GAOYUAN Soft­ware de­sign is fine art with lots of cre­ativ­ity

China Daily (Canada) - - BUSINESS -

It is not of­ten that one would find a tech­nol­ogy guru who is a bil­lion­aire, pas­sion­ate about ed­u­ca­tion and some one who is adept at cracking jokes. Hasso Plat­tner, the 70-year old co-founder of Ger­man soft­ware gi­ant SAP AG, how­ever, fits all these roles to per­fec­tion.

Catch­ing up with Plat­tner on a chilly morn­ing in­May in Pots­dam, on the out­skirts of Berlin, where SAP has set up a newre­search and de­vel­op­ment fa­cil­ity, it is easy to un­der­stand why he is con­sid­ered to be one of the doyens in the soft­ware de­sign in­dus­try.

The lonely, rather small build­ing next to a lake in down­town Pots­dam does not have the trap­pings of a bustling fa­cil­ity. In fact, vis­i­tors need to pay ex­tra at­ten­tion at night as the un­fin­ished roads with­out street­lights can of­ten lead people astray.

Plat­tner, how­ever, feels that the lo­ca­tion and remoteness of the fa­cil­ity is apt for the new lab. Part of that rea­son come from SAP’s de­sire to be closer to the over 150,000 tech grad­u­ates in the re­gion so that the com­pany can have a ready pool of talent for its re­quire­ments.

“When tech com­pa­nies build large head­quar­ters— based on the ex­pe­ri­ences in Bay Area in theUS — it is of­ten the start of their downhill jour­ney,” he said. “It is prob­a­bly not the right way for ev­ery com­pany to think they have to be grander, more vis­i­ble and out­ra­geous.”

The en­gi­neer-turned-busi­ness­man who spent most of his ca­reer in Sil­i­con Val­ley has a spe­cial word of ap­pre­ci­a­tion for the cam­pus-like head­quar­ters ofMi­crosoft Corp in Red­mond, Wash­ing­ton. In­de­pen­dent build­ings in dif­fer­ent styles have given theMi­crosoft fa­cil­ity the looks of a univer­sity, Plat­tner said.

“When we built SAP build­ings, they were of­ten large,” said Plat­tner. He feels that the idea “small is beau­ti­ful” needs to be ap­plied to SAP of­fices also.

The found­ing fa­ther of one of the world’s most so­phis­ti­cated en­ter­prise soft­ware sys­tem be­lieves soft­ware de­sign is “an art per­for­mance” and not just an in­dus­tri­al­ized man­u­fac­tur­ing process. “It is im­por­tant that R&D fa­cil­i­ties need to have an artis­tic feel and look.” Soft­ware de­vel­op­ment is not or­di­nary man­u­fac­tur­ing, Plat­tner said, adding that man­u­fac­tur­ing is a repet­i­tive work that fol­lows a fixed sched­ule, whereas soft­ware de­sign in­volves a great deal of cre­ative work.

In Sil­i­con Val­ley, tech com­pa­nies have de­mol­ished walls and made more open space in their of­fice build­ings to en­cour­age com­mu­ni­ca­tion and cre­ativ­ity among em­ploy­ees.

“It is not that the young soft­ware en­gi­neers want to have a three­bed­room apart­ment. They want to be to­gether, in dif­fer­ent com­bi­na­tions,” he said, adding that is why he feels that SAP shouldn’t or­ga­nize soft­ware de­vel­op­ment like run­ning a fac­tory.

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