Does SAP’s Hasso Plattner Have a Real PhD?

Executive Summary

  • Hasso Plattner is frequently introduced as Dr. Hasso Plattner.
  • Is Hasso Plattner’s degree anything but honorary?

Introduction

In a previous article, I questioned whether Hasso Plattner behaved as a Ph.D. The reason being that he is so often divorced from reality. He also does not communicate in a style that is consistent with other Ph.D.’s I know, and I proposed that people who have Ph.D.’s who don’t care what is true, should be required to give those Ph.D.’s back. Since that time someone reached out to me to explain that he did not think Hasso had a real Ph.D.

Searching for Hasso’s P.h.D.

Since I began working in SAP, it had always been generally accepted that Hasso Plattner was  Ph.D. In reference after reference, Hasso is repeatedly referred to as “Dr. Hasso Plattner.” In fact, I was once told to add “Dr.” to Hasso Plattner’s name because if Hasso Plattner had attained a Ph.D., then it was required that I add that to every possible reference. That is not true, but this demonstrates the degree to which the idea that Hasso must have a Ph.D.

However, when I went go and look for Hasso’s Ph.D. I could find no mention of it outside of this quote from Wikipedia.

“Since his retirement from SAP, Plattner has been particularly active as a benefactor in the field of technological research. Media reports have named him one of Germany’s most important private sponsors of scientific research. Plattner received his honorary doctorate in 2002 and his honorary professorship in 2004 from the University of Potsdam. Plattner had also received an honorary doctorate (1990) and an honorary professorship in Information Systems (1994) from the Saarland University, Saarbrücken. The same university named him an honorary senator in 1998.[12]”

So Hasso appears to have two honorary doctorates. Outside of these two honorary doctorates, Hasso does not appear in any other source to have his Ph.D listed. And it is stated as such on his profile, but unless you speak German, most people will not catch it.

H. c mult. translates in English to honorary doctorate, with “mult” standing for multiple honorary doctorates. Therefore Hasso has not only one honorary doctorate but two honorary doctorates. The detail is explained in this section, where it states that he was awarded “honorary doctorates.” But at the end of the profile, it becomes confusing because it states he is a professor at the Hasso Plattner Institute. How can he be a professor if he has no Ph.D. Well, one way is to simply own the school (the HPI is a small branch on the University of Potsdam campus).

Interestingly, I don’t recall anyone observing that Hasso did not have a P.h.D. I was once writing a paper for a company and I wrote “Hasso Plattner” and was told that I needed to change it to “Dr. Hasso Plattner” because “if he earned the degree, then you have to state it.” But how about if the degree is “honorary”

Well then obviously not.

Both Meryl Streep and Oprah Winfrey have four honorary degrees (so twice as many as Hasso), but I don’t recall anyone referring to Meryl Streep as Prof. Dr. h.c. mult Meryl Streep or Prof. Dr. h.c. mult Oprah Winfrey. This should not need to be explained, but you are not supposed add what amounts to fake degrees to your profile in an attempt to trick people.

How Honorary P.h.D’s Work and Who Gets Them

Now lets us discuss the honorary Ph.D for a moment. Honorary P.h.Ds are given out like candy often for providing a commencement speech. The work involved in getting one is nothing, and they are usually given out to high-profile individuals. There is also an ethic involved with honorary Ph.Ds. That is, you are not supposed to pretend it is a real Ph.D. They are basically a joke Ph.D. Again, honorary Ph.Ds are given to entice celebrities to provide a commencement ceremony speech. A real P.h.D can take 4 years to attain and only about 1 out of 140 people (in the US at least) to attain an undergraduate degree ever attain a Ph.D.

Moreover, this story gets better. This is because Hasso did not stop at pretending to have a P.h.D. He also decided to start an institute at the university close to his personal residence, the University of Potsdam.

However, how can a person who has never completed a Ph.D program start up a pseudo-mini-university? Its all a bit ridiculous.

This is explained in the following quotation from Wikipedia.

“Also in 1998, Plattner founded the Hasso Plattner Institute[3] for software systems engineering based at the University of Potsdam, and in Palo Alto, California, its sole source of funding being the non-profit Hasso Plattner Foundation for Software Systems Engineering. Plattner has pledged €50 million of his personal fortune over a period of 20 years. Since its foundation, Plattner’s commitment to the HPI has quadrupled to over €200 million. He not only fully finances the HPI, but is also actively involved as a director and lecturer in Enterprise Platforms and Integration Concepts.[13]”

Again, the University of Potsdam also conferred upon him one of his honorary degrees. Obviously, the University of Potsdam benefits from having the Hasso Plattner Institute on their campus. Was this one of the motivating factors in conferring an honorary Ph.D. to Hasso Plattner?

A Fictitious Backstory from a Fictitious Ph.D?

The Hasso Plattner Institute is the location of yet another made up story by both Hasso and SAP where they created a deliberately false backstory to make it appear that Hasso and his Ph.D. candidates created a “whole new database,” which I previously covered in Did Hasso Plattner and His Ph.D. Students Invent HANA?

With HANA Hasso showed how lacking in studiousness he was, as one of the major problems with HANA has been that it was designed in great part by Hasso Plattner, and he did not know what he was doing. This constant overestimation of knowledge is consistent with a person who fakes academic credentials.

Later Hasso donated money to Stanford and they created the Hasso Plattner Institute of Design. SAP has used this to promote Fiori, repeatedly leveraging the Stanford name. Yet after the institute being created, and all the discussion around Design Thinking (which I covered in the article Does Design Thinking Improve SAP’s Implementation Speed?), the output of Fiori is underwhelming. Once again, having a lot of cash does not translate into knowledge or ability.

Falsified Academic Authority

Hasso, and SAP used his honorary degrees to communicate false authority for over a decade and a half. As a result, almost no one knows Hasso is not a Ph.D.

When My Suspicious About Hasso Were First Triggered

  • I have been reading and analyzing Hasso Plattner’s writing and quotations for years, and find that he constantly lies and constantly pivots between topics which demonstrates an unstructured mind.
  • This is the last person who would make a good Ph.D candidate. This is the writing of a sales promoter, not a scientist.
  • My analysis of Hasso Plattner’s writings is that he works backward from what he wants to be true, and makes up a story to fit the conclusion. That is sales, not academic thinking.
  • I know whenever I read his material or watch his presentations that I can’t trust that any of it is true. Hasso’s books are absolutely punishing to get through because they are filled with so many inaccuracies and they are less “books” then lengthy sales pitches.

Ding Ding Ding

We award Hasso Plattner the Golden Pinocchio Award for claiming to have a real Ph.D when in fact he only holds honorary Ph.D.s. 

Conclusion

This honorary Ph.D issue is another case of both Hasso and SAP using deception to trick customers into thinking that there is some great mind behind SAP. It shows how little Hasso and SAP care about what is true. And the trick worked. It worked on me. I never thought to actually look up Hasso Plattner’s educational credentials.

Financial Disclosure

Financial Bias Disclosure

This article and no other article on the Brightwork website is paid for by a software vendor, including Oracle and SAP. Brightwork does offer competitive intelligence work to vendors as part of its business, but no published research or articles are written with any financial consideration. As part of Brightwork’s commitment to publishing independent, unbiased research, the company’s business model is driven by consulting services; no paid media placements are accepted.

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References

https://www.businessinsider.com/celebrities-who-have-honorary-degrees-2015-8#meryl-streep-has-three-ivy-league-honorary-doctorates-1

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hasso_Plattner#Education_and_research