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Not your Grandfatherย’s SAP

I dare say that everybody in the SAP Community has noticed the culture change that has been turning SAP inside out in recent years. It began with Shai Agassi, it continued with the acquisition of BOBJ and BOBJ’s executives such as Hervé Couturier and Marge Breya being placed in key positions at SAP, and it went off like a rocket when Hasso Plattner installed Jim Snabe, Bill McDermott and, most importantly, CTO Vishal Sikka.

SAP has effectively transformed into a company you can hardly identify with the grey-concrete type of company it was in the nineties, when I got started in the SAP industry. Let me give you some examples that, taken together, characterize the “new SAP”: 

  • It has created a vibrant community of passionate SAP experts, the SAP EcoSystem consisting of customers and partners. 
  • It has adopted Open Source software and standards and continues to contribute to them actively. 
  • It has established the Mentor program, in which key members of the community are given a voice both towards the community and the executives. (Being a member of that program myself, I can assure you that the members of the board listen to the SAP Mentors and open doors for us that were previously closed for years whenever necessary.) 
  • It has started the Customer Engagement Initiatives, in which non-SAP employees can feed their ideas and early feedback into SAP and exert influence on upcoming products.
  • It created Idea Place, an open channel for ideas on how to improve products, services, and processes. It is really open – one year ago someone even posted the idea to make me give the keynote speech at SAP’s internal DKOM event and even got a few votes. ๐Ÿ™‚ What is really new here is that everybody in the community can see which ideas are brought forward and how much support they get from the community. Discussions that were previously held through private back-channels are brought into the open. This is just one example of SAP deliberately giving up some control over a process in exchange for benefiting from the creativity of the community.
  • With SAP StreamWork, it has created a social enterprise application in the cloud, combining two innovative concepts, and opened it up for the curious very early, integrating a third modern concept.
  • It has established the SCRUM methodology, an agile way of doing software development that relies on an iterative approach to development and specification and honest and frequent feedback from users. (By the way, StreamWork used to be called 12sprints after the number of SCRUM sprints originally planned.)
  • It has created an atmosphere where innovation is fostered and employees who were previously forced to pursue highly innovative projects in their spare time are now snatched away right from DemoJam and given the budget and time to work on what fuels their passion.
  • It has made groundbreaking progresses in cloud computing and displayed an amazing resourcefulness at developing new integration concepts, the concrete frameworks that implement them as well as generally a new software foundation layer. 
  • Many of the innovations originally made for cloud computing are flowing back into the Business Suite, effectively leading to something which to call a renovation would be an understatement. If you look at the innovation that is happening in such areas as Web Dynpro ABAP and Floorplan Manager, the BOL/GenIL business objects layer and the plentitude of frameworks springing up around them, the Switch and Enhancement Framework, Forward Error Handling, and BRFplus, we might as well call it a renaissance of the ABAP stack thanks to ByDesign as a driver for innovation.
  • Gateway: It is typical that one of SAP’s recent key projects, Gateway, is about opening up the ABAP system and making it easily accessible for new types of consumers such as mobile devices directly, middleware for mobile devices such as Sybase SUP, web pages and portals, and generally anyone who can integrate via REST services. 
  • HANA is also a good example of how the new SAP started. What is especially remarkable here is how fast they went from idea to product. (I don’t mean the individual ideas, which have been around longer, but the idea of putting them all together in the particular combination that became HANA.) As far as I know, it was less than two years in a project that spanned several organizations from research institutes to platform development. Looking at how SAP drives HANA, I find it amazing how they manage to unlock their best people from previous duties and channel much of their manpower into this project. This is not a company that moves like a slow supertanker. The resources going into HANA demonstrate that they can maneuver like a speedboat when it has to be.
  • HPAs: Looking at HANA, you will notice that SAP is not just releasing a fast database to the world but working hard on redefining the concept of the enterprise application with High-Performance Analytical Applications (HPAs). They blend analytics and operational functions and combine that with social layers such as feeds and streams similar to those in twitter and facebook. Their architects seek early feedback from customers and partners and try to be as open as possible to new ideas in order to invent the next generation of enterprise software. 
  • SAP’s Oliver Bussmann is being noted as one of the most innovative CIOs for consequently driving the adoption of mobile technology at SAP and, by giving an example that will be followed by others, beyond. (It could probably be said that SAP’s CIO Oliver Bussmann is to mobility what the Postbank’s CIO is to SOA.)
  • InnoJam: With the series of InnoJam events SAP organizes around the world, originally coupled with SAP TechEd but now also with other events and as a stand-alone event, SAP gives developers early access to tools, technologies, and experts, and creates a stage for fun and competitive 36-hours development marathons.
    The list could go on and on. Each of the items could be discussed at length. We could identify that particular ideas have been around for a long time, that others have executed them earlier or better, that execution or market adoption are not as good as they could be. We could also add new items that aren’t success stories.

Old Thinking vs. New Thinking

In fact, in my SAP Mentor role I have many conversations in which innovators tell me how hard it is to bring an innovative application forward against the concerns of the legal department and how many great ideas fail several times because of legal concerns (until eventually, years later, it is suddenly miraculously possible and the product becomes a success). Some of the successes from the above list were thwarted by old thinking several times over many years until they were allowed to be fully executed. The creativity and resourcefulness have been around in SAP’s workforce and community for a long time, but it took the new thinking to stop suppressing that and begin to channel it into innovation that drives the company forward.

Of course there is still plenty of old thinking in SAP. It is the perception of many people that the more conservative forces are very strong and might even be strong enough to put the project of shaping a new, innovative, speedboat SAP at risk. Somebody said: The future is already there – it is just unevenly distributed. That is something you can observe very clearly by speaking with employees in the different areas at SAP.

Establishing the New Thinking Top-Down

Generally, it can be observed that the installation of the new thinking is driven top-down, with Hasso Plattner positioning Jim Snabe, Bill McDermott, and Vishal Sikka (who is in more than one way the successor of a previous attempt by Hasso Plattner to reinvent the company top-down made with Shai Agassi). Looking at the executives they install (or uninstall) and by looking at the rising stars and how they earn top management attention, it is evident that top management makes it a point to install representatives of the new thinking. As I mentioned before, there is plenty of resistance. Frequent answers to new suggestion are: “That’s against the process. That’s not how we can do it. It’s impossible. Legal has concerns. We would need to streamline this with 300 other projects. It can’t be done.” It is relatively easy to fire an executive because he or she doesn’t get the new thinking and stands in the way of innovation. It is practically impossible to fire 5,000 employees who display the same “can’t do” attitude. It is also very difficult to turn such a person around and change her into someone who is actually happy to do something new.

What can you do? Create islands of creativity, tweak the motivation systems, massage the old structures (rather than breaking them up, which would harm SAP’s ability to maintain and evolve the Business Suite) by creating the right incentives, lead by example, inspire, and even clear the path with micro-decisions where absolutely necessary, be persistent, be a force of nature. This is the leadership that I observe at SAP.

What is the New Thinking?

It is hard to characterize a culture with few words, but I will try. Cultures can be described either in terms of lore and traditions, or in terms of their core values. The New Thinking is clearly a culture that draws its power from core values. Here we go: Innovation. Invention. Open Thinking. Community. Learning. Quest. Courage. And, perhaps most importantly, Passion. (Open Thinking is notable because it is a slogan coined by SAP Mentor Oliver Kohl that even became the motto of SAP TechEd 2009.)

Making the startup spirit scale in a mature company

Looking at company’s lifecycles, you can frequently observe that they start as very open and innovative spaces where every employee makes a huge difference. The company is flexible enough to allow everyone to be themselves and contribute all they can. Every single person in the company feels they are making as crucial contribution to every major successful step. They feel it’s their company. The boss is perceived as a leader and supporter, with no mindless or evil suppression machinery between them and the employees. As companies grow, they tend to loose the spirit of the founding days. The entrepreneurial spirit, room for innovation, initiative, and passion of the early days are lost. Great role models move on and are replaced by uninspired corporate drones. Early-days employees feel like in the movie “Bodysnatchers”, where step by step all the humans are replaced by soulless replicas as the initial boring corporate drones hire more people who are like them.

When dissecting such events, it is frequently acknowledged that “early years” types of corporate culture work very well in small companies but don’t scale: When you have a few hundred employees, you need to have more strict regulations and administration-focused management. Energy has to be spent on scanning employees’ PCs and introducing plenty of form-based processes, the internal implementation of the product lifecycle becomes so complicated that every process in the company has to become formalized and standardized, and initiative and passions suffer from that naturally and necessarily. Big companies can’t be as innovative and passionate as startups. (That’s what many people think.)

Conversely, SAP’s current culture change seems to be an attempt to bring some of the “early years” innovation spirit back to the companies. The challenge here is to make it scale. If they succeed, it will be a truly remarkable success that will give SAP a competitive edge for many years to come. In the software industry, culture is mission-critical. (I guess it cost Léo Apotheker his last job that he didn’t understand that.)


In my next blog, I will talk about a concept from psychology in which a system of character types and their interactions are described. I will try to map that to the culture change outlined in this blog and derive some new ideas from that.

(Disclaimer: I wish I had come up with the phrase “Not your grandfather’s SAP”, but I haven’t. I don’t even know who it was, but I’d like to thank them because it captures SAP’s transformation so perfectly that there was no way I couldn’t use it as a title for this blog.)

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  • What time is it in Germany?  Insipirational blog.

    For me I don’t know that it is a sea change but SAP has always been “inclusive” to me.  No where else would I be given personal tips on how to improve my blog  – by Marilyn Pratt! 

    I realize it’s a software company but it is a place too where great relationships are formed.

    You still get my vote for giving the keynote at DKOM – hopefully that idea will come to fruition.

    I absolutely loved DKOM this year and thank SAP!


  • You’re not alone!  When we started working with SAP in the mid-90’s, there really was this sort of old-school vibe (except there were no vibes then, were there?) It was unthinkable that the great minds that ran SAP would rub shoulders with the rest of us mortals.  And now, SAP is still run by some great minds, but they have also demonstrated – as you so well documented – they are open to new ways of doing things.
    Well done!
  • Hi Thorsten,

    Makes me happy to read your long list of signs that SAP is changing. Loved that many times I had a: Oh year, I did my little part in this. Moments ๐Ÿ˜‰

    In the list of executives that are driving the inclusion of external voices into SAP development you forgot to list Sanjay Poonen, that really enjoys the exchange with us SAP Mentors and is not only offering lip service, but concrete action items and follow up.

