What does Hasso Plattner know about the problems of SAP’s executive board? We can only speculate. On the one hand, SAP CEO Bill McDermott reports directly to him – on the other hand, supervisory board member Gerd Oswald does the same.
At the end of last year, everything seemed to work out fine for Gerd Oswald. He became a member of SAP’s supervisory board, and Bernd Leukert was on his way to become Michael Kleinemeier’s successor.
Once upon a time
A long time ago, when Gerd Oswald still held Kleinemeier’s position himself, Oswald chose Kleinemeier and Leukert as his possible successors.
Michael Kleinemeier tried to find happiness elsewhere for a while, while Bernd Leukert was working his way up to become an executive board member. Then, the mishap with former CTO Vishal Sikka happened. Overnight, SAP needed a new CTO, and Leukert was chosen to fill the position.
Gerd Oswald now had no possible successor anymore and had to extend his contract as executive board member for another year.
Present day: McDermott is meddling
Bernd Freytag from the “Frankfurter Allgemeine“, a German newspaper, interviewed Bill McDermott at the beginning of April this year. During this interview, McDermott said, “Our supervisory board member Hasso Plattner and I are in complete agreement.”
Given Hasso Plattner’s track record, this can only mean that he doesn’t want to see SAP’s problems – or that Bill McDermott is not telling him the whole truth.
Why doesn’t Plattner stop the loss of know-how? Former President SAP Cloud Platform Bjoern Goerke, former CTO Bernd Leukert; numerous Hana and Abap specialists, including an entire Hana lab with 250 employees; and, most recently, former President Cloud Business Group Rob Enslin had to leave the company.
“In the U.S., entire locations have been shut down, and there was a lack of employees and service staff overnight. SAP lost a lot of credit there”, said Eberhard Schick, member of SAP’s workers’ council.
People familiar with SAP’s history might be experiencing déjà vu by now: former SAP CEO Léo Apotheker, genius salesman like Bill McDermott, experienced similar challenges. Apotheker was focusing more on revenue and new business opportunities than on customer or employee relationship management. He had to leave the company after only a few months as CEO.
For a long time, Bill McDermott was more cautious than his predecessor. But his dream of an E2E CRM platform led him astray.
Why did he acquire Qualtrics for 8 billion dollars without in exchange getting a new core competence? Qualtrics is a successful company, but its value is estimated at only half of what McDermott payed to get it.
Why didn’t the experienced Bjoern Goerke become SAP’s new CTO? He was the obvious choice. Instead, young and inexperienced Juergen Mueller got the position, and he has already proven once that he doesn’t feel up to the challenge.
Traditionally, SAP’s CTO is the one to guide German chancellor Angela Merkel through the halls of the Hannover Messe. This year, Chief Operating Officer Christian Klein had to fill in for his colleague.
Why did Bernd Leukert have to leave so abruptly, anyway? Everyone at SAP headquarters knows that Bernd Leukert would have been the perfect fit for Kleinemeier’s position. He was trained by Gerd Oswald, after all!
Unsolved mystery Bernd Leukert and Bill McDermott
At the beginning of this year, Kleinemeier and Leukert presented the goals of SAP’s service organization together.
While Michael Kleinemeier talked about past successes, Bernd Leukert was excitedly telling us about their future goals. Which is only logical, as Kleinemeier was planning on retiring at the end of this year.
Employees were happy with how things progressed – but Bill McDermott apparently wasn’t. After Leukert’s departure, he couldn’t even bring himself to say something positive about SAP’s former CTO. In the press release issued after the fact, Hasso Plattner was the only reassuring voice – McDermott stayed silent.
Then, there was the already mentioned interview in German newspaper “Frankfurter Allgemeine” which was published after Rob Enslin had to go as well. “It’s totally normal for two executive board members which have worked for a sum total of fifty years at SAP to plan something new after such a long time”, McDermott explains.
If you add Bjoern Goerke’s years at SAP to this tally, then SAP has to deal with the loss of top executive know-how amassed over 80 man years.
The layoff and the HR chaos reigning over SAP’s executive board might not be based on choice as McDermott says, after all.
McDermott has more skeletons in his closet than he cares to admit – or that Hasso Plattner knows about. Let’s wait and see if Bill McDermott survives another year at SAP.