The Mess That Bill McDermott Made
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The Mess That Bill McDermott Made

By letting Bernd Leukert go, Bill McDermott initiated an HR catastrophe. Michael Kleinemeier and fellow technicians have to try to clean up his mess - otherwise SAP will lose its innovative engineering culture completely.

Bernd Leukert, who had been named to co-lead the SAP Digital Business Services organization together with Kleinemeier, is a long-serving leader of the company whose career has contributed to numerous successful initiatives. He is a respected voice in the technology industry on topics including business applications, Industry 4.0 and digitization.

“I am very proud to have been a member of the SAP executive board and to have launched the most groundbreaking innovation in our industry, SAP S/4 Hana,” said Leukert in the official press release of his departure. “I sincerely thank Hasso Plattner and the supervisory board for their trust and support for many years.”

Hasso Plattner also said a few words – but no sign of SAP CEO Bill McDermott!

Unlike with former CTOs Shai Agassi and Vishal Sikka, Bill McDermott might have been the one initiating and facilitating Bernd Leukert’s departure instead of Hasso Plattner. People who know their history also know why.

In past years, Bill McDermott slowly transformed the executive board into a sales organization. Revenue and profit are more important to him than customer loyalty, reliable roadmaps, and sustainable product development. A confrontation with an experienced CTO was inevitable.

Maybe Bernd Leukert can find solace in the fact that any technician would have butted heads with salesman Bill McDermott. Even though we don’t know for sure if it was a mutual agreement or not, we do know that everything went down in a civilized manner.

Why did Bernd Leukert have to leave?

Bill McDermott had to get rid of Bernd Leukert because he wants to fundamentally change SAP’s business model. He wants to transform the company from an IT system company with strong software products to a sales organization that acquires products and market shares.

However, Bill McDermott might not be such a genius salesman after all. Departures like that of former President of SAP Cloud Platform Bjoern Goerke do not make his strategy more credible.

For many years now, Bill McDermott has been trying to establish SAP in the world of cloud providers. He never tires to reiterate his “Cloud First” strategy. But then he lets his most important employee in that area go.

Bjoern Goerke was not only SAP CTO and President of SAP Cloud Platform, but also Bernd Leukert’s unofficial replacement whenever he could not attend conferences – and his keynotes are legendary.

This is the third article of a series. If you would like to read the first one, click here. If you would like to read the next one, click here.

E-3 Magazine April 2019 (German)

About the author

Peter M. Färbinger, Editor-in-Chief

Peter M. Färbinger is Editor-in-Chief and Publisher at E-3 Magazine, AG, Munich, Germany. He can be reached at

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