Top vs. Flop: Hasso Plattner & Jennifer Morgan

Hasso Plattner
What is more important – rapid growth or customer satisfaction? The SAP Supervisory Board in the Walldorf “Clash of Cultures” gave a convincing answer.

What some dismissed as a “settling of accounts” with former CEO Bill McDermott was much more: In an interview with Handelsblatt last week, SAP founder Hasso Plattner gave deep insights into the company’s culture – and at the same time revealed the real reason for Jennifer Morgan’s departure.

Seldom before has a chairman of the supervisory board talked so openly about internal conflicts: Plattner reported that different governance cultures collided at SAP. On the one hand, there were Anglo-Saxon managers such as McDermott and short-term co-chair Jennifer Morgan.

They set ambitious growth targets for subsidiaries, but otherwise gave them great freedom. According to Plattner, the credo was: “As much control as necessary, as much personal responsibility as possible In this way, McDermott & Co. had provoked “a certain growth dynamic” – but at a high price. Because the successes concealed “fundamental problems”.

“We didn’t listen to the customers”..

Above all, technological integration has fallen by the wayside. “That cost us one and a half to two years, but mentally it took us much more,” said Plattner. For example, not all SAP components meet the same cyber security standards, which is causing a great deal of resentment among customers. “We simply didn’t listen to our customers,” Plattner stated.

So in the end, the conflict was about which is more important: rapid growth or customer satisfaction? The Walldorf “Clash of Cultures” is thus virtually symbolic of the difference between the shareholder value and stakeholder value principles – and the systemic competition between the social market economy and Wall Street capitalism.

“For Bill McDermott, competition was the top priority, for me it was always the customer,” Hasso Plattner summed it up in an interview with the Handelsblatt. The Chairman of the Supervisory Board has now reacted late to the dominance of the shareholder value maximizers, but all the more decisively.

However, he should not stop there and, for example, focus on the lavish salaries of SAP managers. So the question now arises whether bonus systems reward customer-oriented thinking – or above all, whether they reward rapid growth.