Happy birthday blog, and SAP Election redux.

This blog is now a year old, give or take a week.  Thanks for reading  and commenting.  I’ve had a lot of fun writing it. I’m not going to write one of those posts about my stats,  but I have receieved 13,012 spam comments. The anti-spam software picked up all except about 20 of them, and I’ve not seen any false positives, so thanks WordPress and Akismet.

One of my earliest posts was about the “workers council” elections at SAP, and I thought it worth returning to the theme a year later.  I wrote most of this post on the  high speed train ICE  271 from Mannheim to Zürich. This wasn’t  one of the newer ICE with w-lan, but anyway, it beats driving or flying.  Also keeps my carbon footprint down. 

A year ago some  commentators and journalists  were worried that SAP was becoming unionised.  The reality has turned out otherwise; unions lurk on the distant fringes, but they don’t really have any impact. (At least that my colleagues or I could see when we discussed it over lunch on Sunday)

The only difference we could see as that since this time last year we have had more elections and elections to decide the format of elections here at SAP than in a hung parliament in Italy. I get emails announcing an election for some betriebsrat related thing, followed closely by another email from “list xyz” asking me to vote for them, and they will make sure that there are more varieties of salad dressing at lunch.  I have reached the point where I’m about to add the word betriebsrat to my spam filter.

SAP’s  competiveness will grow not from from building walls, but by removing them;  leveraging SAP’s German heritage, but being open to ideas, managers and employees from all over the world. 

However, there is an election coming up here that I will be voting in. This is the election for the employee representatives on the supervisory board. The supervisory board  is a pretty important thing.  (see this page for details) It is tempting to call them the non-exec directors, but that isn’t quite exact. Here is the legalese-

A supervisory board is the highest control and codetermination body prescribed by the German Stock Corporation Act. This body oversees the activities of the executive board and advises an executive board in important business decisions affecting the whole of the organization’s workforce – for example, in the strategic alignment of the company or policies concerning company locations and subsidiaries. In its function, a supervisory board is also responsible for appointing members to an executive board

 At SAP the other members of the Supervisory Board typically include some of the founders, and CEOs from other companies.

I’m going to find a candidate that is interested in more than salad dressing and protecting Standort Deutschland. 

The securing “Standort Deutschland” mindset won’t get my vote, and most of my German colleagues see it the same way.  SAP is a global company, and we like it that way.

 I received some election spam this morning, and it was as if the chap writing it was wanting to take SAP back to the days of R/2.  Get with the programme dude.

As the “German” Head of Development in Bangalore recently said:

“Das Herz der Entwicklung schlägt nicht mehr ausschließlich in Walldorf”

The heart of development doesnt only beat in Walldorf anymore.

The german press  has had some fun fanning the flames with this, but they miss the point.  SAP started on the road to being an international company when it signed Imperial Chemical and John Deere in 1970 whatever.  I quote from a transcript of SAP’s History – a  journalist is  interviewing Hasso Plattner in 1997.

HP: No. First we got another international company. John Deere in Mannheim. And they came up with the idea that our software should run on one computer and serve several countries—legal entities with different legislation, with different language. John Deere had in those days the world divided in, I think it was Division I (that was Americas) and Division II (that was Europe and Africa). So it was German, French, and English as a minimum. In 1975, 1975-1976, we changed the system from a one language only system to a multilingual system. One of our trademarks later on: not only that we have different versions of the system, that one computer system can run and serve users in France, in South Africa, in Germany, and in England.

I’ll be looking for candidates that grasp that SAP is a global company with a strong German base, and that to continue growing SAP will need to continue changing.  I’ve moved countries a couple of times with SAP, and I have relatively little patience for the small minority that hark back to a mythical past of a small company in an aspargus field.  Without the salesforce in America in the 1990’s R/3 would not have grown as it did. Without the developers in India and Israel we would not have developed compelling midmarket applications. Without Palo Alto we would have completely missed the Internet instead of arriving fashionably late. Without Bulgaria we would not have made significant advances in middleware. And I could go on.  But I’ll requote a colleague from SAP Labs in India

Duet, has helped break not only the language barriers from the code point of view, but has also broken geographical barriers from the development point of view. Within SAP, the building of Duet is spread across locations that are as far apart as they can get. Labs at Palo Alto (USA), Walldorf (Germany), Ra’anana (Israel), and Bangalore (India) all work together on this product. For me, this is the first time I am witnessing Global Development of this scale happen so efficiently and so rapidly. Initially it was awe at first sight. Now even after months into this project, I am still in awe. If I was asked to summarize the document on “How Duet (Mendocino) works?”, I would finish it off with one word – “Magic”.

And as I said a year ago,

I know which Germany I prefer. The SAP and the Germany that attracts people like me is the Germany of innovators, not of stagnators. Those that fear globalisation will not find safety in further bureaucratisation. To compete, innovate and grow we need fewer rules, not more.

Actually, if I could ask the candidates one question, it would be have you read the cluetrain manifesto?

I’ll finish with another Hasso quote from 1997,

Whatever happens in ten years from now, start with a global mind and a global world….


7 thoughts on “Happy birthday blog, and SAP Election redux.”

  1. Thomas – happy blog b-day and excellent post. I like your point of view. And I know plenty of other SAP employees that share this view or something along those lines.

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