Wall Street on friday wrote (subscription required) an interesting piece on SAP’s globalization efforts. The main point in the story was that SAP faced several challenges in its effort to globalize. From the story, it seems that SAP clearly had two distinct power centres. One was based out of the company head quarters at Waldorf, Germany and the other was based out of Palo Alto, California.
Apparently the clashes between the two groups was covered in the German media. Last year, at Waldorf there was even a town hall meeting over the "Americanization of SAP".
Perhaps this divide explains why some of the R&D and new product initiatives seemed to overlap, and in some cases there was duplication of efforts.
Shai Agassi — the brilliant visionary who led SAP’s technology and new product development was the only non German on SAP’s board and must surely have found it difficult to deal with these issues, especially so as the product development efforts were distributed globally between Germany, US, India and other countries and he had ownership for new products. There has been intense speculation that Shai left SAP recently in a rather abrupt fashion apparently frustrated at the "culture" issues and the poor "passion to cost" ratio.
I am sure SAP founders like Dr. Hasso would continue with their globalization initiatives. I think it is extremely important that they do so, given the competiton for SAP is increasing and coming from multiple quarters.
I would like to frame this issue, beyond just a globalization issue. Based on pure empirical and anecdotal evidence, it seems that German companies are more resistant to assimilate and integrate people from other cultures, and also have a tendency to impose their thinking on others, maybe much more than the US companies. Is there something in the German culture that makes them more aggressive and less consensus seeking?
Just as I am writing this post, I saw Daimler Chrysler hiving off a major portion of their investment in Chrysler. So, another mega – cross border merger seems to have failed. Well, that would be another post.
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