Shai Agassi has resigned from SAP amidst a massive reorganization of the company. It’s in many ways a sad day for SAP, and, if you’re spinning the news from the perspective of SAP’s competitors, it may or may not be a great day to be lining up to eat SAP’s lunch. While the line of succession looks strong, we’ll all have to wait until late April for Sapphire, SAP’s big annual user conference, to get the full details on what the new SAP will look and act like.
First, let’s get the ugly rumor off the table. This management shift was in the works for some time, and has nothing to do with the Oracle lawsuit. About the only material effect of Agassi’s departure is that SAP will have to defend itself in the court of public opinion without one of the executives that companies like Oracle feared the most. And it will be up to SAP to put someone in Agassi’s place who can engender that same, let’s call it concern, among the competition.
It will also be up to SAP to make sure that the entrepreneurial spirit that Agassi brought to the company endures. Among just a few of his notable accomplishments was the growth of a massive ecosystem that has made SAP the company to partner with in Silicon Valley. Agassi also brought SAP into the platform business in a major way – one that has helped it square off against the rest of the Big Four: Oracle, IBM, and Microsoft. He made Duet, and thereby Office, the most sought after interface since the portal, and he pushed for a broad range of initiatives, some like SAP’s foray into SaaS, that are about to have a broad impact in the market, and others that we’ll be hearing about as the year unfolds. What’s perhaps most important for SAP to convey, and what will truly be the measure of this reorg, is if stability and entrenpreneurship can be maintained.
This is the classic dichotomy that all maturing companies face, and one that SAP faces at the time of its greatest competitive threat and greatest competitive opportunity. The good news for SAP is the depth of its managerial bench is impressive. Here's a brief rundown on some of the new execs who will have to make good on SAP’s future.
Doug Merritt, currently an EVP at SAP in Palo Alto, will get the lion's share of global responsibility for product, and will take ownership of Duet, GRC, and some of the other successes that Agassi helped initiate. Jim Hagemann Snabe, will take over responsibility for the MySAP suite, and in general get a much-deserved higher profile in the company. Peter Graf will gain an elevated position in global marketing. I'll profile some of the other changes as they become known. Other power-hitters, like Leo Apotheker, Kraus Kreplin, Peter Zencke, and others are staying put or moving into more important roles
In the end, all companies go through this kind of management shift. SAP has, for better or worse, initiated a major shift at a one of the more critical inflection points in its history. The stakes just got a little higher in the already high-stakes game of enterprise software.