Snabe is to leave SAP – does it matter?

Well, the obvious answer is yes. Any (co-)CEO that drives a company positively through a difficult period and helps build the next generation of portfolio will be missed. His leadership and experience has helped keep SAP moving in the right direction, especially in a time that others have been moving in the wrong direction. Snabe has been instrumental in pushing SAP into the Cloud, despite the detriment this may have on long-term revenues. So what next for SAP?

In terms of leadership and direction, McDermott will not deviate the course unless necessary. But he may not continue in charge for much longer; his muted future direction is away from running a company like SAP and he will not want to damage a fine tenure if SAP approach is rocky waters. He sees the vision of the future SAP, but must be well aware that a future in the Cloud will not bring the revenues that he is responsible for bringing. On the other hand, transformation into a fully blown technology company would keep SAP moving in the right direction financially, particularly if HANA’s acceleration and replacement of Oracle databases gets into full swing. But in the long-term are even Snabe or McDermott the right people to make this transformation?

In his piece SAP’s Snabe out, but not yet, Dennis Howlett states his firm belief that Sikka will be the next CEO of SAP and I see no signs of why this won’t or wouldn’t be the case. Although short in leadership experience, Sikka’s new role in charge of development across SAP will be the springboard to plug the gap and prove he has what it takes to lead SAP in its entirety. This, in particular, should be part of the succession plan that Hasso has. In the long-term, Sikka’s vision, passion, and technical background should make him ideal. If he successfully transforms the development organization within SAP then his skillset should be complete. After all, Sikka understands the technology that will underpin SAP’s strategy and how this ties into big business.

Fundamentally, Snabe’s departure is a continuation of SAP transforming and evolving itself to become the leader in new technologies. It’s innovation with HANA and in the Cloud will drive this and, ultimately, changes are needed at various levels to make this happen. SAP are in safe hands with McDermott at the helm, but once he decides that it is time to move on SAP must be careful not to make the same mistakes as with previous appointments. And if all goes to plan, it is likely that it will be more of a reshuffle than a potentially disruptive move.

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