2020 Hasso Plattner Founders’ Award Finalists: Products and Technology

In 2020, the Hasso Plattner Founders’ Award is organized around three new categories, which allow for a better comparability among diverse ideas and offer projects a better chance to stand out. Each category reflects a different type of breakthrough thinking, considering the various ways in which innovation drives SAP’s success.

Here, meet the finalists in the Products and Technology category.


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


Finalist: Hidden Champion – SAP HANA Data Anonymization

In our data-driven world, large amounts of personal and sensitive information are collected everywhere. Protecting the privacy of the individual is a prerequisite, though, for fully leveraging that data. As an example, today more than ever before, doctors and medical researchers worldwide need to share patient records cross-countries and cross-institutions. Lifesaving lessons can be learned from conjoint datasets in order to improve therapies and treatments.

“It is clear that personal data of the patients has to be anonymized,” says Dr.-Ing. Stephan Kessler, lead developer for SAP HANA data anonymization. “And with SAP HANA data anonymization, we can achieve a level of protection that allows hospitals to share such data safely.”

SAP HANA data anonymization enables new data-centric applications and facilitates new business models — for example, the syndication of data that has been constrained by privacy concerns until now. As a result, organizations can unlock value that might otherwise have been lost because data was either deemed inaccessible or made too generic to draw insights from it.

The Hidden Champion: SAP HANA data anonymization

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The Hidden Champion: SAP HANA data anonymization

From “Privacy or Innovation” to “Privacy and Innovation”

Data privacy is a complex topic, partly, because it is subject to constant legal and governmental changes. Kessler and his team took findings from academia and productized them. The outcome was a solution that can be applied across industries and permits SAP to address an important customer pain point, as data privacy has become a priority on business agendas.

In addition to health applications, the underlying technology can be applied to range of issues from tracking CO2 emissions to analyzing buyer behavior and predicting traffic jams.

“SAP HANA data anonymization symbolizes the birth of a new market,” Kessler says. “It is the first IT solution to offer anonymization features in the database core system. There is no peer to our solution yet.”

In developing SAP HANA data anonymization, team members in Berlin, Minneapolis, and Walldorf came to rely on each other’s expertise and could draw on a very diverse skill set including solution management, development, and consulting. This allowed them to approach the problem holistically and spark innovative ideas. Kessler explains: “Even though we never met in person during the whole process, we came to trust each other blindly.”


Finalist Fast Facts

  • Submission Title: The Hidden Champion — SAP HANA Data Anonymization
  • Team: SAP HANA Solution Management and Development
  • Number of employees: Six (Brian Raver, Kai Morich, Kristin Ulrich, Matthias Menz, Kaweh Amoi-Taleghani, Stephan Kessler)
  • Achievement: The team productized scientifically proven anonymization methods in the SAP HANA database, allowing SAP customers and SAP applications to use personal and sensitive data without inferring the privacy of individuals.
  • Impact: SAP HANA data anonymization can be applied to any industry and any organization; it is about giving a capability to society that helps to protect people’s privacy while making use of their data.

Finalist: Usage Explorer Platform for Product Insights

Have you ever wondered what the most common actions are that users take between two points in your product; for example, from the time they start a workflow until they click “cancel”? As simple as it sounds, finding an answer to these questions requires writing a complex query to a database. And if you happen to be a non-technical user, chances of getting a quick answer are slim.

Rather, they were slim. The usage explorer and its query editor were specifically developed by Semih Sezer and his team to simplify pattern discovery for non-technical users. By leveraging pattern recognition, graph technology, and machine learning, usage explorer can automatically discover usability challenges and product issues – even before customers bring them up.

Such insights are worth a lot to product teams because they allow them to proactively discover usability challenges, build more user-centric products, and create more seamless experiences for customers. For example, using pattern recognition, usage explorer can help identify the root cause of product issues and product bugs. This can save tremendous amount of time for product support and development teams, resulting in more focused development.

Usage Explorer

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Usage Explorer

Usage explorer helps product managers understand exactly how customers are using their products and what their actual workflows look like. It can also automatically identify customers at risk of not renewing their subscription, so that customer success and sales teams can reach out to these customers to understand their needs. This reduces churn and increases  renewals and revenues.

Three Dreamers from Vancouver Demonstrate Ability to Execute

Usage explorer was born as result of a conversation over lunch between Sezer, senior developer for SAP Analytics Cloud, and product expert Paul Ekeland. Sezer, Ekeland and UX designer Ashley Chen built the app in their free time. In Sezer’s words, “Usage explorer was created by a diverse team of three dreamers from Vancouver as a side project in our free time. We observed a problem and an opportunity, and we had immense desire to solve it.”


Finalist Fast Facts

  • Submission Title: Usage Explorer — A Platform for Product Insights
  • Team: Usage Explorer
  • Number of employees: Three (Semih Sezer, Ashley Chen, Paul Ekeland)
  • Achievement: Usage explorer was built completely as a side project by a team of three to create change from within. The project became the winning team of SAP Experience Garage global accelerator. UX and Product teams for SAP Analytics Cloud are integrating usage explorer into their processes for more data-driven product design.
  • Impact: Data-driven usage insights can bring immense value to any process where understanding the individual customer experience is key — from development to sales, support, and customer success.