Wednesday, March 28, 2007

SAP's Shai Agassi calls it quits

SAP confirmed today that its product and technology executive Shai Agassi is quitting the company to "commit himself to his personal agenda of environmental policy and alternative energy sources and other issues."

Agassi was the architect of SAP's Netweaver strategy, its service-oriented architecture. He was also slated to become co-CEO with Leo Apotheker, who is currently president of SAP's Customer Solutions and Operations group.

At the same time, SAP announced that Apotheker will assume the new role of Deputy CEO immediately, putting him in line to succeed the current CEO, Henning Kagermann.

What does it mean? It's hard to tell. There's not a hint anywhere that there was any problem between SAP and Agassi. Agassi, who is an Israeli, was one of the few non-German's among SAP's top executives. By all accounts, he was a major force to push SAP from its stodgy image in client-server systems to its current Internet architecture. His influence will no doubt be missed, although SAP's statement indicates he will remain as a consultant to the firm.

If anyone has more insight on Agassi's departure, I'd love to hear it.

Update, 8:30 p.m. Curt Monash has a "contrarian view" on Agassi's departure. He says that "SAP may do better getting out from underneath Shai’s overarching decision-making." He writes:
[SAP's technical strategy] has been heavily developed and refined on Shai’s watch, with major contributions from lots of other folks. The issue isn’t vision any more. What SAP needs to do better is execute on the vision.
SAP is doing plenty of things well enough to mine its massive installed base. But preserving and increasing the size of the base? For that, vision needs to be turned into more substance. And of senior SAP execs I've talked with and listened to — in Shai's case mainly the latter — Shai wasn’t necessarily at the top of the substance list. Indeed, he’s the only one who routinely left me shaking my head about a gap between rhetoric and actual technological fact.
For a different viewpoint, read Sramana Mitra's take on the news. She thinks it reflects a conflict in style between SAP headquarters in Germany and Agassi's powerbase in California. Agassi needed to get the CEO job to change things, and when that was deferred, he couldn't see staying around.

Update, Mar. 29: Josh Greenbaum, as usual, has good insights, including a review of the SAP executives that will need to fill the role Agassi has played.

Related posts
Oracle/SAP lawsuit: view from Rimini Street
SAP license sales grow, but short of target

No comments: