A fitting farewell to a remarkable man.

Yesterday I attended the memorial for Klaus Tschira, the SAP founder, who died suddenly on the 21st March. It was a fitting tribute to a brilliant, modest and kind man. Thank you to the team that organized it. All the speeches were very moving, and the SAP Symphony performance was very fitting. The  local paper covered it here.

My thoughts are with his family.

Bill McDerrmott asked several of us to contribute our reminisces for his speech, and I thought I’d share what I sent him here. Thankyou Bill, for delivering them so poignantly.

When one reviews the press obituaries for Klaus, they rightly mention the enormous financial and personal investment he made into science and science education. My kids go to a school where the science lab is funded by his foundation and largesse. His impact on research over the last 20 years has been profound, spanning core math, computer science, life sciences, physics and astronomy research . Klaus has helped 1000s of children and adults understand our world better. That is an immense legacy, and he will be remembered as one of Germany’s greatest philanthropists.  As a parent, I’m grateful for what Klaus has done for science education.

My personal relationship with Klaus highlights a different side of the man. I first joined SAP in South Africa in 1995, working on the HR product, and I was  sent to Walldorf for training.   I met Klaus in a meeting and I was totally captivated by his vision for how SAP technology  could revolutionise HR and business, and he listened intently to my rather naive views on HR systems. He took me aside, and together with Steve Lamy, he suggested that I move to Germany.  Klaus’ vision for HR technology remains the lodestone upon which SAP built the leading HR solution in the world. It is as relevant then as it is today. He understood the power of globalisation, and more than anyone else, he grasped the power of integration. I remember him saying the goal of the HR system should be to help the business run better. Make plants safer, have the right people, with the right skills in the right place, and  use technology to help managers and employees do a better job.The payroll that he built still pays more people in the world in more countries than any other solution.

I worked for a short while as Klaus’ assistant before he retired. I stayed in contact with Klaus, occasionally visiting him in Villa Bosch.  He was a crime fiction fan, and I fondly remember introducing him to the works of Elizabeth George. Klaus had a wicked sense of humour and word play, and a whimsical taste in sculpture and ties. He had an encyclopaedic knowledge of the history of science,  he was fascinated by languages, and he was an avid collector of facts of all varieties. He had an insatiable curiosity, but he had no interest in cars, or sport.

Before his focus on HR technology, Klaus played a fundamental role in developing ABAP, so his impact is much broader than just as the inventor of SAP HR. Klaus was a mentor and friend to many. He inspired love and loyalty in those that worked with and for him. He will be missed by many, and the HR technology community has lost a giant, but his vision and ideals remain an inspiration.

My colleague, Andreas Elkeles, said it best, though. Here are some of his comments.

I met Klaus the first time in 1988. I was a young university graduate and went to CEBIT to look for a job. I knew that SAP was my favorite so I went to the SAP booth and asked to speak with a recruiter.  Luck meant, that Klaus was the recruiter in charge for the next available slot.  I introduced myself and found an easy connection with Klaus. No idea had I that I was talking with one of the company’s  founders. Klaus asked me whether I would mind to work in development for the HCM module (it was called RP in those days), and the rest became history. One of my first tasks was to take over a program Klaus had written in one of those weekend coding exercises. It was the program which managed the integration between payroll and financials, then called RPRIBU00. I was amazed how clearly the program was structured,  how elegantly it was programed. And Klaus was actually inserting practical jokes into the program documentation. I am using the analogy of Mozart composing  a piece of music with the same amount of time other people would take to play the same piece of  music. In a way Klaus was like a Mozart in software development.  I know that Klaus loved music, so he probably would like this analogy.

The Mozart clarinet concerto in A, 2nd Movement has always been one of my favourite pieces of music. Now, every time I hear it I will think of Klaus. Here it is, performed by Martin Fröst.

Conferences, comedy, clouds and contracts.

Continuing my attempts to bring Shakespeare into as many posts as I can….

Let specialties be therefore drawn between us,
That covenants may be kept on either hand.

(Taming of the Shrew  II. i. 127-8)

A couple of weeks ago, I presented at the HR Technology Conference in Chicago, the topic being SaaS Contracts:  how not to get ripped off.  I made an animation to start the presentation, as talking about contracts can be a bit dry.


