The Prize That Transforms: Hasso Plattner Founders’ Award

Find out how the Hasso Plattner Founders’ Award, SAP’s most prestigious employee recognition, has influenced the careers and thinking of its recipients.

In 2014, SAP CEO Bill McDermott introduced an innovation award for SAP employees. Over the past five years, six teams at SAP have earned the Hasso Plattner Founders’ Award, which recognizes employees for inspirational and extraordinary achievement that reflects the founders’ legacy of innovation, entrepreneurialism, and courage.

The Prize that Transforms: Hasso Plattner Founders’ Award

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The Prize that Transforms: Hasso Plattner Founders’ Award

The award carries the name of Hasso Plattner, current chairman of the Supervisory Board of SAP SE and inventor of SAP HANA, the in-memory database management system introduced in 2010. Plattner — the personification of boldness, innovation, and renewal at SAP — remains an inspiration to all employees worldwide.

“The Hasso Plattner Founders’ Award showcases the very best of SAP, reflecting Hasso’s intellect, creativity, and depth of vision,” says McDermott. “Past winners and finalists have proven that we’re surrounded by the best people who are focused on helping the world run better and improving people’s lives. Together, with our combined talents, we will continue to shape the next generation of innovators who represent our bright future!”

We asked selected winners how the experience had influenced their careers or changed their approach to work, and whether they think it fosters an innovation culture at SAP. The answers were surprising and inspiring.

Recognition More Important Than Money

Many of the winners say that the monetary part of the award is nice to have, but that the sense of accomplishment and the boost given to their team are far more important.

Hinnerk Gildhoff, development manager and head of SAP HANA Spatial and Graph, who won the award in 2014 with SAP HANA Spatial, summed it up: “Money is a nice side effect, but the intrinsic reward is much more interesting.”

The tagline “Hasso Plattner Founders’ Award winner” seems to follow recipients wherever they go. “People describe me as ‘the guy who won the Hasso Plattner Award,’” says Cornelius Clauser, who received the award in 2017 with the SAP Transformation Navigator team and now leads the Productivity Consulting Group in the SAP Digital Business Services organization. The award is clearly good for establishing brand recognition within the company.

But not every employee wants to be in the spotlight. “Tech companies like SAP are home to many introverts who do great work and make things happen but by nature avoid the limelight and are therefore often overlooked,” says Christoph Luettge, winner from 2014 with the Zero Downtime Maintenance team.

Luettge believes that the Hasso Plattner Founders’ Award is important because it allows these employees in particular to get credit for the amazing things they are capable of.

Huge Project Boost

“It was a big moment for everyone on the SAP HANA Spatial team and it gave us a huge push,” says Gildhoff. “Without the award, we wouldn’t have been able to deliver the product to market so fast or generate as much revenue as we did.”

“The win gave us a big boost in visibility, which oiled the wheels and convinced many of the market units of the value of the showcase,” says Jill Irvine, member of the 2018 winning team, Immersive Experience. Following the pilot in Walldorf, further locations for the Immersive Experience format have opened up around the world in London, Brussels, the U.S., Paris, and Den Bosch. More are on the way, including Tokyo this month.

Small regional teams can be invisible and often don’t get the recognition they deserve. It is even more impressive  therefore that in 2016 the four-person Skills for Africa team was able to convince the judges of their innovative idea, demonstrating that at SAP, humanity counts just as much as technology.

“Our win showed that everything you are doing is important to somebody, and that believing in even the smallest idea can have a huge impact,” says Meena Confait, former Skills for Africa lead.

Career Boost

But is the Hasso Plattner Founders’ Award also good for climbing the career ladder? The award is still young, and many of its winners still have long careers ahead of them. Nonetheless, for some we talked to, it has been a door opener to new and exciting career opportunities within SAP.

In early 2015, Gerrit Kazmaier, who headed the six-person SAP HANA Spatial team, took on the role of development manager for SAP Analytics Cloud, then a new product. The role not only came with increased responsibility, but also meant relocating to Vancouver. Today, SAP Analytics Cloud has grown to more than 2,900 customers and is recognized by analysts across the board for its innovation. In 2018, Kazmaier took over responsibility for SAP’s database portfolio. As the head of SAP HANA and Analytics, he now leads an organization of more than 3,000 people.

“The award influenced my career in many ways,” Kazmaier says. “But most significantly, it confirmed the absolute importance of having a great team with a big vision of what they want to achieve and a drive to accomplish something outstanding. At the end of the day, the team is everything.”

Gildhoff, who stepped into Kazmaier’s role as development manager, has experienced a career leap of his own. From C++ programmer to development and business lead for a strategic product like SAP HANA Spatial is a steep learning curve that requires self-starting capacity. Gildhoff seized every opportunity to expand his knowledge and skills.

“My heart still beats in development, but the new opportunities have enabled me to combine my knowledge of business and technology, and think more globally,” he says. “All the things that have happened to me over the past five years were influenced by winning the Hasso Plattner Founders’ Award.”

Valuable Mindset Change

Employees say that the award has emboldened them to question the status quo and take risks. “It taught me to be brave, and reinforced my instinct to question what’s going on,” says Irvine. “If you see an opportunity to challenge the status quo for the better, then go for it.”

“The Hasso Plattner Founders’ Award has given me the security and self-confidence to try new things outside the norm, but also to say no to ideas that I don’t believe in,” says Luettge. “I wouldn’t have been able to do that as easily before receiving the award. That is what the Hasso Plattner Founders’ Award promotes, and it is incredibly important for upholding the spirit of innovation at SAP.”