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Author's profile photo Stacey Fish

SAP Mentor Spotlight Interview: Karin Tillotson

The SAP Mentor Spotlight Interview Series highlights key strategic topics and provides insights from SAP Mentors and SAP leaders on turning ideas into innovative approaches that impact people, process, and technology.

Whether hiking, encouraging women in technology, sharing insights on diversity in the workplace, or pursuing professional interests, SAP Mentor Karin Tillotson is an inspiration in many ways.

She has learned that sometimes it can take one article, one colleague, or one community connection to spark a rewarding new career journey.

I have had the incredible pleasure & fortune of knowing and working with Karin for over 10 years in various projects which are passionate for each of us from tennis anyone to women in technology. Recently I caught up with Karin to find out about her approach to work- life balance as well as her many professional experiences. It was insightful to hear her views on Data Archiving and Information Lifecycle Management (ILM), Data Volume Management, and SAP Basis Administration with Fortune500 organizations, customers, and peers around the globe.

Stacey Fish (SF): Tell us about your career journey in the Oil & Gas and Beverage industries. What got you interested in what you do now? Did it start back in your university days or more along the way (or both)?

Karin Tillotson (KT): My IT career journey started a long time ago in a galaxy far, far away in the 80’s. I was still trying to figure out what I wanted to do with my life when I read an article in Time magazine about the Future of Computers. The article made me interested in learning more.

I went back to school and learned Programming — Assembler, COBOL, RPG III, etcetera — and got my first IT job working with System/36, System/38, and then the AS/400. I started out programming, but eventually moved into a System Administrator role. I was working at The Pillsbury Company when I first became an SAP Basis Administrator. This is where I first started learning about SAP Data Archiving in 1999.

SAP Data Archiving turned out to be a great fit for me as I can communicate with technical teams as well as business teams. This journey took me to other companies as opportunities came up, such as Valero Energy Corporation and The Coca-Cola Company. It has been very interesting to work for companies in different industries as the data that is generated is not the same so additional archive objects are needed.

SF: Many of your family and friends know that you enjoy hiking both near and far – from Georgia in the US all the way to the Philippines where you bridged the great outdoors, data, and mobile apps. Are you still hiking? How does it contribute to your success as an independent SAP Information Lifecycle Management and Archiving Consultant?

KT: Yes, I love to hike and am still hiking whenever I can fit it into my schedule. Besides the Philippines, my international hiking adventures include New Zealand South Island, Spain, the Galapagos Islands, and Peru. I do have 2 upcoming hiking trips planned in the Grand Tetons and the Smoky Mountains.

Hiking is where I can relax and recharge after a busy work week. When you are hiking, you also must stay focused as one wrong step could be disastrous. Being in nature and disconnected from the world gives me positive energy which in turn helps me be a better SAP ILM and Archiving Consultant.

SF: How did you become an SAP Mentor? What does it mean to you to be in this program?

KT: I am one of the original SAP Mentors. I was a Mentor before the Mentor program started, as I was one of the few in the SAP Net Promoter Program, which evolved into the SAP Mentor program. One of the reasons I was nominated was due to all the SAP Archiving presentations I had given, as well as the volunteer work I had done for Americas’ SAP Users’ Group (ASUG).

Participating as an SAP Mentor has always been special to me. I love being part of the Community and sharing knowledge. Additionally, it has provided me the opportunity to meet some remarkable people. It has been aprivilege to get to know colleagues all over the world in the SAP Community.

One of my favorite activities as an SAP Mentor was my involvement in multiple events pertaining to Diversity and Women in Technology. The number of women in technology has definitely improved since the 80’s, but there is still a long way to go. One of my hopes from being a speaker at Technology Events was to try and be a role model. Maybe someone in the audience would think, “If she can do it, maybe I can as well.”

SF: Given the never-ending growth of data and information, how do you begin to help organizations build a business case to balance the risks, regulations, processes, and strategy needed for a comprehensive information lifecycle management strategy?

KT: When I first started with Data Archiving, it was easy to get project approval as disk prices were high. When disk prices became cheaper, companies started implementing Data Archiving projects for compliance reasons. There is a liability associated with deleting data before it has met its retention time (i.e. Enron) but there is also a liability for keeping data longer than its retention time. If a company is involved in a legal situation and they have data going back 20 years (as an example), then they must provide 20 years of data which can end up having a high discovery price tag.

The first step in developing an Information Lifecycle Management or Data Volume Management Strategy is to understand what is driving the initiative – is it controlling the size of the database, or for legal compliance reasons, or both? If it is purely to control the growth of the database, there are SAP Housekeeping Programs and Data Archive Objects that can be implemented. If it is for legal compliance reasons, it gets more involved as a data destruction plan needs to be developed in accordance with Company Policy.

SF: In your experience, how has user satisfaction increased when Data Archiving improvements, compliance, and governance has been put in place?

KT: If a standard SAP transaction code, such as FB03, that is archive enabled is used, the end users do not necessarily notice the data has been archived as it is displayed using the same method as non-archived data. End users also like it when the transaction codes or reports run faster with less data to process.

Satisfaction is usually the highest for teams managing the database size and those in charge of the budget for storage and memory.

When I was at The Coca-Cola Company, we were preparing to move our SAP systems to the cloud. The first time they tested the largest ECC system (around 30 TB’s), after it was migrated, the size was 13 TB’s. When they discovered the size shrunk due to previous data archiving and housekeeping, they requested I try and archive as much as possible prior to the actual production run. I was able to get another 2 TB’s of space reduction by the time the migration took place.

SF: As a long-term ASUG Program Chair, you managed content for their annual conference. How did this experience help you collaborate with SAP customers and other members?

KT: Being the ASUG Archiving and ILM SIG Program Chair (2003 – 2017) provided me opportunities to network with people and SAP companies doing archiving. We were able to share knowledge of what worked and what didn’t work. This was a tremendous learning experience.

In the early days we had an entire track dedicated to SAP Archiving. There was not a lot of other training besides the SAP BC660 Data Archiving course, so conferences were the place to go to get additional knowledge and network. When in this role, I would also help other SAP customers that were ASUG members get started with Archiving Projects.

SF: For students who are interested in Information Lifecycle Management, what advice would you share to inspire and help them find new jobs and opportunities?

KT: Learning Information Lifecycle Management or Data Volume Management is a skill set that takes time to develop. There are technical aspects of the role that fit into SAP Basis Administration, but it also helps to know the business side of how the data is being generated and what business processes need to be tested. SAP Data Archiving spans across all SAP Modules and Systems which is why there is always something new to learn. I have been doing this for 20 years and am still learning. 😊


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      Author's profile photo Peter Langner
      Peter Langner

      Hi Karin,

      so good to get to know you better.

      May be one day you want to try out Germany for hiking.

      All the best,