SAP’s CTO: A Catastrophe Waiting To Happen
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SAP’s CTO: A Catastrophe Waiting To Happen

Former SAP CTO Bernd Leukert would have been a logical successor to Gerd Oswald - then he had to leave SAP. The man behind it: Hasso Plattner.

First, there was Shai Agassi. Hasso Plattner took him in and made him CTO – even though some of his colleagues did not like that at all. But the faster they come, the faster they go: Shai Agassi was replaced after only a short time.

Then, there was Vishal Sikka. Hasso Plattner found him at Stanford university in California where he was studying math at the time. Together, they came up with the in-memory computing database Hana. Although it didn’t take long until Vishal Sikka had to leave, too.

Friday there were rumors, Monday there was Bernd Leukert as new CTO. He was introduced in his new role on May 5th of 2014, and only a few days later he already had to clean up Vishal Sikka’s mess.

After twelve years at the company, Vishal Sikka had to leave rather abruptly. Neither Hasso Plattner nor Vishal Sikka himself said anything about why. However, it is rumor that he had to leave because SAP CEO Bill McDermott did not want another co-CEO.

History retold

There were tensions between former SAP CEO Henning Kagermann und former CTO Shai Agassi. Vishal Sikka obviously did not see eye to eye with Bill McDermott and Hasso Plattner.

Two more events from the year 2014 are important to our story, as they altered SAP’s course and steered it away from its traditional engineering culture.

Firstly, Bill McDermott forced his co-CEO Jim Hagemann Snabe to advance to the supervisory board. Snabe himself preferred to leave SAP and joined Siemens’ supervisory board instead.

Secondly, because Bernd Leukert became Vishal Sikka’s successor, Gerd Oswald did not have one anymore. This issue was resolved by extending Oswald’s contract until Michael Kleinemeier returned from his trip outside of SAP’s realm and became Gerd Oswald’s executive board successor.

The irony of this story is that Bernd Leukert was supposed to be Michael Kleinemeier’s successor. However, now that he is gone, Kleinemeier extended his executive board contract until next year. Gerd Oswald was persuaded to extend his contract three times – let’s see if Kleinemeier is up to par. Meanwhile, Gerd Oswald advanced to SAP’s supervisory board and is expected to become Hasso Plattner’s successor.

Looking back, SAP CEO Bill McDermott seems to be the only winner of these developments. He successfully forced his co-CEO to resign and rebranded SAP as a sales organization.

After 25 years at SAP, Bernd Leukert had to leave the company on February 21st in 2019. The CTO position now belongs to Juergen Mueller, Hasso Plattner’s newest discovery. What happens now? Leukert will be missed – and Michael Kleinemeier will have to deal with the mess that Bill McDermott made.

This is the second 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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