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Thứ Ba, 23 tháng 7, 2013

SAP's drift to US spelt the end for Snabe - Financial Times

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When Hasso Plattner, co-founder and chairman of SAP, appointed a pair of chief executives to replace Léo Apotheker in 2010, some questioned whether the dual-leadership structure would stand the test of time.

A more than 70 per cent leap in SAP’s stock price since Jim Hagemann Snabe, a Dane, and Bill McDermott, an American, took the reins suggests the pairing has indeed delivered tangible improvements at the German business-software maker.

In a bid to reinvent what was a tired company, the pair embarked on a multibillion-euro spending spree, securing assets in mobile and cloud to accompany SAP’s much-vaunted homegrown innovation in database computing – known as Hana.

Mr Snabe, a product-focused intellectual, has been the natural counterpoint to Mr McDermott, a natural salesman who is in his element when lauding SAP’s latest innovations and double-digit quarterly software sales growth on CNBC, the business news channel.

Still, Mr Snabe’s announcement late on Sunday that he will step down from his management role in 2014 to join the supervisory board did not surprise some SAP watchers.

Barely two weeks before, Mr Snabe had defended the Doppelspitze – a dual leadership structure also implemented at Deutsche Bank – and denied rumours of tensions between himself and Mr McDermott.

But in the same interview with the German newspaper Handelsblatt he conceded that success in the US would be critical to SAP’s future. The US is Mr McDermott’s home turf and where Mr Plattner also spends much of his time at SAP’s fast-growing Palo Alto campus in California.

When Lars Dalgaard, head of the cloud business, and Luisa Delgado, human resources director, departed in a management reshuffle in May the development chief Vishal Sikka, a softly spoken Indian engineer also based in Silicon Valley, was handed more responsibility.

SAP’s decision that month to base a newly integrated marketing and communications operation in the US also seemed to indicate that Mr Snabe’s European power base was eroding.

Mr Snabe said on Monday his decision was motivated by a desire to spend more time with his family. He commutes about 800km each week from his home in Copenhagen to SAP’s German headquarters in Walldorf, south of Frankfurt, and he conceded that, when he took over in 2010, his plan was to stay about four years.

Mr Plattner said the CEO partnership had worked “fabulously” and the pair had worked together without jealousy or complexity.

Still, SAP’s chairman admitted that “a co-chief executive structure only works in certain situations with certain people – you can’t force it”. Therefore from next May Mr McDermott will be sole CEO.

A co-chief executive structure only works in certain situations with certain people – you can’t force it

- Hasso Plattner, SAP chairman

Mr McDermott, whose contract runs until 2017, on Monday tried to quash persistent rumours he plans to use the SAP job as a springboard into politics.

“I fully intend to honour my contract . . . And, who knows, I’m a young enough guy, I don’t intend to head to a beach after 2017 so, if the supervisory board want me longer, I’m not in any rush,” he said.

In a sop to SAP’s German workforce, the American said he respected the company’s heritage, planned to improve his German language skills and make more frequent trips to Europe.

Yet, in spite of the switch to a single chief executive, SAP seems set to retain multiple loci of power.

Mr Plattner is a far more hands-on supervisory board chairman than is typical in Germany. He has compared this active role with that of Ferdinand Piëch, Volkswagen’s revered patriarch and chairman.

Meanwhile, Mr Sikka’s influence at SAP grows by the day and he is seen by some as the natural successor to Mr McDermott. Mr Sikka, who joined SAP in 2002, came close to quitting several years ago after growing frustrated with the company’s technical direction, before being challenged by Mr Plattner to push more aggressively for a renewal of the company’s main technology platforms. The two worked closely on the Hana database technology, creating the springboard for Mr Sikka’s subsequent rapid elevation.

“If you look around the whole company . . . I don’t see anyone else that is being groomed by Hasso,” said Donald Feinberg, an analyst at Gartner. “Then the question becomes: Is Vishal ready for that position when [Mr McDermott leaves] or do they go outside the company to find somebody else?”

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