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2/8/2010
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SAP: Reorg Will Restore Trust, Speed Innovation

In the wake of the sudden resignation of CEO Leo Apotheker, company co-founder Hasso Plattner vows that a new management style will drive technical innovation.

For more on business intelligence, see Intelligent Enterprise.

Enterprise computing is headed for "massive changes," according to SAP co-founder and former CEO Hasso Plattner. He vows that the boardroom shakeup at SAP over the weekend, which he helped engineer, will change the company's culture and help drive technical innovation.

SAP announced Sunday that it has accepted the resignation of its CEO Leo Apotheker. The company immediately appointed Bill McDermott, the current head of SAP's field organization, and Jim Hagemann Snabe, the current head of product development, to serve as co-CEOs.

"We will have changes in our management style," Plattner said Monday morning during a sometimes rambling, sometimes confessional press conference in which he, alone, spoke on behalf of SAP. "We will have fewer hierarchy levels, we will have more agile project teams with a flat structure, and we are ready for critical decisions."

Incremental improvement was once a favored style of development, Plattner said, but he added that radical changes have to be embraced when they are presented. "We are at a crossroads now in technology," he explained. "We will see radical changes in hardware technology this year and on the horizon... and SAP is more than prepared to take advantage."

Plattner cited super-large in-memory systems, parallel computing, on-demand software, cloud computing, and mobile phones as components that SAP will more rapidly embrace. Of course, competitors ranging from Salesforce.com, RightNow, and Workday to arch-rival Oracle are exploiting these technologies, too. In some cases they are well ahead. Rivals will no doubt air this week's turmoil and admissions by SAP in competitive bids against the vendor.

Plattner's comments make it clear that he took the lead role, as chairman of SAP's Supervisory Board, in replacing sales-oriented CEO Leo Apotheker with co-CEOs Bill McDermott and Jim Hagemann Snabe. Plattner said SAP needed a unifying strategy and leadership that could end infighting and win back trust.

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