"Eine perfekte Nachfolgelösung ist selbst in Deutschlands größten Konzernen selten."
Zitat aus einem E-Mail des SAP-Aufsichtsratsvorsitzenden an über 65.000 SAP-Beschäftigte vom Mittwoch 31. Juli 2013:
I would like to provide a personal response to recent reports in the media.
The German press has to be fair and balanced. If they say something positive, they have to balance that with criticism. A recent article in "Der Spiegel" magazine was written without a formal interview with me. The author came to the Hasso Plattner Institute and listened to a lecture about in-memory databases. There I learned about overworked employees, headquarter gossip and unused tennis courts. The fact that our tennis courts have only been open to employees after 5:00 p.m. for 20 years (International Training Center) was ignored, as well as a suggestion to talk to groups in Walldorf with recent success stories e.g. banking, HANA, NetWeaver, Suite on HANA, sustainability, to mention only a few. Obviously that was not in the interest of the story. Even in interviews you can say whatever you want, the job of the journalist is to produce a story.
So here we are and they got some facts completely wrong:
I am the chairman of a German AG and as such a non-executive chairman. That means I don’t interfere with the day-to-day operation of SAP: I don't negotiate or sign contracts, I don't decide on compensation except for the Executive Board ("Vorstand"), I don't schedule employee workloads, I don't create the work environment, and I don't make decisions about infrastructure and processes. Any association of the facts relating these topics to my position are false.
On the other hand, the Supervisory Board does monitor the general atmosphere in the company and advises the Executive Board if necessary. This way the Supervisory Board and I interfered when bonus plans didn't work out or individual groups in the company seemed to be getting overworked.
The world of IT is changing dramatically and we have to follow or better lead. Like any other company, we are not successful in all projects we start. The management of success is easy, the management of failed projects much more challenging. To be a leader involves a lot of interaction with the consumers of our products. Many studies show that innovation is directly correlated with the amount of interaction and the diversity of the environment. The big cities and the Bay Area have an advantage here.
Headquarters in companies tend to become bureaucratic and so did we. Slow processes, an abundance of PowerPoint decks, overgrown controls, formal reporting with no action, constant gossiping, inflexible hierarchies, creation of a false reality, glorification of the past, lack of customer feedback, protectionism, career ambitions, etc., all of this creep into the corporate culture like in any other large company. It takes a lot of energy to keep these developments under control and everybody has to work on it, from the top down and the bottom up. You have to fight for a culture of openness and trust. You should not give in and remain silent until an investigative journalist calls. I would love to help, but my influence stops at the first level below the Executive Board ("Vorstand" and Global Management Board). Any type of suppression of criticism is detrimental to our success. Perhaps everyone should read the book "Imagine: How Creativity Works" by Jonah Lehrer. It talks about the value of criticism.
It is always uncomfortable to be criticized, but the impression of people from the outside about SAP is pretty much what you read. Just ask young people leaving university what they think about us, specifically in Germany. We need the best people from all over the world. Now ask yourself whether they want to come work for us in Walldorf. Some are taken back by our size, some spend some time with us and developed an opinion, others just don't know what we do. The good people have the choice and prefer Google, Microsoft, Apple, BMW, VW, etc. We have to make Walldorf attractive again. How? By showing that we are a leading-edge company, fun to work with, interesting projects, successful products,... Young people want to contribute, want to win. The kindergarten on premise is standard in high tech companies in the United States, but still a bonus in Germany. It is not about money, but the money has to be adequate. They have to see a path for their career. It is all about leadership. But leadership is not only at the top, it is necessary on each and every level. The top management has to get involved and will get back into hiring and talent management.
I asked the head of HR several times to study the HANA organization, which is global and non-hierarchical, and lead from Walldorf, to figure out what works better and could be transferred to other departments. I have always warned about formal processes with little or negative impact. I mention only one: The traffic lights in the PIL process. I proposed to use text (not PowerPoint), and I am glad to see written reports growing in numbers. PowerPoint is the worst tool for design and not even good for presentations in development.
I am anything but a dictator. When I asked the board to grant me the right to run the HANA project in an executive function, I said I'll only do it if, quote "I could be a dictator, but a good dictator. When I say we have to do something, we have to do it. But you can always convince me that I am wrong and I will change my mind." The famous example is that I insisted on SQL vs the FSI interface. It has been a fantastic ride and SAP needed HANA badly.
How I could become a "god and devil" in someone’s eyes is completely out of my imagination. This person and I cannot live on the same planet. God obviously can do things I can't, and to think that I have "devilish" intentions with regards to SAP and its people is utterly ridiculous. But the worst part of this story is that the "someone" has indulged themself in having this conversation with the press. This is malicious intent and it does harm to the company. If I had said those things, I would quietly resign and restart my career somewhere else. The joke about "Vishal und Rauch" is tasteless and a disgrace for the whole company.
Another "someone" of the Supervisory Board leaked "facts" about Jim's exit from the board. This is simply illegal and again harms the company. I don't believe that it actually was an elected board member. And the facts are wrong, too. Jim always told me, that he would never do anything negative to SAP and that he was totally open to finding a good solution for him and SAP regarding his tenure.
Is Walldorf the right location for SAP? Walldorf is SAP despite the fact that we got born in Weinheim. Nobody wants to move "Walldorf" to some other location. But if not "everyone" wants to come to us we now have the flexibility to move to other locations. Having Berlin / Potsdam will help and soon our base in Munich will grow substantially. The organization of the company is by function and not by geography. It shouldn't matter where people sit, as long as they can contribute to the success of the company. We did not treat all of our other locations in the world as equal partners for a long time. I am very happy now that Philadelphia, New York, Shanghai, Bangalore, Berlin / Potsdam, Palo Alto, Vancouver, Bucharest, Haifa, and all the other locations are part of the family. We shouldn't be jealous and need to learn from and collaborate with each other. That responsibilities or even jobs have moved from one location to another has nothing to do with costs or power struggles, but with failed execution in the past. The promotion of Bernd Leukert, Franz Faerber, Bjoern Goerke, Michael Reh and Luka Mucic shows that all speculation about a diminished role of Walldorf / St. Leon-Rot within SAP is the sheer fantasy of journalists. It really hurts me that they try to stir things up. Criticism of Walldorf doesn't mean demolishing our largest location.
I informed the Works Council about my rights and duties as a chairman of SAP. I ask them not to articulate facts in connection with my name, which are not part of my responsibilities and would be in breach of the law, and communicate those to the press. I tried to explain the situation before.
I hope this helps you deal better with the press and the perception they sometimes create."
Vorsitzender des Aufsichtsrats