    Change that gets executed, is what I love, Mark.

    • Mark, I was indeed thinking of you and your contributions many times while writing this blog. ๐Ÿ™‚ I tried to mention as few names as possible and focus on the contributions themselves, but I’m actually trying to turn this into a concept for a book in which you would be prominently featured. Problem I haven’t solved yet: How to tweak the concept to get a sufficiently large audience.
  • First off, GREAT blog! It’s nice to see your enthusiasm and positivity!

    However, allow me to agree to disagree…devil’s advocate?….call it what you will…

    I would LOVE to think that SAP is this run-and-gun, taking risk, innovation leader of a company….but as you clearly explain, I think their past history and culture bring that into question. I wonder how much of what you are seeing is reactive versus proactive. I think breakthroughs in technology and/or advances in processes tend to “steer” all the ships of companies across the board (Microsoft, Oracle, SAP, etc). They all have to be mindful of the direction “things” are moving. So is the one who turns the wheel (of their ship) first the most innovative? Is the one who gets where and delivers faster the real leader? Hmmmm…something to consider.

    I think in between the long time of turning a big ship into a new direction (to use an analogy), they all hope to make their own smaller breakthroughs that allows them to either (1) pursue the new “course” much faster than their competition or (2) find a way to leap frog said course and deliver beyond what the others are chasing. Then it’s on to the next objective/checkpoint.

    Rarely do you see anyone steer off in their own direction. (Google? Apple?) Soooo as much as I want to believe this is a the “new” SAP, I kinda feel it’s not all that much “different” as much as faster (maybe they communicate better now, maybe their marketing folks are on top of their game, I don’t know)…..faster to make others believe they are actually the “lead” ship in the race? =)

    Ok…so yeh…I still remember when SAP was soooo innovative with the “City of E”. =) (*haha had to throw that little jab in for what I think was one of SAP’s worst marketing campaigns. *grin*)

    • “Security, please show this man the door.” – Just kidding. Thanks, Chris, for your comment. It’s food for thought and momentarily above my heavily jetlag-damaged brain (just returned from Los Angeles to Germany, have to cope with 9 hrs time difference), but I’ll be back. ๐Ÿ™‚
      • Hi Thorsten,

        First of all, thanks for yet another great brain dump. Refreshing, encouraging…

        @Chris: Agree we’re not yet where we want to be. Not sure we even want to be known as the most *innovative* company in IT – the most successful will probably be good enough ๐Ÿ˜‰

        I want to offer the thought that it might even be ok to have a two speed SAP – in the spirit of timeless software, you may want to have a timeless organization where different groups evolve at different speeds. There should be a rightful place for those rock-solid, mission-critical, super-cautious developers (at least for me, violently believing that architecture follows organization).

        Having the inside view, I can happily state that I have never had as much fun in my 12 years at SAP than nowadays – and that clearly seconds what Thorsten described. The credits we get from the community – including this blog post – encourage us to work on even more of those little successes. Let’s hope they’ll add up to the big thing in the end.


      • So take a rest before blogging stuff. Inspiration is often the last step towards a burn out. Calm down, relax and think again when your head is not doped with SAP marketing.
  • Hi Thorsten,
      Another interesting and thought provoking read, thank you.  One possible reason that creativity is more evident in a startup is touched upon in Scott Adam’s latest piece – The Best Way to Kill Creativity at

    His suggestion is that creativity is an evolutionary response to stress. This fits nicely with the ‘under funded, under manned, everyone stressed out doing 15 jobs at once’ style of startup that we see in Technology, but it also fits in with the large versus small point you make – in a group of 5,000 employees (like my previous employer), I can ‘hide away’ doing not very much at all.  However, in my current situation, when there’s only 40 or 50 employees, my contributions (or lack thereof !) stand out a lot more.  I think that there’s something competitive that makes people (or maybe just me !! ) in a smaller group WANT to stand out, in a POSITIVE way, that makes people in those groups more creative.

    BTW, Scott Adams (along with people like Terry Pratchett and a few others) is a clear demonstration of how humour is a good aid to creativity. It deliberately puts a twist in the way you think about something, breaking existing patterns of thought and forming new ones.

    I hope these random thoughts help your creativity ๐Ÿ™‚

  • We have a saying in Australia at the moment and that is the ‘Two Speed Economy’. Mining and Resourses are booming and Retail is sluggish.

    SAP is a little the same way. Yes for all the good points you mention there is innovation and excellence and improvement, but there is still a long way to go and that will be marked by the number of people who still aren’t getting touched by the new message but are stuck with the old thinking. Some of them will slowly change or be managed out as they find themselves not fitting with the culture anymore.

    It feels like a post-teched glow blog. That is a good thing. Be inspired but realise there is a lot more to do and many more roads to walk down.

    If you are reading this blog and or comment and you feel that you are not getting this new and exciting SAP then I challenge you to connect more, read more, contribute more and have more fun.

    Nice blog Thorsten,

    • Hello Nigel,

      I think you touched a very interesting point; that all of us, anonymous faces in the community, can feel included in this creative process.
      I do have some friends here in Brazil who are SAP Mentors and they do tend to radiate this kind of innovation glow.

      But as you said, the important key is that if you connect and contribute you will also have fun. You will be part of this transformation!

