SAP changes leaders: Time for innovation

Bloggers and Twitters alike are buzzing today with news that enterprise giant, SAP, announced a leadership change. It's now time for customer-friendly SAP actions and product innovation.

Bloggers and Twitters alike are buzzing today with news that enterprise giant, SAP, announced a leadership change today.

The official press release itself is terse:

[T]he SAP Supervisory Board has reached a mutual agreement with CEO Léo Apotheker not to extend his contract as a member of the SAP Executive Board. Léo Apotheker has resigned as CEO and member of the SAP Executive Board effective immediately.

The SAP Executive Board, in agreement with the SAP Supervisory Board, has appointed two Co-CEOs: Bill McDermott, head of field organization and Jim Hagemann Snabe, head of product development, both already members of the SAP Executive Board.

In addition, Vishal Sikka, Chief Technology Officer, has been appointed to the SAP Executive Board. At the request of the SAP Supervisory Board, Hasso Plattner, Co-Founder of SAP and Chairman of the SAP Supervisory Board, will continue to play a strong role in advising the new leaders on technology and product development.

“The new setup of the SAP Executive Board will allow SAP to better align product innovation with customer needs. The new leadership team will continue to drive forward SAP’s strategy and focus on profitable growth, and will deliver its innovations in 2010 to expand SAP’s leadership of the business software market,” said Hasso Plattner.

The SAP Supervisory Board thanks Léo Apotheker for his enormous contribution to the success of SAP, which he joined more than 20 years ago, and wishes him all the best for the future.

SAP has suffered in recent years from a combination of strategic missteps and the bad economy. As a result, the company has experienced weak financial performance and lost several public relations battles.

Jim Hagemann Snabe is a product guy while Bill McDermott represents sales. In theory, this combination could work to SAP's benefit, but, of course the devil is in the details.

My take. SAP needs a clearer, stronger sense of leadership and direction at this critical point in its history. The company faces large competitor, Oracle, on one side and a host of smaller software as a service (SaaS) competitors on the other.

It is now up to Snabe and McDermott to enact customer-friendly SAP legislation and bring product innovation to the market.

[Photo of Léo Apotheker by Michael Krigsman.]

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