More SAP Leadership Changes Announced

Thursday’s announcements of additional SAP leadership changes raise more questions than they answer, but a commitment to changing the direction of the company is clear. SAP announced the departures of John Schwarz, head of the SAP Business Objects unit, and Erwin Gunst, Chief Operating Officer. Gerhard Oswald, Executive Board member in charge of global services and support, assumes the role of COO. In addition, Peter Lorenz has been promoted to Corporate Officer, looking after the SAP SME solutions portfolio. These moves follow the resignation CEO Leo Apotheker a few days ago, as well as the appointments of Bill McDermott and Jim Hagemann Snabe as co-CEOs.

Gunst’s departure, due to health reasons, was expected and was mentioned on Monday in a call with analysts and press. More surprising is the departure of Schwarz, formerly CEO of Business Objects, a respected executive who led the integration of Business Objects following SAP’s acquisition 2 years ago. It is appears that Schwarz’s departure had something to do with his not being named CEO or co-CEO, but the real reasons are likely more complex. SAP appears to be in the midst of a transition to younger and more energetic leadership, and Schwarz’s career may have had limited upside given that Executive Board members are encouraged to retire at age 60 (he’s 59).

The changes are consistent with Chairman and co-founder Hasso Plattner’s return to hands-on leadership of the company. The remaining SAP Executive Board members, co-CEOs McDermott and Snabe, CFO Werner Brandt, COO Oswald, and CTO Vishal Sikka, will be expected to carry out Plattner’s directives to restore the company’s momentum.

The Board, however, seems a bit short-handed based on a reduction from 7 members to 5. The complete realignment of responsibilities, such as human resources and industry solutions, is not yet clear. One thing that is clear is that SAP is committed to changing its meandering direction. Failure to do so will result in a loss in market value and eventual acquisition.

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