      King Regards,
      Marlo Simon.

  • Strange perception of the real world. The whole blog seems to be inspired by punctual experiences and events (i.e. TechEd) and lacks field experience.
    The reality I perceive consists of a rather conservative SAP installation base at customer’s site. New technology is adopted but rather reluctantly.
    SAP’s technology course which has been a random walk in the last decade did not give the customers the confidence to jump on every train SAP locomotives are pulling out of the station.
    For example the introduction of Java was a desaster from mpov. The SDN community is more like legalized incest. It is always the same gang slapping each others shoulders und cheering up. SAP marketing filled customers with confusion and anger by playing the “what is it called today” game with every product.

    So the situation reminds me of soviet russia in the late 80s. The need to change is well understood. But the leaders act headlessly, change the executive teams erratically. Every now and then a new parole is given. And the usual claqueurs are willing to applaude every new piece of technology, community hype or boss that is installed.

    I think this blog is an excellent example.

  • The comment by Ravesh underlines Nigel’s comment when it comes to old thinking vs. New thinking. There are still a lot of areas of improvement, but I do believe SAP is going through a lot of changes. The change may not be as fast and radical as a lot of people might hope, but is still happening.

    If you look at the achievements that Thorsten mentioned, I believe they were done over a time-span of ~7 years. I really wonder what SAP will look like in another 7 years. They may even start saying that SAP is not Thorsten’s SAP anymore ๐Ÿ˜‰

    Very nice blog Thorsten!

    • It is not a question of “old” vs. “new”. The adjective a just used because of their connotations. Especially the blog’s title aims at a shism between the old and overcome on the one hand and the new and vivid on the other hand. It is just a marketing trick to pimp it.
      The change is happening? Which change? The problem is that there are a lot of changes and the usual change to the changes and the changes to the change process. Chaos would be a possible description. SAP has lost its course and is driven by external forces. Once it was Java, now it is mobile computing and BI. But SAP is reacting erratically in all these areas. Of course, some perceive this erratic movement as highly dynamic. And indeed, in 7 years the company will look quite different. I can imagine SAP to be absorbed by somer other company within this time span. And our SDN claqueurs will then praise that it is a highly innovative division in the new business construct.

      Dynamic does not mean erratic.

      • It seems that you have gone through some bad experiences that counter what has been written and experienced by Thorsten (and myself apparently).

        I am afraid that I am not understanding your situation entirely, but would love to have more insight in your frustrations. Could you explain a bit more on what you would describe as chaos and why you think SAP is erratic in it way it is embracing new technologies such as the Java platform, BI/BO and mobile platforms?

        • Different customer’s of mine are quite confused about SAP’s product line. The former monolithic basis fragmented into a bunch of different flavor NetWeaver installations. ABAP was substituted by Java in some products. Well, until last year. Now it is ABAP again. Product integration became much more difficult.

          But let me correct you. I am not frustrated with SAP. The grwoing complexity was accompanied by an increase of the product suite’s capabilities. You got much more software albeit you had to struggle more.

          My point is not that the SAP delivers poorer products now. My point is the loss of a concept. The SAP is driven by external forces now (Java, mobile devices, BI, social media,…). It is only reacting. That is ok and quite normal.

          But I find it rather odd when this is called innovation. Innovation is now found outside from SAP. Vague echoes of it are heard in the SAP world.

          Therefore, this blog is merely a community marketing text to me. And I admit it, it bothers me that time is wasted for that.

          • It is true that a lot of new technology has been introduced and in my opinion SAP has also been struggling to fit all these pieces together as well, has made decisions and reverted them in other decisions. This is very visible in the Java part of the house and many SDN members, including Thorsten have expressed their not always too positive opinions about that.

            However, the community experience and the transformation the SAP organisation and community are going through, as described in Thorsten’s blog, are definitely beneficial. I would say that especially when you have difficulties understanding SAP’s decisions in certain fields like you described, it would be great to speak to like-minded SDN members. With the transformations SAP is going through, I also now find it easier to talk to people within SAP’s organisation and to provide feedback straight to product management.

            To call this transformation innovation would indeed go a bit far for me too. I’m afraid the word “innovation” is a bit overhyped anyway (but that’s a completely different discussion). If you expect something revolutionary different or new, I’m afraid it isn’t. But embracing new technologies and new means of communication to make your organisation more open and transparent can’t be called a bad thing, right?

            And by all means, you’re not forced to do anything. If you feel more comfortable with R/3, it’s definitely also possible to leave mobility, Java and BI for what it is, and e.g. deepen your expertise in the R/3 area. Just know that there’s a community to help you when you’re stuck or when you want to learn something new. Free of charge!!! (sounds like marketing too? ๐Ÿ˜‰

          • Jan,
            nobody criticizes the idea of a community of like minded here. SCN has many benefits for its members. But never forget that it is a company that uses those members as spokespersons here. One finds a lot of blog entries which are helpful as they discuss some topic. But there is a lot of text where people simply work for the SAP marketing. Indeed one does not need to follow every turn the SAP way takes. In spite of that, this blog states, that the new technology (immature as it might be) should be embrassed. In my opinion SAP is hyped here. The community celebrates itself. The parallels to soviet russia are quite obvious.
  • Hi Thorsten,

    Thanks for the blog filled with positivity.
    This is indeed motivational.
    But then I think this view is from a very high level perspective.


