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SAP History

Building on a track record of innovation.

The early years

1972 - 1980

The dream of real-time computing comes true: software that processes data when customers need it – instead of in batches overnight.




Dietmar Hopp, Hasso Plattner, Claus Wellenreuther, Klaus Tschira, and Hans-Werner Hector leave IBM and found a company called Systemanalyse Programmentwicklung (meaning “system analysis program development”). Their goal is to create software that integrates all business processes and makes data available in real-time.

Close to the customer

Initially trading as a private partnership, the company sets up its headquarters in Weinheim, Germany, and opens an office in nearby Mannheim. But its founders spend most of their time working a few miles away at the data center operated by their first customer, the German subsidiary of Imperial Chemical Industries.

First successes

Toward the end of the year, the entrepreneurs and their two-strong workforce complete a materials, information, and accounting system known as “MIAS”.



Modular design

The company launches its first financial accounting system: RF (“R” for “real-time”), the cornerstone for a modular system that later came to be known as “SAP R/1”.

New customers

Knoll Pharmaceuticals and furniture producer 3K join the list of companies in Germany planning to run the software.

Night owls

Software development and testing takes place on customers’ mainframes – at night and on weekends, when no one else is using them.

Jürgen Hachenberger and Paul Neugart at customer Thermal Werke



SAP's first ten customers

Demand grows

More and more companies opt for RF – Burda, Schulze-Pharma, Hugo Mann, Reemtsma, Roth-Händle, and Linde among them. After just two and a half years in business, SAP has 40 reference customers.

Purchasing module

Development of purchasing software begins at Thermal-Werke, a heat exchanger manufacturer located close to SAP headquarters. Glass company Schott becomes the first to implement the new software later in the year.



The logo

“SAP” is now a familiar brand name; the first logo appears on its letterhead.

Second product pillar

SAP’s new materials management system, RM, integrates purchasing, inventory management, and invoice verification, opening up a whole new addressable market.


Integration as a USP

SAP’s standout feature emerges: software that integrates all of a company's applications and stores data centrally. Amounts flow from materials management to financial accounting, allowing invoices to be verified and posted in a single step.

Venturing farther afield

SAP installs its software outside Germany for the first time – at Swiss customers Coop and Georg Fischer.



Becoming a long-term customer: technology company Freudenberg

New legal form

A new limited liability company is launched – trading as SAP GmbH Systeme, Anwendungen und Produkte in der Datenverarbeitung – and handling the administration and sales operations. It would be another five years before the original private partnership is dissolved and the rights transferred to the new entity.

Ongoing success

SAP now employs 25 people and generates DM3.81 million in revenue. Freudenberg, Holsten Brewery, Dr. Oetker, Merck, Beiersdorf, and L’Oréal are new customers in this year.


 Shaping the Future Through Innovation

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SAP moves its headquarters to rented office space in a bank in Walldorf, but continues to do the bulk of its development work at customer data centers.

More customers outside Germany

Nettingsdorfer Papierfabrik and Oberösterreichische Kraftwerke AG become the first Austrian companies to install SAP systems.

First events for customers

With its customer list growing apace, SAP chooses Hotel Motodrom at Germany’s iconic Hockenheimring racing circuit as the venue for its very first customer training courses. It also showcases its applications at Heidelberg’s Molkenkur hotel, assisted, among others, by customers ICI and Burda.

Siemens computers

SAP’s “R” System begins running on Siemens hardware.



Now available in French

Agricultural machinery manufacturer John Deere demonstrates SAP's international credentials by completing an in-house project to translate user interfaces into French.

Branching out

Two new modules reach completion: Asset Accounting (RA), which SAP builds for insulation specialist Grünzweig+Hartmann, and Sales and Distribution (RV), which is commissioned by Thermal-Werke.


Up and up

By the end of the year, SAP has some 60 employees and is one of Germany’s largest software firms.

A computer of its own

SAP acquires its very first computer – a Siemens 7738 mainframe. Housed in leased space, it is on this computer that the core software is built, while the applications themselves are still programmed at customers’ data centers.

Technology shift

SAP’s vast experience with IBM’s database and dialog control system gives the impetus to reconceive its software, paving the way for the next generation – SAP R/2.



Focus on developing R/2: SAP employees Jürgen Hachenberger and Gerald Malter (from left)

A home of its own

Construction work begins on new offices in Walldorf. They will be the first the company has owned rather than sharing or renting.

Focus on R/2

While continuing to serve and attract R/1 customers, SAP turns its attention to developing R/2. This new generation of software is designed with international markets in mind.



Under one roof

SAP moves into its own offices in Walldorf. The development team now has 50 terminals to work on, and all of SAP’s programs are in one place. Punched cards are consigned to history and the terminal era begins.

More computing power

Initially, three computers were installed in the new building for development, testing and training, delivery operations and maintenance. The two Siemens machines and an IBM mainframe have a total of 14 MB of RAM.

A growing portfolio

RV, originally a custom development for sales and distribution, becomes part of the product portfolio.

Co-founder departs

One of SAP's co-founders, Claus Wellenreuther, leaves the company for health reasons.

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