GDPR

While the function of an ERP system is to manage the resources a company needs for its operations, the GDPR’s focus is the protection of personal data. So the connection between ERP and the GDPR might not be immediately apparent. The area where they necessarily meet is the coverage of the company's staff. In their role as employees, they are people – and thus subject to GDPR.

Because employees (of both companies and their partners) are involved in nearly all business processes, information on them is stored in ERP systems. For example, a contact person might be recorded on an invoice, while the staff member who checks and approves the invoice will be named in the log. (In our blog article “GDPR: Paradigm Shift Moves into Archiving” we examine the relationship between GDPR and business processes in more detail.)

What other benefits does SAP ILM offer?

As well as helping companies comply with GDPR requirements, SAP ILM’s targeted, automatic archiving and deletion optimizes data storage. This offers clear benefits, especially in terms of performance: After all, the smaller a database is, the faster it works. Also, reducing the volume of data can help cut memory costs.

But the system also simplifies work for staff. For example, it is easier to find a specific invoice document if the pool contains only invoices from the last ten years. It takes much longer if the pool also contains older documents simply because no one has deleted them.

With SAP ILM, you can ensure that there is no accumulation of old data or documents that are no longer needed. This makes the solution very attractive to companies wishing to migrate from SAP ERP to SAP S/4HANA – it is important to carry as little dead wood into the new system as possible.  (You can read more about migrating to SAP S/4HANA in our blog article “Brownfield or Greenfield? All Paths Lead to S/4HANA.”)

SAP ILM: A magic bullet for GDPR compliance?

ILM is not the only way for SAP users to ensure GDPR-compliant handling of personal data; for instance, data can be deleted without ILM or manually. And it should be noted that simply using ILM will not guarantee compliance with the GDPR. It is always important to consider the context, such as the archiving software, storage media, and technical and organizational measures. These factors must work together to ensure that personal data is handled in a manner that complies with data protection requirements.




Dina Haack is Head of Marketing at xSuite Group. She has been at home in the B2B software industry for around 10 years. At xSuite in Ahrensburg, her main topics are: SAP-integrated invoice processing, electronic invoices and automation.

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