    • Good point. Maybe it is really just the high level perspective that neglects the daily SAP reality. It seems that the blog extrapolates some recent SAP sessions to infinity and does not consider that chenge needs to be implemented at the customer’s site.
      The perspective sees the developers on the innovation front. It forgets about the installed reality.
  • Hello Thorsten

    Very thought provokinig blog, as always your blogs are very good.

    Sad enough the new SAP eagle hasn’t yet landed everywhere. I witnessed the new SAP at Innojam NL (Netherlands) and it was a great experience. Open minded, collaborating, inspiring, you name it.

    In Belgium however there is no participation from SAP for Insidetrack, there is only one SAP Mentor, no Innojam, no CEI (it is lead from NL), SAP BE isn’t active on twitter and the list goes on. You have to get lucky to talk to someone on the phone who can provide information on SAP TechED. For me it’s clear the SAP eagle hasn’t landed here yet.

    Hopefully the new SAP spreads in the future.

    Kind regards


    • Hi,

      I just started as a NetWeaver consultant few months back after graduating from Applied Informatics with a specialization in SAP. And my impressions so far are that SAP really does it’s best bringing forward new ideas, being open and very active on social media.

      I haven’t regretted my choice for SAP and I’m only looking forward to learn more technical knowledge as well as business wise.

      As for SAP Belgium, I agree.. hopefully SAP BE will become more active on Twitter and we’ll have our own SAP InnoJam ๐Ÿ™‚


    • Hi Wouter and Tom,

      The idea to get the Innojam to The Netherlands was original conceived at a developers event organised by the VNSG (Dutch SAP users group). “Troublemaker” Robert Eijpe asked in one of his sessions to raise hands if you liked to idea of coming to an Innojam in The Netherlands. After polling the potential, he then called a few people from the community together that he thought could help. Eventually SAP NL, VNSG and Rui’s team were roped in to get the event off the ground.

      If you want an Innojam in Belgium, it could start in exactly the same way, by a community member that polls if there’s an interest and eventually gets a group of folks together that want to help to turn  such an event into a great experience.

      Call, skype or twitter me sometime if you want to know more. I’m very willing to share our experiences, and Belgium is near enough for me to lend a hand if you’d like me to.


  • By the way (to expand/continue my post below),I think I have suffered what you have now. I am no doctor, but I think I can diagnose it.

    You are all starry-eyed. You feel a euphoric rush just thinking about SAP. You are giddy with excitement. All things seem possible through SAP. SAP is like the pretty girl that walks into the room and you just light up inside. You have been bombarded from all sides with all things SAP for the whole week and have become punch drunk in love. You are tip toeing on the clouds in SAP Nirvana.

    This is what I call the “TechEd effect”. =)

    • SAP is also like a hooker. You get a lot of promises, then you pay and must be content with what can be delivered. And of course, the experience depends on vendor and on customer.

      All TechEd visitors know what I mean.

      • if that’s withdrawal then i want to have what Thorsten is having and i’m planning to tap into it during the cold, long, and snowy New England winters.

        it’s a great blog and people seem to share the author’s enthusiasm. my take is that a lot of SAP’s success lies in its genes (current install base) and there’s room for everyone to excel at even when they would not try to do everything they have or seen demoed during the latest TechEd. “boring suits” are still keeping the keys to many doors we are trying to open.

    • @Christopher I am not a doctor either, but I think what you are having right now is: PNHBTB Post Not having been to TechEd Blues ๐Ÿ˜‰

      Hope your implementation went well, not totally uneventful, otherwise you will kick yourself even more for not being able to make it to SAP TechEd. 

      All the best, Mark.

      P.S. There is always Bangalore and Madrid

      • Rub it in, Mark!!! Yes, I do/did have the blues for missing it this year. Want to know what’s worse? Go-Live got pushed a week, so I sat here twiddling my thumbs watching TechEd go by from my laptop. Arrrrrrgggggggggg!!!!!!

        On a positive note, I will be in Vegas in November anyways. =)

  • Hopefully the limb doesn’t break. I’m on it with you – adding my weight to yours. Maybe instead of out on a limb we are building a forest. Each standing next to the other.

    Is it the Teched glow? Is it my fever talking? I am at home sick and do have a fever.

    No I don’t think so. The Mentor program. I’m very close to that one. I’m a fairly new member. And with the instructions of keep doing what you are doing – I am on my way.

    So what have I noticed? More SITs – SAP Insider Track. What is that? That is the community organizing a local event complete with speakers. It is free for everyone. It’s cool and it’s growing.

    Open source
    Have you been to code exchange? If not you should.. I’ve downloaded some amazing programs including ABAP2XLXS – again for free. Code Exchange has helped people like Ivan spread their code. What do they get from it? Nothing. It is open source. SAPLINK – now that’s a good one. So why not just put it into a website? We – SCN community can join their project. Now we can help with the design and coding if we want. That’s adding diversity and it creates a place to collaborate. I use SAPLINK a lot. I have not yet used ABAP2XLXS yet. It sounds interesting. (I’ve been working on support lately, and smaller parts of projects.)

