A Short History of SAP: How a German Multinational Transformed the Tech World

SAP, or Systems Applications and Products, is the world’s leading producer of enterprise resource planning (ERP) software. SAP programs work to integrate critical business operations spanning financial accounting, sales, planning, human capital management and corporate services, to name a few. Its products have been adopted the world over to streamline company processes, making SAP the third largest software company by revenue, boasting worldwide sales of $32.3 billion.

As a result, SAP has become an industry in and of itself. In this article, we’ll take a look at how the software company got to where it is today and the extensive career opportunities it has created for those interested in IT.

The origins of SAP

SAP was founded in 1972, when five ex-IBM employees in Germany came together with a vision for the future of information technology. Their goal was to create a standard software to integrate all business processes and resources in one place, in real-time. They would often sit in on days in their clients’ offices to assess their needs, and soon developed applications purpose-built for accounting and inventory management.

These early systems would pass through variation iterations, the first known as the ‘RF’ — the ‘R’ referencing ‘real-time’. Demand quickly grew for IT solutions to optimize business operations, and as a result, the SAP customer base saw rapid growth through the 1970s and 80s. Large multinationals would soon come on board with new SAP R/1 and R/2 versions, as new modules for processes like sales, planning and human resources were added to the existing suite of applications.

The current model

Approaching the millennium, SAP R/3 was released, and the company saw huge growth on the stock market. In collaboration with Microsoft, its software soon went online — customers could connect their systems to internet applications for the first time, and big names like Burger King Inc. and The Coca-Cola Company began implementing SAP.

In 1999, mySAP.com was announced, a platform combining e-commerce solutions and SAP applications to capitalize on an increasingly online retail market. By the year 2000, the company had more than 20,000 employees and was turning over €5.1 billion in revenue.

The enterprise continued to grow and transform through the early 2000s, releasing its new SAP ERP in 2006 and making competitor acquisitions such as Ariba and Sybase. SAP ERP was succeeded in 2011 by SAP HANA, allowing businesses to analyze data that would once take weeks to process in mere seconds. The most recent iteration is SAP S/4HANA, which introduced cloud and mobile integration for utmost IT flexibility. SAP customers can now accelerate operations and innovation wherever they are working from, on-premises or further afield.

Career opportunities in SAP

With its rise to the upper echelons of the tech sector, SAP has created job opportunities for thousands of computing and data experts across the globe. There are a variety of careers available in SAP implementation, which span niches such as consultancy, security and administration for small enterprises and Fortune 500 companies alike.

Most of the lucrative opportunities tend to be based in Germany, the birthplace of the industry titan — but many of the roles are English-speaking. SAP job site Eursap explains that “Berlin, Munich, Frankfurt am Main and Stuttgart are particularly fertile grounds for such specialists, with a heavy concentration of English-speaking companies located in these cities.”

Even if you do have to relocate, tech-based roles offer unrivalled opportunities for career progression in our digital economy. Just look at SAP CEO Christian Klein, for example — who is now the youngest chief executive of a major German company, after joining as a student and quickly climbing the ranks. While many roles in 2022 demand previous experience in SAP implementation, there are valuable entryways for a fulfilling career by way of training courses, internships and graduate programs.

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