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SAP after Sikka: The big questions

Chris Kanaracus | May 6, 2014
The abrupt departure of SAP technology chief Vishal Sikka has prompted a number of questions about the vendor's strategy, particularly in regard to the Hana in-memory computing platform, and what it could mean for customers.

"I think there will be more focus on stability and less focus on innovative things" under Leukert's leadership, he said. "There are pros and cons. SAP moves into a new phase now, where the focus is on execution."

But Leukert has a morale issue to deal with, at least for now.

Members of SAP's development organization "are devastated," Appleby said. "He was their spiritual leader and they are in mourning. That's the short-term impact."

A stain on Sapphire: SAP's flagship conference, Sapphire, is scheduled for just a few weeks from now in Orlando. Sapphire is the company's biggest opportunity each year to lay out its product plans and long-term vision for customers.

Sikka has played a prominent role at Sapphire, keynoting along with SAP co-founder Hasso Plattner, with whom he has a close relationship.

The timing of Sikka's departure "tells me that it wasn't something that he or SAP had planned in advance," said analyst Frank Scavo, managing partner of IT consulting firm Strativa.

Much speculation has centered on whether Sikka hoped to one day become CEO or co-CEO of SAP, but was recently rebuffed, prompting him to resign.

Under that scenario, SAP's board may have decided to show Sikka the door immediately in order to make replacement appointments and showcase them at Sapphire as part of soon-to-be sole CEO Bill McDermott's new management team.

Other factors could have been in play as well. For one thing, SAP has long held a reputation as a slow-moving company split by power centers in Germany and the U.S.

Based in Palo Alto, Sikka had grown weary of attempting to get all parts of the company to move with the same amount of velocity he preferred, according to a source familiar with the situation.

Sikka's frustrations over SAP's dense bureaucracy, coupled with sheer fatigue from heavy workloads over the past decade may have also played a role in his departure.

In any case, no matter what public relations measures SAP takes, it's hard to think the chatter over Sikka will have died down by Sapphire.

With Sapphire looming, "SAP will have a lot of hard work ahead of itself to show, not tell how innovation remains a priority and what business impact this will have on customers and partners," said analyst Ray Wang, chairman and founder of Constellation Research, in a blog post. "Customers, prospects, partners, and influencers will have to wait and see as much remains to be answered and those decisions may take the management team more time than customers have patience for."



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