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Technical Innovation for Peace and Prosperity

In 2006 I visited South Korea.  I was doing a keynote at the VLDB conference in Korea that year, and also visiting a small innovative company we had just acquired.  My host took me and several guests to a nice mountainside retreat/restaurant for dinner.  This place was not far from the border with North Korea, and I remember one of the people there saying, if only they were trading with each other, these fences would not exist.

This got me thinking.  Trade, or business, is a fundamental need of humanity.  It is a serving of a very basic aspect of the human condition.  It is also a great pacifier.  And we at SAP, are at the heart of our world’s trade.  We are a unique and distinguished enabler of trade.

It is in this fundamental sense that I see our purpose.  We serve a very basic human need, and we do so reliably, innovatively, in trusted relationships that span generations.  Generations of technology, of people, of change.  And we are very good at it and we have all seen example after example of our fundamental role in enabling the world to trade.

We have a unique ability to create value that is durable and leads to a sustainable society.  One example of this is the work we do enabling the poor, the bottom billion as Paul Collier so eloquently put it.  Our work in our research lab in south africa is a perfect example of this.  Under the leadership of Danie Kok and Lutz Heuser, we have a very inspiring initiative called C@r — collaboration at rural areas — that Financial Times recently wrote about.  And there are many more examples like this.

So when I think of the future of business, and of our role in helping shape this, I invariably think of all the new comers into this world: whether they are young people entering the workforce with new experiences and new expectations, or new economies coming on line flattening and changing the rules of the game, or the underprivileged societies within us, finding their place into a world of trade and prosperity.

Whether it is an excited entrepreneur, riding the coattails of a microfinance loan to set up a mobile payment business, or a budding artist who just received a royalty check off the first sale of their songs on the internet, we enable many of the complex transactions around royalties and payment distribution, and the promise that underlies them.  It is the privilege of building software for all of them, and the enduring peace and prosperity that this software can enable, that makes it worthwhile for me to come to work every day.  So think about this the next time you write a line of code, or make a sale, or book an order or take a service call.  The piece of software you touch, that we deliver, may just have helped change the life of someone.  And that, my friends, is our unique purpose and our unique privilege in our company.


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