Bill McDermott, the U.S.-based co-CEO of German enterprise giant SAP, will take the full top job at the company, according to a new proposal. If approved, that means current co-CEO Jim Hagemann Snabe will move to SAP’s supervisory board.
The change is very deliberate — the vote will take place May 14,2014 — but is dramatic nonetheless. SAP tapped Snabe and McDermott to take on a co-CEO role in 2010 after SAP pushed out Leo Apotheker, who famously went on to become the short-lived HP CEO. To pass muster, the proposal must be approved by 25 percent of SAP shareholders.
Early reaction to this latest shuffle was mixed. McDermott is a polished marketer with a knack for articulating SAP’s agenda, but he is no technologist, a point that Nomura Group analyst Rick Sherlund pointed out in a research note Sunday night.
Sherlund wrote that McDermott is a strong leader but:
” … we believe the technical skills and detailed product vision of Jim Hagemann Snabe will need to be replaced by SAP CTO, Vishal Sikka, who recently consolidated all innovation and development at SAP under his direction. We believe Mr. Sikka will need to take an even more prominent role in SAP management in the wake of this announcement.
He and others also noted that this news, coming after the recent departure SAP cloud chief Lars Dalgaard signifies a sort of tech brain drain at the top of SAP. Dalgaard joined SAP by virtue of its $3.4 billion buyout SuccessFactors in 2011. That purchase was a key part of SAP’s push into cloud. And, Sanjay Poonen, who led SAP’s mobile push, is leaving as of August 1.
Until then, SAP was known as the stolid and solidly successful leader in enterprise resource planning (ERP) software — the application which tracks inventories and payments in and out for big companies. Oracle has spent billions on acquisitions to compete better with SAP in enterprise software and made it a tight race. But, SAP came up with Hana, its in-memory analytics database, which won rave reviews, and is now seen as core of SAP’s next-generation cloud and data business. It also takes the battle directly to Oracle, the database market leader.
Whether smooth-talking McDermott is the guy to continue to wage a strong battle against Oracle and other comers, remains to be seen.