SAP Taps Former Oracle Exec Wookey To Head SaaS For Large Companies

Henning Kagermann indicated SAP's SaaS for large companies will look more like Microsoft's "software plus services" approach than's "no software" tactic.

Mary Hayes Weier, Contributor

November 11, 2008

3 Min Read

SAP is formalizing its plan to offer on-demand software services for large companies. And with dramatic flourish, it's handed leadership of that job to John Wookey, formerly a high-profile executive at archrival Oracle.

Wookey, previously senior VP of applications at Oracle and head of its ambitious Fusion project, left Oracle in October 2007. He's resurfaced at Oracle's biggest competitor, SAP, starting work at the company's Palo Alto, Calif., offices on Monday, said a SAP spokesman. Wookey's title is executive VP of large enterprise on demand.

Wookey has been tapped to bring strategy and organization to SAP's on-demand software services for large companies, meaning software that's hosted and served up over the Web, rather than installed as a licensed application in a customer's data center. SAP co-CEO Henning Kagermann first spoke of this plan in an InformationWeek interview six months ago.

SAP's plan to offer software as a service to large companies may seem to run contrary to recent comments by the company's executives. They've indicated difficulty in finding a profitable model for Business ByDesign, a SaaS product that SAP has been offering to a limited number of small and midsize companies. Last month, SAP global operations president Bill McDermott told InformationWeek of SAP's desire to move away from the costly business of managing the servers that run the software it hosts for customers, and hand more of that work over to partners.

But SAP has been working on a plan to bring SaaS to large customers, as reported by InformationWeek following an exclusive interview with Kagermann last May. In that interview, at the company's annual Sapphire conference, Kagermann spoke of SAP's plans to offer in coming months "services by design" for large companies, which would consist of online software components that integrate with a company's on-site SAP software. It's similar to the model Microsoft is pushing as software plus services.

The services-by-design approach, if it works, could let SAP protect its profitable licensed software business, get more services revenue from those customers, and address concerns large companies have with putting some of their most sensitive business data in the cloud.

SAP already has taken baby steps in this area. It now offers an online sourcing service that works with its supply chain management software, and a software service delivered by ADP as a component of its human-capital management software. Wookey will manage these offerings and more being developed at SAP. Meanwhile, the Business ByDesign offering that has seemed to perplex SAP will not fall under Wookey's management.

Wookey wasn't available for an interview this week, the spokesman said. But in May, Kagermann said the company planned to reuse the NetWeaver-based service-oriented architecture that it had developed for Business ByDesign for its services-by-design offering for large companies. It's unclear whether SAP or a business partner, such as AT&T, would host the systems that run SaaS for large companies.

Kagermann said in May that, beyond supplier-relationship management, SAP was looking at components for ERP, talent management, and analytics.

Kagermann described the integration of on-site and off-site software on the vendor's "loosely coupled, asynchronous" SOA platform. "The Business ByDesign architecture and investment must not be focused on midmarket only," Kagermann said.

Wookey joins SAP one year and one month after leaving Oracle. It remains unclear as to whether he left on his own or was asked to leave. Wookey headed the Fusion Project, which began several years ago as a plan to rearchitect Oracle's vast application line on a common Web-services-based platform.

Oracle has not yet delivered a suite of Fusion applications and it's unclear when it will. Oracle senior VP Thomas Kurian now heads that project.

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