The eternally successful CFO Luka Mucic
Former CFO Luka Mucic bid us farewell at this year’s annual press conference, saying, “In my 37th and final earnings for SAP, I am proud that the SAP team is announcing excellent results and continued cloud momentum. We are on track to deliver our growth and profitability commitments for 2023. I am extremely confident in the continued success of SAP’s most exciting transformation in its history. Thank you to the wonderful SAP family that I have been part of for 27 years.”
37 annual press conferences from one CFO is quite an achievement. Luka Mucic saw many CEOs come and go in his 27 years at SAP: Hasso Plattner, Henning Kagermann, Léo Apotheker, Jim Hagemann Snabe, Bill McDermott, Jennifer Morgan, and Christian Klein. However, whether any of them were truly capable of being CEOs is in doubt. This calls for a second look: Léo Apotheker has what it takes to be a CEO, but perhaps not an SAP CEO. But the current question is, does Christian Klein have what it takes to be a CEO?
While the CFO’s job is no less stressful, it is more constant. A popular saying in IT goes: never change a running system. This is a saying that should apply to the CTO position. In recent years at SAP, there have been almost as many changes in the CTO position as for the CEO one. No other factor is as influential in the appointment of SAP’s CTO than Professor Hasso Plattner’s personal opinion. Three names are representative of this: Shai Agassi, Vishal Sikka, and Juergen Mueller.
Hasso Plattner, the kingmaker
It seems that appointing of a new CEO or CTO has always been a very subjective, personal, and spontaneous decision on Professor Hasso Plattner’s part. This scenario will now change permanently as Plattner’s last year as SAP Supervisory Board Chairman approaches. In fact, a successor has already been named: Punit Renjan.
Hasso Plattner’s departure marks the end of an SAP era that was characterized by a strong Supervisory Board and a loyal and obedient Executive Board. Christian Klein became CEO, not only because of his intellectual abilities, but also because of his strong lobbying in the supervisory board. Because Luka Mucic was not granted the same benefits as Klein (Mucic did not lobby to the same extent), he remained CFO without the prospect of ever becoming CEO.
Does Christian Klein have what it takes?
Because of his good standing with the Supervisory Board, whether or not Christian Klein would become CEO was never in question. He already is, and he is doing a solid job, especially in conjunction with Luka Mucic; the two made an excellent team. Klein dutifully fulfills the duties of a CEO and strives to sustainably maintain yet also repair the complex SAP landscape. In retrospect, it can be said that, yes, Christian Klein has what it takes to be a CEO. However, whether his skills will be sufficient to weather future challenges ahead remains to be seen. Harvard Business Manager writes that the role model of CEOs has changed:
“Top management is at the beginning of a new era. Wanted: CEO with flair—technical expertise and financial knowledge are no longer enough. Empathy and social skills are decisive for careers in top management. Over the past two decades, companies have visibly redefined the role of top managers. The management of financial and operational resources still plays an important, albeit diminishing, role. Instead, one qualification is gaining rising importance: distinctive social competence. This is especially true in environments where productivity and success depend on effective communication, such as in technology-intensive companies.”
From CFO to CEO
Dominik Asam was formerly CFO at Airbus, and before that he worked at Siemens and Infineon. He will now join SAP as the successor to Luka Mucic. However, it is uncertain how long he will be content with the CFO position. With his professional experience and multi-faceted expertise, he has a stronger CV than the young SAP board members Christian Klein, Juergen Mueller, and Thomas Saueressig. The next logical step for CFO Asam would be SAP CEO—he has what it takes, as his companions can attest. It remains to be seen how Christian Klein and Dominik Asam will get along. Whether Hasso Plattner and Gerd Oswald, members of the SAP Supervisory Board, will allow their brainchild to stumble also remains to be seen.
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