SAP has signaled its intention to hand the leadership reins to board member and deputy chief executive Leo Apotheker, naming him as co-CEO to serve alongside current chief Henning Kagermann, whose contract expires in 13 months.
SAP has traditionally groomed its chief executives in this manner. Kagermann and his predecessor Hasso Plattner both served stints as co-CEOs before taking the helm.
Executing New Strategies
Apotheker joined SAP in 1988, moving into management’s upper echelon in 2002. Kagermann asked the board to appoint Apotheker, according to Plattner.
Apotheker steps into the role during a time of change for the company, which is in the midst of delivering new products and executing strategies it put into place over the last few years.
“After years of massive investments and the successful launch of trendsetting innovations in the areas of service-oriented architecture, new solutions and business models for the mid-market, the use of main memory databases and modern analytics, as well as state-of-the-art user interfaces,” Plattner said, “SAP now faces the task of boosting the application of these innovations among our customers and end users.”
Facing Off With Oracle
The biggest challenge facing SAP in the next few years will be external, Louis Columbus, a consultant with Cincom Systems’ enterprise compliance and quality management practice, told CRM Buyer. Taking on Oracle — which, within the space of a few years, has built itself into a formidable competitor not only in the enterprise space but also in the CRM industry — will be a huge challenge for Apotheker to manage.
“SAP is falling further behind Oracle. Let’s just face it — Oracle has turned the corner on their speed of development and ability to react to CRM market needs and is going to be tougher to beat than ever,” Columbus said.
“Their latest release sends a signal that they are faster than ever in development cycles and ‘get it’ when it comes to evolving unmet needs,” he continued. “SAP is going to need every ounce of insight and knowledge to challenge them in CRM.”
That said, Apotheker is a great choice for the challenge, in Columbus’ view.
“Leo manages all customer-facing operations,” he pointed out, “so having him share the role [of CEO] makes perfect sense. SAP is striving to get NetWeaver momentum across all SAP verticals, as Oracle is already proving to be a formidable competitor in the SOA (service-oriented architecture) arenas that both compete in globally.”