When I first heard last month’s news that Hasso Plattner, SAP Chairman of the Supervisory Board since 2003, would comparatively soon step aside, my immediate reaction was:
Thank you, Hasso, for everything.
Why? A host of reasons. Let me share just a few.
Hasso the Entrepreneur
With his co-founders—Dietmar Hopp, Hans-Werner Hector, Klaus Tschira, and Claus Wellenreuther—Hasso left IBM and built a company that was once a dream. He’s really one of the initial high-impact entrepreneurs. When you think about the Henry Fords and the Thomas Edisons of the world, you should think about and thank Hasso Plattner. He took this idea of enterprise resource planning and made it what it is today.
Hasso the Technologist
Whether directly or indirectly, in the past or still in his roles as chair of the SAP Technology and Strategy Committee and the SAP Go-to-Market and Operations Committee, Hasso has maintained his technology and product influence and impact. He’s added his touch to so many SAP home-grown or acquired solutions or partnerships. He envisioned generations of the SAP database and how SAP HANA developed. And he was an early mover in design thinking, in work at Stanford in 2004, infusing these principles across SAP.
Hasso the Visionary
Hasso’s reach extends from financial software to design thinking to ERP and more, always with incredible passion and vision about having customers advance and progress with a database and tools that would move faster, provide greater data access, and accelerate business processes and improvements. He saw the need for roadmaps that help users see and plan for the present and the future. With the commercial internet, cloud, and customers’ increasingly global business needs, Hasso understood and delivered what it means to be interconnected via Business Network, Intelligent Enterprise, and Industry Cloud. And he oversaw diversification efforts with SAP extending into supply chain, customer experience, employee experience—virtually all facets of the business strategy and operations.
The February SAP board leadership announcement included Hasso’s welcome and support statement for his designated successor, Punit Renjen, who served as Deloitte Global CEO from 2015 until retiring from the post last December. “With extensive experience as a highly successful CEO of one of the world’s largest consulting firms, Punit brings valuable insights and experience to the board. His deep understanding of our customers’ needs and the broader industry make him an ideal candidate for Chairman of the Supervisory Board from 2024 onward,” Hasso remarked in the prepared statement.
Dynamics and Transformations
For now, Renjen is nominated to become a member of the Supervisory Board, with an election set for the company’s shareholder meeting in May. Going forward, I’m curious—and surely you are, too—to learn more about him. He’s stepping out of consulting into a software organization undergoing a lot of tectonic change, as is everybody in a post-pandemic world.
There are several dynamics in play. Down the line, we will see a transformation from one board chair to another. For now, with Hasso's departure, we say a fond farewell to not only a board chair but also a founder. Change will involve adjusting to a board chair who is more of a "board chair."
There are and will be challenges for this new chair. They will define and we'll see: what do they want to do? What are their priorities? What is their leadership style? What does it mean to be board chair of this company, a German company, at this time?
New Chair, Our Mission
On your behalf, I hope to meet Punit Renjen at SAP Sapphire-ASUG Annual Conference come May in Orlando or shortly thereafter. I want to hear what he thinks about user communities and what he thinks about the customer. I want to understand how he thinks SAP can help customers, our members, and organizations get the most value from their investment. How will this new chair help us achieve our mission?
Also, in Orlando, just once more, I’d like to see and hear from Hasso. He spoke at the SAP 50th Anniversary events I attended last year in Germany. Hasso has been an annual centerpiece Sapphire speaker. And come May, I want to let him know that without him, without the Hasso leadership, substance, influence, and style, many of us as customers would not be where we are today. While Hasso may step down as the Chair of the SAP Supervisory Board, my guess is that he will still be involved in one way, shape, or form.
Thank you, Hasso.