    SAP Streamwork
    Did I say I was a customer? I have used this to create projects. Now is everyone using this tool? No. I was going to present it to my team. I have been just too busy. It’s a great place for projects with people working together. It’s really nice for people in different time zones. My company is a global company. I can see how this will help us collaborate. Hopefully I can convince others in my company about it too.

    Idea Place
    You don’t use it? Really not enough people use idea place. This is somewhere where your ideas are looked at to improve SAP! And I have seen it work. Wait until everyone sees the new SCN. I have seen my own idea used. Don’t ask me which it was. I no longer remember. I’m a developer, I’m lucky if I remember last week.

    OK – so I explained some of the tools. The better explanations are out there. You just have to do a search. So before you think Thorsten is crazy, look at these tools. And then think of your company and where it could be used. Think of your blogs, your comments, and know if it is something you can convince a mentor of, they will run as fast and as hard as they can to help you with the issue. Will we always succeed? Ah NO! But I will try to help if we believe in it. That’s one of the things that mentors are for. So the mentor program – a big positive in my eyes.

    I’ve written a book again. Sorry guys. Just reading the comments about customers. Being a customer and a mentor. I use some of these new tools. The new way of thinking is diversity. (Collaboration) So as you comment to this weblog, think – are you making a difference with your comments?

    The answer is yes. It makes people like me respond. It makes me take a second to think. And I would guess we are a pretty diverse group. I think in some part this move towards diversity and listening to customers has moved forward.

    OK – I’ve broken the limb. That means we’ve started a forest.

    I didn’t have a chance to talk with you. Hope I can at an event soon.

    Great blog! You write things as you see them. It’s very brave. Both the positive and the negative blogs.


    • Michelle,
      Thanks for mentioning Code Exchange! It was on the list of characteristic projects I wanted to mention but I forgot it because the blog literally wrote itself so fast in the dark of the airplane I didn’t bother to check my notes. ๐Ÿ™‚
    • Hey Michelle. Not to be pedantic but the Free* grassroots unconference style events are “SAP Inside Track” events no r, but perhaps plenty of “Ahhhh I See”. SAP Insider is a brand of WISPubs.
      And thanks for calling them out.
      • OOOOOops SAP Insider Track – I keep messing that up even in my head when I think about it.  Thank you for the correction.  That way if people are searching for it, they find it.  Wow!  I’m looking up words.

        pedantic – finicky or hair-splitting

        WISPubs – Yes, I read SAP Insider in your response.  But WISPubs are “Your SAP resources”: SAP Insider, SAP Press, SAP Experts

        Got it!   That’s actually a good way of thinking of SIT.   (SAP Inside Track) If I write it enough maybe I’ll remember it. 

        Ahhh I See!  – Again perfect.   You are completely right.  They are so much fun!  And they are just people – sometimes SAP people – mostly not.  Speaking about experiences.  How they did XYZ.  Sometimes you even get to hear about something new!  Ivan’s ABAP2XLXS was one of the many things I learned about.

        I call it a mini teched.  It’s one day crammed with information.  We had a three different sessions going on at one time.  Two “real” people and one webcast where we could ask questions.

        I loved it – you can tell.  I hope there are more in my area of the world!  I hope there are more all over.  I’m not sure where the idea came from, but it was an excellent one!  Probably Mark.


        • > I loved it – you can tell. I hope there are more in my area of the world! I hope there are more all over. I’m not sure where the idea came from, but it was an excellent one! Probably Mark.

          Thanks for the flowers. As usual there are many fathers/mothers to SIT. I realized early on that to really make a community gel, you have to bring them together face to face, so I created SAP meets Labs. Folks loved it, but said it is tough to get it approved when there is also TechEd, Sapphire and ASUG annual conference which back then were still on different days.

          So we created the SDN day that later developed into Community Day happening just before TechEd.

          Nigel James and Darren Hague liked it so much that they said, we don’t want to wait a whole year to have that experience again, so they created a local Community Day. Realizing that SAP Community Day doesn’t really capture what is going they coined the term: SAP Inside Track and the rest is history and getting bigger every year.

          Nigel actually just came up with another brilliant idea that we will share soon. It will be coolio.

          All the best, Mark.

          • SAP Inside Track is a great idea:). I know I mentioned this several times in this community;I’ll say one more time: I enjoyed SIT, Chicago on July 15th. Very nice experience. It was relaxing. Great food, lovely discussions.

            Best regards,

  • Yes..this blog makes me happy -:) Everybody know I’m an SAP junkie…since I started 11 years ago, I have always thought that SAP is the best company ever…even when it has some things that needed to be badly changed…so this blog makes me really happy because you have very well summarized all the points on which SAP is doing a great work to remain being the company I fall in love with…

    Of course, a lot of things needs to be improved, but I believe that SAP is taking the right steps, making the company more familiar…otherwise, how could we meet Hasso, Vishal and the rest of SAP heavy weights? I’m not sure the same doesn’t happen in other companies…that’s really a sight of changes…

    P.S: Being an SAP junkie…my opinions can’t be taking so seriously -:( Need to be more objective sometimes -:P


  • SAP is more open in almost every way than in the past but I think the biggest driver for this is that they *need* to be open.  Once they neared the end of an ERP based sales line, they’ve been proactive developing new products that are in completely new categories (streamwork, HANA). HANA has been impressive to me because it’s something that created in partnership. That bodes well for future development opportunities.  But in the end, they need ideas, developers, and to grow their industry. That can’t be done solely by themselves anymore.
  • One major milestone achieved by SAP in its innovation course is that it has finally established itself as a technology innovation provider, and not just a Business suite vendor.

