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In old SAP times communication between employees was quite formal. It was not unusual while addressing somebody, that the use of full academic and/or aristocratic titles was obligatory. Meeting minutes, discussions and mails started with lengthy but polite word-cascades of titles. Paragraphs full of titles had to be read until the content came. Here is an example:

Your honorable Dr. techn. Dipl.-Ing. Georg Rabenstadler,

Answering your mail from 15. Feb. 19XX, the Count Dr. Nick von Knatterton and Professor DDr. Dr. hc Dudo Finkelstein mentioned that according to Prof. Assistant Mag. Sabine Finknottle-Rauenstein the function module Humour@SAP: XIII. A day in the life of one InfoDeveloper is the one that you and ao. Professor Dr. Dipl.-Volkswirt Margret Schindewolf-Hirsch should use.

Yours sincerely and with best wishes to your beloved wife,

Mag. cand. Dipl.-Ing. Dr. Marius Speermann

Notice that the correct setting of dots and dashes in the abbreviations became a science itself. Even secretaries tended to decorate themselves with lengthy titles like:

Susanne S.
Executive Assistant in the Office of the Active Senior Vice President
This behaviour is typical for Germany and other Central European countries. The subsidiary in Austria beat the German addiction to titles, where it is common for taxi-drivers and receptionists to have earned their academic titles. The following training video is a reminder from the SAP-archives in how meeting ceremonies at SAP in former times looked like.

When SAP grew and opened subsidiaries in many countries, the new colleagues began to complain about a certain injustice. The universities in their countries did not provide them with impressing academic titles and they felt left out. Participant lists in meeting minutes drastically showed the inequality:

Bob Moore
Count Dr. Nick von Knatterton
Nino Ricci
Dr. techn. Dipl.-Ing. Georg Rabenstadler
Jean Legros
Professor DDr. Dr. hc Dudo Finkelstein
Pavel Czokut
ao. Professor Dr. Dipl.-Volkswirt Margret Schindewolf-Hirsch

The German names were certainly intimidating and let the short cut names of the others disappear. Some local organizations tried to counter that with hiring people with impressing sounding names like José Delgado Chimenez, but this failed dramatically.

It became clear, something had to change. With a heavy heart, the SAP board decided to stop inequality and announced in a memo to all SAP employees that from now on the first name in SAP internal communication shall be used.

This memo was heavily discussed in SAP’s number one gossip forum, the Humour@SAP: VIII. Saving SAP’s internal gossip forum from work-related topics. SAP-anarchist Uwe S. started the whole thing:

Using the first name is a good thing. But if I receive a mail with the greetings:

Best wishes – the XYZ-team
Edmund, Georg, Uwe, Margret, Matthias, ….

how shall I know, what Edmund, Georg, Uwe, etc. this is?
Well at least one person (the sender) can be identified.

Karin who?

Boris 😉
Dear X023322,

That’s why I am of the opinion to address everybody by the user ID. The number is unique and has no problems with last and first name.
BTW: I am, like our CEO, a member of the IFN-club (Identified by First Name)
I absolutely support the idea of the User ID to officially address somebody.

Jürgen B.
Founding member of the NITN-club (Not Identified by Total Name)
External people have to contact a central SAP-department to receive their own User ID, so that they get the permit to talk to us.

In order to keep it polite, you can use a “Dear”:
“Dear X020397 …”
That’s how we guarantee an efficient but also human communication.
Yours sincerely, your X020397
Well, then the mails are going to look like that:

Hello X023435,
I spoke yesterday with X013425 and he told me that X013254 cannot participate in the meeting, because he has a lunch appointment with X022846. Greetings to X018746 and perhaps we’ll soon meet in X016374’s place. Me and X023857 would be very please.
Best wishes X023214
What happens, if there is a typo?
Could be solved by using checksums.
But the checksum is not unique.
With the User ID you can spy out how long somebody is with the company. And depending on the first letter you can also find out, of which nationality this person is. I’d suggest to use the SCI (SAP Communication Identifier), which shall be used for all people on earth.

The discussion went on and on, but for unknown reasons some of the suggested concepts didn’t prove executable. A test run with nick names instead of first names failed (with nick names like sugar baby, chocolate mouse or strange ones like James Bond, some of them were the names chosen by board members), as people started to identify to much with their nicks. After a guy with the nick name James Bond crashed the fifth time with his BMW Z3 into the main SAP Building EVZ entry hall and entered the elevator with two blondes, the policy was strictly enforced and without exception only the first name was allowed.

Today everybody applies to this rule. But the other subsidiaries had learned their lesson and slowly undermined the former German title addiction by inventing their own list of impressing titles: Senior Vice President (for the elderly employees), Key Account Manager (for SAP security, wearing a bunch of keys), Corporate Officer (still researching the meaning) or SAP NetWeaver Evangelist. Well, at least this one sounds quite spiritual, if not to say prophetic

Yours sincerely,

SAP Developer Network 3K Comic Blogging Executive

More anecdotes can be found in the Humour@SAP weblog series.

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