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Hasso Plattner Founders’ Award Finalist Profile: Being a True Transformer

Feature Article | January 11, 2017 by Stephanie Rieder

A program to turn employees from SAP’s Global Finance & Administration board area into agents of change went viral, delivering tangible business benefits to business units across the globe.

What do Transformers and SAP’s Global Finance & Administration (GFA) finalist for the Hasso Plattner Founders‘ Award have in common? More than you probably think.

First and foremost, they have their own comic series. What, you don’t picture finance people as comic heroes? Then think again. It all started as a grassroots initiative in the mid-2015 with a clear goal: GFA employees were asked to expand their roles from being excellent stewards and even better business partners to becoming true transformation agents.

But don’t think about machines that transform from cars into… well: Transformers. Think of colleagues working alongside each and every employee. With all their experience and knowledge, they should challenge the status quo and co-drive profitable growth for the company. But how would the GFA colleagues learn what makes up a great transformation agent so they can act accordingly? This is where GFA’s finalist team for the Hasso Plattner Founders’ Award comes into play.


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

Finalist Fast Facts

  • Submission Title: GFA Transformation Agent Movement
  • Board Area: Global Finance & Administration
  • Team: 16 SAP employees across GFA
  • Achievement: Through this social and business movement, the finalist created a bottom-up change management approach. With a train-the-trainer-approach around the globe, not only executives but also experts led the workshops in addition to their formal roles.
  • Impact: The finalist team contributed largely to a change in mindset of the GFA board area, thus enabling SAP to deliver on its strategy.
  • Credits: Go to the finalist team and all other colleagues who contributed to making this happen.

“At the beginning of this year we knew exactly where we needed to go with regards to this role,” Joel Bernstein, head of Global Field Finance, and one of the executive sponsors for the transformation agent role remembers. “However, we needed to find ways to engage people’s hearts and minds. We wanted to make sure people don’t just understand what being a transformation agent means but that they can also act accordingly. This is why we set up a few workshops in the first place.”

And these workshops went viral. In the end, more than 80 GFA experts and specialists became trainers for the sessions, and 1,500 GFA employees worldwide were brought up to speed in 30,000 hours of training. The participants worked on actual business topics with their counterparts in SAP market units worldwide. They identified problems and jointly worked on solutions to overcome these obstacles. These were problems such as ‘What is hindering SAP’s performance in certain markets?’, ‘Why are discounts on our products so high?’, or ‘When will we harmonize internal processes?’.

The results of all worldwide sessions were brought together into one document revealing the top five global business challenges, their solutions, as well as next steps. “This paper is a hands-on deliverable,” says Joel. “Our goal was to equip people with a methodology to challenge the status quo, and in addition to that, to also come out of the workshops with something tangible for the benefit of SAP.”

The project included a transformation agent handbook translated into eight languages, a selfie wall on the corporate intranet with participant pictures from the workshops to engage people, a comic series to reach colleagues in a new and different way, and finally the conclusion document to make the outcome and results transparent and tangible. This is what the GFA Transformation Movement is about and this is what made them GFA finalist.

If you would like to see a transformer – pardon – transformation agent, then just reach out to one of the colleagues in Finance & Administration. They are working right next to you, and they are not just excellent stewards and business partners, but now also even better transformation agents.

Stephanie Rieder is on the Integrated Employee Communications team at Global Corporate Affairs at SAP, responsible for GFA internal communications.

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