If the embedded version doesn’t behave,  watch it here.    My goal was to show the naivete of the typical buyer when dealing with a smooth salesperson. In the space of about 2 minutes, the buyer makes at least 9 major blunders. See if you can spot them. It is supposed to be funny, but I’ll let you be the judge of that.

A week or so after the event I did a podcast  on the Bill Kutik Radio Show, where I go into a bit more detail.  Have a listen here.  I’m not a lawyer, so this doesn’t constitute legal advice, but I’m saddened by the ignorance on the side of the buyer, and the willingness of the seller to exploit that. That is business, I guess.

Or as Camillo said in   The Winter’s tale:

You pay a great deal too dear for what’s given freely.

Also we have a lot of research on how to buy cloud/SaaS solutions.  Gartner clients should definitely check out Alexa Bona’s  research. Whether buying or selling, getting a fair contract is best in the long run.

(I’m very impressed with the Xtranormal tool for animation. I checked with their legal folks on usage, what a pleasure to deal with them).

Get your HR VP an iPad.


I’ve just read Stephen’s note on the iPad in the enterprise. (Gartner subscription required) here is the summary.

CEO Advisory: Seize the iPad Opportunity Now

The Apple iPad and associated ecosystem are likely to disrupt existing technology usage profiles and business models. CEOs should take a moment to ensure that the potential opportunity is being seriously evaluated inside their enterprises.

It got some press coverage here.

If I was working in an HR IT department, I’d buy one myself and give it to the HR VP. I’d make sure that it had a simple dashboard (check out roambi as an example)  with half a dozen HR and business relevant measures on, some relevant alerts and their email, key presentations, some budget stuff and the Dilbert widget.

Then let him/her loose on a meeting with other executives.

I reckon you’d get a really good ROI on that iPad investment come bonus time. You might also get a whole lot more budget for a proper HR analytics project.

I’ve rambled on about the iPad and UI a couple of times.

I’m on the look out for innovative UI work in the HCM technology space. Both Kronos and Cybershift recently impressed me with their UX work for time & attendance management on the iPhone. Vendors, if you have done something innovative on the iPad, do let me know. Users, if you are actually using the IPad in an HR context I’d really like to know more.

Youtube and graduate recruitment

Cross posted from my Gartner blog.

Readers of my blogs and research will know that I’m largely in favour of HR exploiting the “rich tapestry” of the Internet, and especially web 2.0 solutions such as YouTube, Facebook, Ning and LinkedIn. Candidates are using these tools, so HR is missing something if they aren’t aware of what’s out there. I do wish more HR folks would at least read The Cluetrain.

Microsoft’s recruitment blogs are an excellent example of the effective use of blogging in a recruitment context. They  provide good guidance on how best to apply to Microsoft and put a human face on what is, for most job seekers, a daunting exercise.  They make good use of video too.

I’m  working on a note at the moment on the employer brand and social software, so I decided to spend sometime in YouTube surfing around looking at recruitment related activities. Nothing like a bit of primary research.

I found this example from Google. An engineer is doing the talking rather than corporate communications or HR.  It isn’t a professional video, but it is neatly produced. It works quite well, and it does an excellent job of showcasing female engineers. There are some moments of “scripted acting”  but most of it is genuinely open and transparent discussion. It gives a good insight into Google. It is probably a tad long.

This one from Cisco. More polished. It positions the organisation well, without being too syrupy.  There are several other Cisco employee cameos out on youTube, most of them well done.


Xobni, a start up, (Xobni is inbox spelt backwards) uses “developer” humour. It picks up on the company culture and gives an excellent insight into the business. It works. I really liked this one. If you watched that before the interview you would have a really good idea about the company and the people that work there. It takes a good bit of creativity to pull this off.

I’m nearly 20 years older than the target market for this clip, but I do wonder about the effectiveness of this particular effort from Cap Gemini

At the very least, HR should have an idea about what is out there on YouTube about their company. Consider putting recruitment videos on YouTube, but I’d suggest you need to tread a fine line between over produced corporate advertising and “hip and funky” amateur attempts. Remember also to consider copyright issues on backing tracks. What techniques have you seen out there that work? Please send me links to the ones you like and the ones that make you cringe.