    Up to know, SAP often lost technology deals as customers never saw it really as a mature technology supplier. And as such, IBM, Oracle (BEA) or webmethods were usually preferred.

    With the new innovations brought in its solutions (NetWeaver, HANA, Mobility), SAP has clearly set new rules and new grounds as a reliable partner to build the future of your company with.

  • I think you did a very good job of articulating many of the positive things that are happening within SAP. All of us that have been around SAP for a longtime are impressed that many of these long overdue changes are finally happening and that the top management is very open and engaged with the community outside the SAP compound.

    In order for me to fully embrace the “Not your Grandfather’s SAP” I would need to see some of the following:

    1. Faster Development – With high profile delays of Business Suite 2010 (EHP5), Mobility Apps and BI4 is hard to say any of the “magic” from a faster Hana launch is the new status quo from SAP.  When key competitors are delivering new functionality every 4 months SAP has a long ways to go to lose their “Grandfather” status.

    2. Culture – I always get energized when I have a call with Senior leadership or more recently during the SAP Mentor calls as I have no doubt senior management at SAP is extremely good and on the right track. The challenge is that it takes time for this message to move through the organization. I see regularly that the middle level of SAP is still operating under the old “grandfather” train of thought. In addition new competitors such as Workday have the benefit of being a young organization where top-down everyone shares the same vision.

    3. Vision – Clear vision on future strategy in areas such as OnDemand, Business ByDesign, On-Premise. The bottom line is that the “grandfathers” SAP wants to protect the On-Premise Maintenance revenue streams while slowly look for incremental opportunities in the OnDemand, Business ByDesign and SaaS areas which are clearly the growth areas in the marketplace. How this transition occurs over time will have a real bearing on the future of SAP.

    While I will agree it is “not your grandfathers” SAP it is still middle aged competing in a new world where being younger is better (hope this reference makes sense)

  • Thanks everybody (except the troll) for their insightful comments, those who challenge my position and those who support it. I have been discussing some of these points and more (stuff for a future post) with many people I met at TechEd and found that they resounded very strongly with them. The echo here in the comment section confirms this – I don’t recall ever getting so many comments in so little time, even when I did the infamous “Kiss of Death for Web Dynpro Java” blog, which should free me of the suspicion of being a claqueur for SAP’s Marketing (in fact, I had quite a clash with them about one year ago, thank you very much).
    To those who suspect – understandably – that I came back from TechEd all starry-eyed and doped from drinking the SAP kool-aid, I should respond that I have merely written down thoughts that I have been forming for well over seven years. Closely observing SAP and being a part of the (then not seen by SAP) ecosystem since before Shai’s era, I have been continuously following the not so continuous evolution of SAP’s self-understanding and corporate culture. None of what I wrote is a new or very recent thought. In fact, this blog is a brief summary of a book idea I have been pondering for over one year.
    In fact, I didn’t even come back from SAP TechEd starry-eyed as far as the technology is concerned. As an SAP Mentor, I am privileged with early access to SAP-internal information and, on top of that, I entertain good relations to people throughout the organization. Most of the stuff that was shown I had already seen or heard about. I’m not even sure if, apart from NetWeaver On-Demand, there was anything that hadn’t been publicly discussed earlier. So I experienced TechEd technologically as a “consolidation release” in which it became visible that known concepts turned into young code (NetWeaver On-Demand) and young code turned into more mature and reliable code (Sybase SUP integration with SAP, Gateway, HANA). A few new ideas were revealed (Java-based Gateway), and previously vague architectures have solidified (ABAP/HANA integration, HPAs, Sybase SUP/Gateway integration).
    • Again, great blog and great perspective. I did not mean to come off negative (if I did?) with my comment(s). I merely wanted to offer up another “side” to look at.

      Yes, I too have been around the SAP world for quite some time (like many others here), and yes, I have seen the change you are referring too….and it’s good! VERY GOOD!!!

      But, as I was asking….is/was this change something of their own invention or due to outside pressure of keeping up with everyone else and/or appearing to be that “new hip company” which draws people’s attention (like Jaret’s! haha). Remember when IBM folks were allowed to stop wearing suits and suddenly IBM was this “hip young” company? hahaha

      It kinda reminds me of that old saying that if you fake it enough, it becomes reality. =)

      BUT….again, just trying to put a different angle on your approach and pull in the reigns a bit from sounding like a cheerleader.

      And it’s okay if your “starry-eyed”, Thorsten…..most dreamers and visionaries are. I would expect “bleary-eyed” more from you given your whirlwind tour! =)

  • Humbled, proud, encouraged, appreciative.  Your sentiments and observations, Thorsten, and those of the commenters here bring us great joy… Yours are the kinds of sentiments and gut feelings we seek to create, and work so hard every day to foster in our SAP community.  So happy to see it’s working and it’s noticed.  We have much work left to do, but delighting our customers and partners and colleagues is what it’s all about.  Thank you, Thorsten and community, for noticing, for playing a big role in making this real, and for your continuing support, encouragement, and active participation.

