SAP: Hasso Plattner back at the helm. Job no.1: rebuild trust

Summary:After the weekend's news of Leo Apotheker's abrupt departure and the re-establishment of co-CEO's in Jim Snabe and Bill McDermott, SAP hosted a webcast on the situation with Hasso Plattner talking as chairman of the supervisory board. He started off straight talking and continued in that vein as far as his handlers would allow.

After the weekend's news of Leo Apotheker's abrupt departure and the re-establishment of co-CEO's in Jim Snabe and Bill McDermott, SAP hosted a webcast on the situation with Hasso Plattner talking as chairman of the supervisory board. He started off straight talking and continued in that vein as far as his handlers would allow.

The key takeaway is that SAP is a contrite company that has to rebuild trust : "I will do everything possible to make customers happy and employees happy. In order to be profitable you have to be a happy company," said Hasso.

Talking further on the trust issue and in particular as it relates to maintenance, he said: "Trust is a complicated thing. Don't look so faraway, I was part of the decision to raise maintenance fees. The 100 largest customers were very happy with what we were doing...We made some mistakes in some legal and political issues in Germany. I lost sight of the smaller customers...We made a mistake."

At last - someone has admitted what many armchair quarterbacks already knew but which SAP could not bring itself to acknowledge until it was crystal clear the planned rise was not going to fly in important territories. Now comes the question - what to do about it? That will be the subject of a separate discussion but it won't go away as a talking point, either for customer or Wall Street focused analysts.

Explaining the Co-CEO arrangements, he said: "This was never a short term solution for SAP...This is a common setup...For many years we have lived that way...The best years was with that structure...Before we went public we always had a multi-head approach." He justified this by harking back to 'the best years' when Ray Lane and Larry Ellison ran Oracle, Bill Gates and Steve Ballmer ran Microsoft and he with Dietmar Hopp and more latterly Henning Kagermann ran SAP as a team.

I don't think anyone should read anything unusual into this at this stage. "Both Jim [Snabe] and Bill [McDermott] will keep their responsibilities in sales...actually they will probably increase the scope," sends a strong signal that SAP's revival is going to be a team effort, lead by a much admired co-founder and strong technology influencer.

Talking about the more general product direction: "We are at the advent of the largest, most significant changes in the industry...The next years will be dominated by massive parallel computers. We will see a massive shift. It will be a catastrophic move to be on maintenance without innovation. We have to maintain and innovate."

This will disappoint many who were hoping for detail on technology direction but these are very early days in the transition. Leo's sudden departure will be leaving many bemused inside SAP.

Looking at the Twitter back channel which included analysts and SAP Mentors, the general sense I get is one of relief. Questions around whether Snabe and McDermott are capable of leading the company are now on the sidelines. At least for the time being.

Topics: CXO, IT Employment, SAP

About

Dennis Howlett has been providing comment and analysis on enterprise software since 1991 in a variety of European trade and professional journals including CFO Magazine, The Economist and Information Week. Today, apart from being a full time blogger on innovation for professional services organisations, he is a founding member of Enterpri... Full Bio

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