Happy New Year All– I’ve taken a brief blogging hiatus, but now I’m back. Yesterday, I received my invite to attend one of the scheduled Sapphire events and thought I’d better get up to speed on SAP.
I was flipping the pages of a recent Forbes issue and saw this titillating brief: “How to Succeed in Business.” (The article is short, so I’ll post it here because you have to pay for it at Forbes.com if you’re not a subscriber.)
From Forbes, January 8, 2007:
Speculation’s swirling in Silicon Valley over who’s in the line of succession at SAP (nyse: SAP – news – people ), the third-largest software company worldwide. Current Chief Henning Kagermann’s contract expires at the end of 2007. Per SAP policy, Kagermann has to say by April whether he’ll stay or go. Bets are on a departure. Insiders say the former physics professor has told SAP Chairman Hasso Plattner he won’t renew. Kagermann has two presidents jockeying for his position–and you don’t want to be caught between them.
Leo Apotheker, 53, runs sales, marketing and operations from SAP’s base in Walldorf, Germany. The German-born, no-nonsense executive helped ensure SAP’s 6.5% annual sales growth the past five years.
Apotheker’s competition is Shai Agassi, who runs technology strategy and development out of Palo Alto, Calif. At age 7 the Israeli was programming on punch cards. In 2001, at 32, he sold his software firm TopTier to SAP for $400 million. A year later he joined SAP’s executive board, the youngest member by more than a decade and the only non-German.
The two contenders have been subtly trying to trip each other in the race to the top. One former strategist for SAP says Apotheker, in executive meetings, has been frequently lamenting the pace of technology development and tells his best salespeople to let Kagermann know when the software isn’t good enough to sell (a sure shot against Agassi’s efforts). Agassi is rumored to be including Kagermann on upbeat progress e-mails to his staff, a change from the past. Insiders say Apotheker will win. If so, Agassi would be ripe for poaching, says tech headhunter Mel D. Connet.
My question for SAP fans (and foes) is if, in fact, either two of these execs are the finalists for Kagermann’s succession, how will the global company change under the new leadership? Those of you who are familiar with the personalities of these two individuals– what philosophical differences do they bring to the helm that may change the culture or strategic direction for SAP?