SAP Chairman Vows Not To Interfere - InformationWeek
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2/12/2010
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Bob Evans
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SAP Chairman Vows Not To Interfere

In what must be sweet comfort to his two newly named co-CEOs, SAP chairman and co-founder Hasso Plattner has vowed not to interfere in daily operations. That pledge comes just several days after Plattner promised to "do everything possible to make SAP a happy company again" and as he is deeply involved in a sweeping overhaul of the company's development processes and customer relations.

In what must be sweet comfort to his two newly named co-CEOs, SAP chairman and co-founder Hasso Plattner has vowed not to interfere in daily operations. That pledge comes just several days after Plattner promised to "do everything possible to make SAP a happy company again" and as he is deeply involved in a sweeping overhaul of the company's development processes and customer relations.From a Friday morning Reuters article:

"I am chairman and chief software advisor," Plattner told Der Spiegel in comments from an interview to be published on Monday.

"The supervisory board has asked me to possibly increase my role in this phase of change," said Plattner, who co-founded the world's biggest business software maker in 1972.

Hmmm: "possibly increase my role in this phase of change"? Judging from Plattner's public comments earlier this week-at which only he, and not the newly named co-CEOs, spoke-there was no "possibly" about it. Tell me if you think this response to a question after his public remarks earlier this week sounds like someone who's not sure if he's engaged or not engaged:

"We cannot say we can let it go on the margin side, despite some German politicians who are quite fancy to tell us we, uh, don't have to be in this race of U.S.-style capitalism," Plattner said in reply to a question about being able to deliver both innovation and profits. "We have to. We cannot say we will push back innovation for a year or two-that could kill the company (emphasis added).

"So we have to do it simultaneously and this is the objective not only for the management but the objective for the whole company: to be totally aligned behind this strategy."

It's an interesting situation: SAP certainly needs Plattner's vision and leadership to remake itself into a more-focused and customer-centric 21st-century organization, but where does he draw the line in that enhanced engagement so that he doesn't (unintentionally or otherwise) stomp all over the efforts of co-CEOs Bill McDermott and Jim Hagemann Snabe?

My two cents: Plattner should be as aggressive as he thinks he needs to be, and it should be up to the co-CEOs to tell him to back off. Because from Plattner's own comments earlier this week, SAP faces a multitude of challenges: degraded levels of trust from customers, lagging employee morale, ineffective development processes, and insufficient focus on cloud computing, mobile computing, and more.

For more on SAP's challenges plus Plattner's vision and suggested vision, please check out our two columns from the past few days:

Global CIO: An Open Letter To SAP Chairman Hasso Plattner

Global CIO: SAP's Last Chance: It's The Customers, Stupid!

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