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5/26/2009
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SAP Braces For Change

New sole-CEO Leo Apotheker wants the enterprise-software powerhouse to be more responsive to customers.




Leo Apotheker Chief Executive Officer, SAP.

Leo Apotheker's appointment as SAP's sole CEO is more significant than many in the IT industry realize, SAP co-founder Hasso Plattner said. How so? The 37-year-old software company needs a change agent, and Apotheker is it.

Plattner and Henning Kagermann -- who, until last week, shared CEO duties with Apotheker -- are the old guard, Plattner said in a conversation at SAP's recent Sapphire conference. Apotheker, on the other hand, doesn't have the same deep, personal ties to the company, making it easier for him to recognize the big changes needed to keep SAP relevant in a fast-changing industry. "We're not creative enough," Plattner said. Apotheker himself said the task at hand is to take SAP to the next stage of its evolution. "We started out automating back-office functions," he said. "SAP today is all about enabling clarity and transformation of business, which takes us into a whole different category of applications."

Apotheker wants SAP's culture to become more agile, responsive, and customer-centric. In one sign of that, SAP has agreed, at the behest of its customers, to meet certain performance benchmarks before it institutes price hikes for the annual maintenance fees that customers pay.

There's some change on the product front. SAP's Business Objects division recently launched an enterprise search and business intelligence tool called Explorer that utilizes an in-memory database. The company also is pushing into cloud computing and virtualization, though it hasn't fleshed out details on its strategy and deliverables.

Business Objects Explorer lets nontechnical employees search large data sets within their organizations using natural-language questions and keywords. They can compare results with other search results using bar graphs and pie charts.

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