When SAP Co-CEOs Jennifer Morgan and Christian Klein announced the 2019 Hasso Plattner Founders’ Award winner at the recent global employee meeting, excitement was high in Walldorf. Many from the teams of finalists took each other by the hands and waited anxiously for the result.
Then it was time to announce the winner: It was 21-year-old Nicolas Neumann, who took the trophy for his innovation posting automation, which radically simplifies accounting processes. Visibly moved, Neumann took a deep breath when he stepped onto the stage to receive the award.
In his home city of Buenos Aires, many colleagues followed the award ceremony via live transmission and erupted in loud cheers — not unlike the excitement when Argentina wins the World Cup. The strong community around Neumann provided him with the confidence, courage, and the platform to develop his idea and bring it to life.
The Hasso Plattner Founders’ Award is the highest employee recognition at SAP, awarded annually by the co-CEOs to an individual or a team. This year, for the first time, the award was taken home by a single person, with a tool that is simplifying accounting.
Innovation: Posting Automation
The posting automation tool simplifies accounting processes enormously by automatically structuring invoices and feeding them directly into an enterprise resource planning (ERP) system. Neumann had the idea for its development during his daily work as an accounts payable analyst at SAP.
“I felt exhausted by the tons of material that I had to process by hand,” he recalls. At the same time, he began thinking about a solution and developed an algorithm for automating the posting of complex cross-company invoices.
Neumann has the ability to acquire complex knowledge in a short time, and as a child learned basic programming skills. Autodidactically — and with great zeal — he deepened this knowledge and began to develop a solution in his spare time. Recognizing his great potential and intrinsic motivation, his mentors gave him the freedom to devote one day per week exclusively to developing posting automation.
Posting Automation Simplifies, Accelerates Accounting
The manual creation of complex cross-company invoices previously took two to three days. With Neumann’s tool, processing time has been reduced to 20 minutes. The application has already been implemented in the Financial Accounting department at SAP, and the SAP customers also stand to benefit as well.
In addition to time savings, posting automation helps avoid processing errors of manual entry and accurately displays data in real time. The increased operational efficiency supports improved customer service, as employees have time for more productive activities. Implementation requires only minimal investment and brief training for employees.
Christian Klein was excited about Neumann’s intrinsic motivation to find a way to apply technology to solve the problem. “I am extremely impressed how Nicolas identified a challenge and took action. His tool will not only be applied internally, our customers will also reap the benefits from it going forward. This is a perfect example of what innovation means.”
Jennifer Morgan was impressed by the all of the 2019 finalists. “When I see these amazing innovators who are doing this on their own time, I think they’re setting the bar for all of us. It also shows us the amazing talent we have in this company — and how we have to unleash that talent to continue innovating our products and SAP as a whole.”
Neumann is currently working on making posting automation accessible to other disciplines. At present, the requirements and ideas of potential users are being collected from a wide variety of areas. Once the data is collected, the long-term goal is to use the software throughout finance. There is also already great interest among customers in the solution.
Innovation Reflecting SAP’s Vision
Neumann joined SAP in 2016 through the Autism at Work program. SAP believes that different perspectives, experiences, and skills are the source of innovation. He is the first individual winner of the Hasso Plattner Founders’ Award, which celebrates projects within SAP that capture the founders’ spirit of innovation, entrepreneurship, and courage.
After the award ceremony, Neumann shared, “I am very happy! The award gives me great motivation in this project. And the recognition of my work is an important step for my professional future.” He explained that his life has changed a lot since his nomination. Social interactions have always been a challenge for him, and the project often forced him to go beyond himself. “The project has helped me a lot in my personal development. And it opens many doors for me professionally to do what I enjoy doing: developing!”
CFO and Executive Board Member Luka Mucic, whose Finance organization currently benefits the most from posting automation, was also impressed by Neumann’s innovation: “Up until now, teams have won the award, so it’s also great to see how a single human being with a simple idea but a great drive to achieve it can change the world.”
Teamwork is Everything
Accompanying Neumann at the award ceremony were:
- Mavi Rosskopf, Finance Operations manager for the Americas and Neumann’s direct supervisor. Rosskopf supports him in his career development through the Autism at Work program and was the project spokesperson and representative at all conferences during the competition.
- Augustina Robles, Finance Operations team lead and Autism at Work lead for LAC. Robles nominated Neumann for the award and is his mentor in the Autism at Work program as well as his project manager.