Amid Challenges, SAP CEO Kagermann Sticks To His Plan

Technology, business models, and leadership are in flux.

SAP also is planning an improved version of NetWeaver Business Intelligence designed to make it easier for employees to access company information without IT creating reports. It also announced new risk management and compliance applications aimed at CFOs, who SAP thinks are having a bigger impact on IT decision making.

But rivals have been making bolder moves in BI. Oracle is in the midst of buying Hyperion, a business intelligence vendor best known for its roots in the finance department. Business Objects last week said it's buying Cartesis for $300 million. Cartesis has financial reporting and risk and compliance tools. Asked if SAP needs to acquire a BI player, Kagermann suggested it isn't shopping for a major acquisition. "We look always," he said. "We're always making small acquisitions."

The job of selling SAP software to small and midsize businesses falls to Hans-Peter Klaey, who moved in January from president of SAP's Asia-Pacific region to lead a new business unit focused on those customers. His job will be made harder if SAP doesn't have a credible software-as-a-service ERP suite.

A bigger leadership shift came with the departure of Agassi. Longtime SAP executive Leo Apotheker, who leads SAP marketing as president of Customer Solutions & Operations, also became Kagermann's deputy CEO last month. President of Americas Bill McDermott added oversight of Asia-Pacific. Kagermann split among several executives the oversight of products and technology. Agassi was "brilliant in presenting," Kagermann says, but "it's good to have several people with product experience."

Agassi's resignation is telling of SAP's unwillingness to bend its culture. SAP was asking Agassi to serve as co-CEO alongside Apotheker for five years, and then after that, commit to at least five years as solo CEO. SAP would ask for such a commitment from anyone seeking the top spot, Apotheker says.

SAP is part of an industry in transition, and it's made changes, too--in management, in technology, and in the types of customers it's pursuing. But it also knows what it doesn't intend to change.