Bjoern Goerke, Bernd Leukert, and now Rob Enslin have more or less voluntarily left the company. Why, how, and when these decisions were made are up for debate. However, these are internal decisions that we should not be interested in.
What everyone should be interested in, though, are the implications Bill McDermott’s decisions will have for the SAP community.
What we know
SAP supervisory board member Hasso Plattner and Bill McDermott have a special bond that came to be through years of helping each other out.
First, Plattner turned a blind eye to McDermott forcing his former co-CEO Jim Hagemann Snabe out of the company. Then, he protected Bill McDermott’s image after his accident. Most recently, he didn’t object to McDermott getting rid of Bernd Leukert.
Of course, the chairman of the supervisory board is supposed to back the CEO up. But what if the CEO does not necessarily have the company’s best interests in mind?
Plattner has evidently helped Bill McDermott out on more than one occasion. But what is in it for him?
All he wanted from McDermott was to see Juergen Mueller (alumnus of the Hasso Plattner Institute in Germany) fill in the position of CTO, just like it was with Shai Agassi and Vishal Sikka before Mueller. What followed was HR chaos.
The position of CTO was already taken. McDermott therefore had to “promote” former CTO Bernd Leukert to predecessor of Michael Kleinemeier who was planning on retiring this year.
The young Mueller becoming CTO had another unforeseen consequence. Even though Bill McDermott is reiterating his catchphrase “Cloud First” like a broken record, former President of the SAP Cloud Platform Bjoern Goerke did not become CTO.
Bill McDermott was afraid that Bernd Leukert would spill his secrets (reveal the skeletons in his closet, so to speak) to Hasso Plattner and decided on firing him instead. Michael Kleinemeier had to extend his contract as he no longer had a predecessor.
Former President of the Cloud Business Group Rob Enslin had just gotten around to announcing the much-desired integration of Successfactors with SAP’s digital core; then he had to leave abruptly, too. This time around, Bill McDermott even commented on his departure (when Leukert left, he remained silent).
Without the cloud know-how of Bjoern Goerke and Rob Enslin, Bill McDermott is the last one standing to push his cloud strategy.
Comprehensive, transparent HR policies are nowhere in sight at SAP. One can only hope that the chaos reflected in recent HR decisions, like the layoff of some 4,000 employees or the fluctuation around the CTO position, will not mean chaos for customers and their products as well.