Today marks a significant milestone for enterprise technology and software provider SAP SE.

At this global wide tech provider’s 2024 Annual General Meeting of Shareholders, Co-Founder Hasso Plattner will have stepped-down from the leadership of the company’s SAP Supervisory Board after over 20 years as chairperson.

In 1972, five former IBM employees – Dietmar Hopp, Hasso Platter, Claus Wellenreuther, Klaus Tschira, and Hans-Werner Hector founded the company under the name of SystemAnalyse Programmentwicklung (System Analysis Program Development). Their aim was to create standardized enterprise software that integrated all business processes and enabled data processing in real time.

The founders were noted as often sitting side-by-side with employees in customers’ offices to learn their business needs and processes. By 1975. they had built applications for financial accounting (RF). invoice verification. and inventory management (RM). In 1979, the company started developing R/2, the second generation of its software. In 1980, SAP’s roughly 80 employees moved into their first own office building in Waldorf, Germany, and that has remained corporate headquarters since.

There should be little doubt that Hasso Plattner’s legacy in enterprise software will be the subject of tech industry chronicles for many years hence.

SAP has provided a tribute in a chronicle of the company’s history under his leadership. It is worthy of a read, especially for younger, upcoming technology professionals. It provides the essence of industry legacy and history, complete with all the business related ups and downs along with the mentorship of multiple SAP CEO.s.

Broader Legacy

In addition to his contributions to SAP, in 1998 he founded the Hasso Plattner Institute for Software System Engineering in Potsdam, Germany. He later helped in the founding of the Hasso Plattner Institute of Design at Stanford University, providing funds to support design thinking practices among students and prospective software developers and engineers.

It was especially during his frequent trips between Waldorf and Palo Alto California, along with his passion for competitive sailing, that the rivalries among Oracle co-Founder Larry Elison and Hasso Platner, both financial backers of  competitive yachts became the frequent conversations of the Silicon Valley cocktail scene. There was one specific incident in 1996 where there was a report that Hasso had “mooned” Larry Ellison’s captained yacht in a competition. The incident chronicled by Sailing World in 2003 provides a rather detailed chronicle articulated by Hasso that led up to the incident, and that he was merely quite frustrated because his vessel had lost all power and needed assistance. The assistance was reportedly ignored, hence a gesture of frustration. The incident made more Silicon Valley news headlines than tech company developments at the time.

Some Personal Perspectives

As a technology industry analyst for many years, the first SAP Sapphire customer conference I ever attended was in 1999, as a rather junior analyst in training.

I was schooled by my mentors to make sure I sat in on the Hasso Plattner keynote- that way you will know what is really going on in company strategy and software development. That was the best advice I ever received.

I then became a part of SAP when I was recruited to be a supply chain software marketing director in the newly formed SAP Global Marketing Group.  For nearly three years, I came to understand the tenets of the internal culture of SAP that Hasso had instilled in the company and its software development teams. That included having a laser focus on products, various industry needs and on individual customers.

Hasso was revered and respected internally, even if SAP employees became frustrated with company direction.

I came to understand that he also had a keen understanding of supply chain management processes, and of the revered SAP APO supply chain planning application that featured an in-memory, live-cache database architecture in its earlier manifestations. Early APO customer often described live cache performance as “live crash.” Thankfully, those days passed with the introduction of the HANA database technology, emanating from the Hasso Plattner Institute.

Throughout subsequent years and multiple SAP Sapphire conference or industry analyst briefings, I would always make sure that I sat in on any of Hasso’s sessions. I came to learn much more about SAP strategies than any other session.

The reason became obvious in that Hasso would always provide customers and analysts his direct candor, unfiltered by company marketing messaging and events. If you desired to ask Hasso a specific question, you had better have done your research and know what you were talking about.

In one particular Sapphire event, his keynote address extended over two hours, and he was still “schooling” the audience.

In my penning of the then SAP HANA product strategy roadmap at the time, I indicated in a Supply Chain Matters commentary:

In his keynote, Hasso Plattner was willing to speak candidly about the HANA roadmap.  Thank goodness for his candor. He spoke of the opportunity to move new SAP applications to the HANA platform, the ability to help customers perform more timely planning as well as simulation, and, as he mentioned last year, the ability to significantly accelerate the performance of SAP APO, SAP’s advanced supply chain planning application. He further noted that IT teams will have to reconfigure their physical systems and applications landscape to be able to leverage these capabilities. But all of this will again take additional time.

In 2019, I penned a Supply Chain Matters commentary focused on that year’s Sapphire, and specifically Hasso’s keynote. Have a read at your leisure, especially on the direct candor. As an example, below is an excerpt from that blog post that quoted direct remarks:

Customers have pushed back on the frequent number of SAP technical updates, and that the company’s move to Public Cloud will soften that burden.

  • That SAP will provide better product “at the detail level.”
  • The enterprise technology provider has internally identified 82 technical integration projects, including unlocking Experience, which need to be completed this year- the largest complement of annual projects in SAP history.
  • There has been constant feedback that Cloud user interface “sucks” to the point that SAP’s internal development teams were literally sick of that constant feedback. That is supposedly now going to be also addressed in 2019.
  • Regarding our previous Supply Chain Matters blog highlighting a published report indicating large numbers of SAP customers vulnerable to cyber threats, Hasso acknowledged that some customers did not keep up to date on required security packages.

There are sure to be many other recollections and chronicles of Hasso Plattner’s contributions to the history and legacy of the enterprise software industry and of SAP itself.

Hopefully, he can now take the time to pursue many other personal and philanthropic interests.

Congratulations on a meaningful and long lasting legacy.

 

Bob Ferrari, Founder and Executive Editor

 

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