GAOYUAN Software design is fine art with lots of creativity
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.