    Mark Yolton

  • Hi Torsten. I fully acknowledge with you that SAP is heading into the right directions currently. When leaving the office today I had just the same thoughts and was quite surprised to read your article here ๐Ÿ™‚

    I hope that SAP can keep up with the expectations and we are not kept away too much from innovation because beeing innovative is what will keep us relevant in the future! We may not rest on the innovations we’ve made so far but have to re-invent ourselves again and again and this is only possible with a open culture that supports free thinking. Currently I can feel that culture in the company. Let’s hope and work on it so that it stays or even improves!

    • SAP is right now an outstanding company. It is innovative, attracts the smartest minds in the market and cretes awesome products, customers would die for.
      This leadership position in all 4 Gardner quadrants is backed up by a brilliant community composed of the worlds finest IT architects. The constant input from this source drives the SAP technology into regions thought to be reserverved for the upcoming Star Trek area.
      Beside the technological uberperformance, SAP is still the best place to be (except for women using the company’s jet).
      With a newly installed duumvirate no challenges cannot be met.

      In the late 80s the soviet union was…

  • A very thought provoking blog Thorsten. And good to see Idea Place mentioned ๐Ÿ™‚ And YES! Please encourage more customers/partners/ecosystem to use it – thanks Michelle.

    And while on the point of external influence, I would like to add the perspective that change at SAP is also driven from outside the company by customers, partners and the ecosystem. Less we forget requirements like software with 99.999% uptime and years of maintenance support. These customer demanded requirements are necessary to sustain a large business but can significantly impede innovation. Of course a new process for trying software could be created but the acceptable requirements need to be done hand in hand with the greater ecosystem. Of course as we all move into a more open and social world the ability to influence a cultural change at SAP only becomes greater.

    As this blog does – perhaps? QED

    Looking forward to the sequel.


  • First of all – Very thought provoking as usual. I think that beyond the original texts, your posts have a tendency to spark discussions where a lot of the “hidden gems” lie in the comments. I really liked Nijel’s “Two speed economy” metaphor and I agree that this is also the case inside SAP. You have parts which are moving fast, innovative and highly engaged with the community / Ecosystem and you have parts which are a lot more traditional. I’m not entirely sure that this is a bad thing by the way. Kind of like the “Timeless software” paradigm Vishal has been talking about. Different layers move in different paces.
  • Yariv’s post was short but to the point so +1

    I’ve been a fan boy of your blogs for some time now it’s an inspiration to listen and talk to you. You know my stance and some of it and we had lengthy and great discussions about it at TechEd. I sure had my fix of SAP TechEd KoolAid this year as well ๐Ÿ™‚

    Anybody calling you a marketing guy is a joke to me and just let’s me think of the lastest lesson that Marilyn taught me: It’s Right to bw Wrong”

    We should remind ourselves that we are indeed very priviledged irt insight into technological, structurual and cultural aspects of SAP (maybe from slightly different angles, but anyway) as part of the SAP Mentor progra – maybe even more than the average SAP employee himself, who may have a more narrow focus. I had to laugh, when Jamie asked about what was new to you at this year’s TechEd ๐Ÿ˜‰

    Hope you’ll find to get some of your backlog out soon – hearing your evil plans makes me hungry for more – kind of got a heavy fix this year. ๐Ÿ™‚ (to dose offended by my wording, please take my sincere apologies!)

    See you soon (btw, what’s next SAPITNL, right?)

    As such, you’re doing an inspiring job of being a (SAP) mentor as you tell it like you see it!

  • What an excellent contribution to the ongoing improvement of our beloved SAP. One often is in doubt if SAP is just good or great. This blog gives an answer. It is the community supporting the SAP change process that makes working with SAP awesome. The community attracts the best mind workers on a global scale and leverages their wit. The open mindedness combined with the highly evolved skills shaping SAP’s biotope is so mind boggling, one cannot grasp the fact that former generations lacked these pleasures.
    Thorsten, keep going!
  • As always, a brilliant post from you, Thorsten. And it was a lot of fun catching up with you in Vegas.

    SAP has a lot to be proud of – and so do we as part of the ecosystem. Thanks for highlighting the many positives.

    Just as a chain is only as strong as its weakest link, SAP has work to do in shoring up some parts. But having done so many things well – there is no reason to doubt they will get the rest right too.

    SAP has some great leaders, and they deserve a lot of credit – and to a large extent, we have acknowledged that. But there is a bigger part of the organization that are the unsung heroes – the developers and architects who actually execute on the vision, and the product/solution management team that serve as interfaces to the outside world, and so on. A good number of such people are not active in social media, and hence we don’t always get a chance to applaud what they do. I just want to take a moment to thank them and applaud them for what they are doing.

  • Hi Thorsten,

    Marvellous Blog, loved reading it!

    As the world chnages, the demands of the customer changes. SAP is doing great job in matching the customer needs and also keeping the Innovation burner alive.

    It’s not easy to adopt changes quickly and that too when the company is as big as SAP and Product line as diverse as Business Suit. Still, SAP has put in serious and visible effort in the direction. It’s more heartning to know that they are not following their rival camp and are concentrating on improving within, strength of a great Company and People.

    SCRUM, Business Objects, Sybabse Mobility, Cloud, HANA will prove to be the milestone for SAP going forward. I do hope that Business ByDesign suceeds in filling the delta that SAP has been trying to fill from quite sometime with SME segment.

    Harshit Kumar