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Why is Intellectual Renewal necessary?

At SAP, we are said to be going through an Intellectual Renewal.  I rather like this phrase.  One, because it implies that we have always had the smarts.  One cannot grow a $16 billion euro business with a customer reach the spans the globe without some kind of competence (side note:  my personal favorite random customer stat – our customers produce more than 70% of the world’s chocolate).  But this phrase does imply that something may have gone astray over the years, or why the need for a renewal? 

Here’s my take.  Over time you start to establish patterns.  Take the science experiment I ran the other day at our SAP Waterloo Labs site.  I rolled out the following whiteboard in a highly visited area with some whiteboard markers easily at hand.  That’s it.


Here is what I got by the end of the day:


And by the end of the week:


What was interesting were the rules that started to unfold by unknown forces.  Apparently acronyms were out (makes sense to me).  Some even chose to erase those movie titles that were felt to not be truly one word (like my original “Terminator” entry in the first picture).  After I let it be known that I set the board up I was asked what the follow-up to this board was.  Would I ask another question?  What would I do with the results?  Good questions.  Did it really need follow-up?  Was it enough that we took some time to think about something completely different out of our work day and collaborated on a question as a community?

So patterns start to set in. Over time the business takes the good patterns (or the ones it believes are responsible for its success) and establishes Best Practices.  But the problem with Best Practices is that they get developed at a specific point in time and they tend to go unquestioned moving forward (and therefore never evolve). Eventually they become reasons for resisting change when change is needed.  Remember when it was Best Practices to design software according to a specification document that took months to produce and even longer to read? One of the problems with this approach in mobility anyway, was that by the time the software was developed, the devices they were optimized to run on were old already.  The old enterprise software approaches clearly didn’t work for mobility.  But mobility was only symptomatic of the overall problem at hand.  What about software that runs machine-to-machine transactions?  What about software for in-memory processing?  The way we created software had to evolve. 

SAP sees these old patterns as its Achilles’ heel and continues to address them.  From the spaces we work in to the processes we use to develop our software, we are questioning our Best Practices and looking at doing things differently.  Look at the cool research we’re doing (here’s a neat video from our Emerging Technologies team – and a future blog entry) or the software we have currently available in market TODAY (like the HANA real-time data platform (RTDP)), or the new markets we are reaching (newborn parents to sports fans).  SAP is truly undergoing an intellectual renewal and it’s awesome to witness and be part of it. 

“Learn from yesterday, live for today, hope for tomorrow. The important thing is not to stop questioning.” — Albert Einstein

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      Author's profile photo Tom Van Doorslaer
      Tom Van Doorslaer

      Some real classics on that board, but there also seems to be a fan of B-movies in the team 😆

      A fun experiment and a really good introduction to the thought behind the blog. Excellent article. (but is it now 16 billion dollars, or Euros?)

      oh ps: Avatar, Heat, Scarface

      Author's profile photo Former Member
      Former Member
      Blog Post Author

      Thanks Tom - I will also add those to the board.  I can't bring myself to erase it yet 😉   

      According to the 2012 SAP Annual Report IFRS Revenues were 16,223 in Euro millions: