I debated real hard with myself (I can be really stubborn, even when arguing with myself), whether I should comment on the WSJ article this Friday. I know most of you can’t read the article, as it is a subscription service, so this post is only for those who can read it. The article, I hear, has given a lot of people back at SAP some hard feeling, as if I threw rocks at my own house after I left. So this post comes to correct the impressions that are running in the SAP halls.
- Phred is a great reporter. She worked really hard on this article and interviewed so many people in SAP for almost six months. My interviews were all conducted 4 months prior to my departure – the article was supposed to be a piece on how SAP got globalization right. To a certain degree, I ruined her piece when I decided to leave, and Phred had to re-edit to reflect that departure.
- The only comment in the article attributed to me that was given after my departure was the following quote
Mr. Agassi says his mission was "to bring the best talent we could find anywhere into SAP, regardless of location."
That comment was given as a response to a comment made by one of the employees in a German article saying “Shai tried to move as many jobs from Walldorf to Palo Alto as possible”.
- Globalization is hard, as cultures tend to become perfect separating lines in times of hardship. I believe SAP globalizes more than any of its peers and probably more than most global companies we know. I did not make SAP globalize, but I was a great supporter of the move to globalize and became a symbolic figure to demonstrate the true global nature of the company (as the article says, “a lightening rod”.) There are many great global executives at SAP today, and that shift is not one that can be easily turned back because of one person’s departure.
- SAP globalizes because talent in our industry is distributed around the entire world, and the company is committed to get the best talent it can find into the company. The software industry has been blessed with what feels like an infinite supply of engineers coming mostly from China and India but also from places like Israel and Bulgaria. This industry is lucky that it can acelerated growth and innovation – I can only hope other industries get this influx of talent as well. At the same time, that influx of amazing talent changes dramatically the social contract for many employees in the “home countries” of global companies. That change is documented in many articles and books – one of the best is “The world is flat” by Tom Friedman.
I do not believe in throwing rocks back at a place you helped build – and SAP was my home for the last 6 years. I still hold it dear, and am a big fan from outside, wishing the company only the best. I know that departing executives always cause friction despite their desire to leave a positive imprint even on the way out, still I do believe that the conclusion in the article’s sidebar will hold true and SAP will grapple with tensions and persevere.