Clear plans crucial to SAP data archiving, Gartner says

While many balk at data archiving, analysts say companies can save themselves a lot of hassle by taking a methodical, step-by-step approach.

SAP data archiving is a complex process that can be managed by a methodical, step-by-step approach and several SAP archiving best practices, according to a report by Gartner Inc.

Those steps can be used to craft an archiving process that will work for any company, regardless of size, industry or project complexity, according to Gartner analyst Pat Phelan, who co-authored the report. 

“You don’t have to make it up,” Phelan said.  

They see the performance issues

SAP data archiving is best handled by a multidisciplinary team that should include the director of IT or whoever is responsible for consolidating and managing the SAP infrastructure, according to Gartner.  The team should also include the SAP basis operations manager, a governance manager and someone from the legal department who has a firm grasp on what would be required – or wouldn’t – should the company be involved in any legal cases. Business owners should be in the mix as well.

The project should also be led by a person or group within the organization with responsibility for enterprise information management, but with a focus on SAP data. That person should also report to the CIO.

Ideally, archiving project management should fall to the business side, given that what gets archived affects them the most, Phelan said. However, because of the political nature of some of the decisions, IT often steps in to lead the project. That’s also because IT knows firsthand about the downsides of not archiving.

“They see the costs. They see the performance issues,” Phelan said.

Start small, or start big

Once the team has been established, according to Gartner, it needs to conduct a full “maturity assessment” to determine what needs to be archived, and for how long. The team should also determine whether archiving will require certain processes to be engineered, what reporting tools are needed and if any of that means extra training.

“Training is really important,” according to Jim Malfetti, a consultant with the Brandywine Data Management Group, based in Glen Mills, Pa. Data can reside in different transaction codes, depending on whether the data is archived, he said. Training will help a person know where to look.

The SAP data archiving project plan should also include information on the size and growth rate of database tables, according to the report. Many organizations begin by getting the SAP basis administrators to identify the largest and fastest-growing tables in each application production system. 

Those tables usually involve purchase ordering or journal entries, Phelan said. 

Once that’s done, the team should turn its focus to outlining the plan that gets it where it needs to be long term. That project plan should entail starting with a smaller archiving project so that the team can leverage that early success into widespread support in the organization.

The team might also consider going with a larger project, one involving one object that’s found in numerous cases throughout the system.

“It might be one object – but a high volume object,” Phelan said. 

‘Test, test, test’

One of the biggest mistakes that companies make is that they don’t test enough, according to Rob Jackson, an SAP Mentor and who currently oversees the archiving efforts at a Fortune 500 company.

“You have to test, test, test,” Jackson said.

Whoever’s doing the archiving needs to verify that the data is indeed getting archived and what, if any,  what the effect of not having that data will have on certain applications. SAP applications, he said, typically give users a message that the data they’re looking for has been archived. Other applications – especially customized applications the customer has written – may not work at all without the data, he said.

Users need to be kept in the loop, he said. “Make sure everyone knows where the data has been archived.”

Building a business case 

There are a number of reasons in which archiving can help organizations save money, according to Gartner.

The archiving team should develop a business case for archiving that includes a value proposition based on factors like cost and risk avoidance. SAP archiving can save in a range of areas, from needing less storage capacity, to eliminating the need for backup tape servers. Organizations should also calculate the savings from shorter data restore times.

SAP data archiving can also save database servers and administrators and increase the productivity of applications.

Managing the process

Before any archiving begins, the team overseeing the project should make sure that key users have signed off. The complexity of SAP data archiving implementations often demand the reference architecture be maintained and updated.

“While SAP ERP and other supported applications may have well-understood business object and physical data models, custom implementations may not, and archiving processes should be very well documented,” according to the report.

Most companies tend to regularly archive on a monthly or quarterly basis, though organizations with larger transaction rates should consider archiving on a weekly or even daily basis to keep databases from growing. 

Jackson said his company archives a number of older work items and intermediate documents every day, but archives production orders on a monthly basis, for example.

A company’s business process requirements and CPU availability will also determine their archiving schedule, according to Jackson.

“It’s going to be different for everybody,” he said. 

The preceding is the second of a two-part series on data archiving, based on two separate Gartner reports.  Part one deals with the drivers behind the need for SAP data archiving and can be found here.

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