Nicolas Neumann, 21, was the first individual winner of the Hasso Plattner Founders’ Award, which celebrates SAP employee projects that capture the founders’ spirit of innovation, entrepreneurialism, and courage.

Upon receiving the award in January, Neumann said: “I am so happy! The award gives me great motivation, and the recognition of my work is an important step for my professional future.”

Posting Automation: Invoices Processed in Minutes, Not Days

Processing complex cross-company invoices is a complicated task that used to take days to complete. Creating this type of invoice manually is inefficient and allows for error. This was Neumann’s job as an accounts payable analyst

Located in Buenos Aires, Argentina, Neumann joined the company in 2016 through the Autism at Work program. Because he felt increasingly overwhelmed by the thousands of items awaiting his attention, he started thinking about how technology could help. That is how he came up with the idea for the posting automation tool.

The Hasso Plattner Founders’ Award is the highest employee recognition at SAP, awarded annually to an individual or a team.

COVID-19: Hunkering Down at Home

Nicolas Neumann
2019 Hasso Plattner Founders’ Award winner Nicolas Neumann

After attending the award ceremony in Walldorf, Germany, Neumann returned to Argentina. Soon the novel coronavirus emerged in China and began to spread, with SAP instructing employees in China to work from home to protect their well-being. Not long after, the company asked nearly all employees worldwide to work from home.

The pandemic put an end to plans to visit a team of developers in China, as well as to a fellowship Neumann was hoping to take up — one step that would have gotten him closer to fulfilling his dream of becoming a software developer. Instead, he had to adjust to working from his parents’ home and collaborating online with the team in China.

Having the entire development team working from their home offices presented some challenges, but work is still on track and application is planned to be ready for use at SAP toward the end of the year. Over time, it is planned for availability to SAP customers as well, once localized for each country.

Argentina’s Long Lockdown

Argentina has been in lockdown since the middle of March. Public life has practically ground to a halt and almost everything is closed. The country is in one of the longest periods of quarantine anywhere in the world and although it has not managed to contain the virus entirely, transmission is under control.

The pandemic has directly affected Neumann’s family: After showing symptoms, his father tested positive for COVID-19. A couple of days later, Neumann also developed symptoms, and the family spent 14 days in quarantine. Fortunately, their cases were mild and all have since made a full recovery.

An Award That Opens Many Doors

Neumann and his mentors are understandably frustrated that he could not take up his fellowship.

“It would have been really great,” he says. “Right now, I’m still spending half my working time on accounting and half on software development. My aim — my dream — is a full-time job in development.”

When asked what has changed most since receiving the award, he says: “I feel that people really listen to me. They take my plans and ideas seriously.” Underscoring that, Neumann is already working on his next idea: a solution to automate tax processing.

After three months of lockdown, the walls of the family living room started to feel like they were closing in on the young inventor. It was time for time for him to take the leap and move into an apartment of his own. The prize money made it possible.

“Making this decision had a big impact on my life and on my personal development,” he says.

It is a big step that shows how Neumann keeps pushing his own boundaries. The apartment brings responsibility and makes him more independent.

“Having a quiet place to myself does me good. And it makes me much more self-reliant. I now have a lot more time – not just for my work but also for me. This experience has taught me so much. And I’m really grateful for that.”