"There was resistance" to Qualtrics acquisition, says SAP founder Hasso Plattner

SAP founder said that there was board-level resistance to the $8 billion acquisition but now there is work to do to make it a success

SAP founder Dr Hasso Plattner said that there was board-level resistance to the $8 billion acquisition of Utah-based SaaS company Qualtrics last year and that CEO Bill McDermott was the driving force behind the decision.

Speaking to the press during SAP Sapphire in Orlando, the chairman of the supervisory board at SAP said: "Bill was in a hurry to convince SAP that this was something we should do. You can imagine there was resistance.

"They asked for a price otherwise they go to their IPO and we made a board decision to let Bill handle this and now we are together."

Speaking during Qualtrics' X4 event in London last month fellow board member Adaire Fox-Martin admitted a similar level of resistance to the acquisition, saying that she had to "look you guys up, I had to do my own research" when Qualtrics was presented to her in the boardroom as a potential M&A target.

"We were excited about the role Qualtrics could play in innovation at SAP," she added. "We have acquired some of the best cloud companies in the world [Ariba, Fieldglass, SuccessFactors etc.]. Each focuses on a vertical, but Qualtrics works across all verticals and can be a unifying element across all of those."

Plattner was earlier joined on stage by Qualtrics cofounder Jared Smith, the engineer brother of the CEO and public face of the company Ryan Smith, to talk about how the two companies are working to bring their technology together and deliver a combination of operational and experience data, as per the vision laid out by McDermott the day before.

He also spoke about the importance of getting back to the company's roots by getting closer to customers again.

"If I can flip back to 1972... we were doing customer visits, consulting, we developed software, introduced the software, we didn't need Qualtrics in those days and just learned by doing and listening to customers."

"Now we change this by forcing all of us - and that is the implication of Qualtrics and SAP - that we have to face the reality outside. We currently have 82 projects identified... so in the neighbourhood of 100 feedback loops will be installed pretty soon at SAP and will be one of the biggest organisational influences in the history of SAP."

"Get the feedback, have the empathy for the user," he summarised.

McDermott already spoke the day before about how SAP is looking to leverage Qualtrics internally, saying it will become the largest reference customer of Qualtrics globally.

"So thanks Bill for making this move happen, I think it will change how we work inside the company and I think we can be a role model for our customers," Plattner concluded.