Business Heroes – Part Two: How I Met SAP

The First Decade of Its Internationalization

 


Hans Schlegel, Former Board Member, SAP AG

This blog is the second in a series of four blogs that provide a glimpse of the forthcoming publication of itelligence’s Business Heroes (Second Edition).  For more background, please see this post.

The world looked very different some 30 years ago when I was cutting my teeth in IT. Little did I know that my life, and the global business world, were about to be drastically changed forever, and for the better.

Founded in 1972 by Dietmar Hopp and four other former IBM engineers, SAP was still a very young, growing company 10 years later – and hardly anyone knew yet what it was. In the early 1980s, I was evaluating a replacement for accounting systems that were still running on so-called magnetic account machines. IBM, a first and preferred vendor, was proposing an integrated file system with extensive transaction processing capabilities (it used DL/1 to access IBM’s IMS databases). I came across SAP/R 1 and was immediately impressed by its on-line and real-time way of working.

However, I was a bit hesitant to deviate from established standards. Finally, torn between a proven and revolutionary world, we ultimately decided to use SAP for financial accounting and Software AG’s Adaptable Database System (ADABAS). As the years went by, I grew very close to SAP and, in 1984, Dietmar personally invited me to lunch and presented how SAP was imagining its internationalization. Then, out of the blue, came the crucial question: “Can you imagine taking this task over?”

I’d like to say the rest was history, but it’s important to point out that I had many sleepless nights during this time. I knew that the introduction of comprehensive software that simplified, unified and automated the core processes of a company definitely required good technology. Equally important, if not more important, I knew a solution of this nature required a successful launch formed by a cooperative, convincing introduction of three components: experienced consultants, customer experts, and the technocrats of the software company in Walldorf. Simply put, to demonstrate success, the core competencies of the consultants and clients had to be intelligently, and unmistakably, aligned.

While the technology, innovations and capabilities have changed over time, SAP and partners like itelligence face the same complexities and daily demands today.

You can also find the second edition of “Business Heroes in SMBs – Worldwide” on Amazon.

 

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