Vishal Sikka leaving SAP – My initial thoughts


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I had heard this news over the back channel yesterday . Having known Vishal for a few years , and having worked for him for a bit – It was a surprise, but not exactly a shock . This photo above was a picture I took the last meeting I had with Vishal and Hasso before I left SAP .

As a friend, I think this is a good thing for him to do. It was a big job with a lot of stress . He could use a breather before his next adventure . For a man of his caliber , there is no dearth of opportunity in this world .

For SAP, there is both a real issue and a perception issue to overcome . Bernd Leukert is a known and respected entity in SAP leadership – and I think will do as good a job as any one else to keep the ship steady . What Hana needs is a set of apps – and Bernd’s pedigree is all on apps side . He has Bjoern Goerke and other leaders to take care of technology. I am a tad surprised Bjoern didn’t get into Managing Board – but I am sure it’s just a matter of time . So I think SAP board did the right thing in picking Bernd to be Vishal’s successor . I do expect to see some “thought leadership” cues from Bernd (and probably Bjoern too) at Sapphirenow Orlando on how he sees SAP evolve .

It’s not enough to build apps – it needs to fit into the “we are a profitable cloud company” message, which probably needs a renewed focus on mobile business too .

Rob Enslin goes to executive board with Bernd – and I think that was a no brainer too . Rob is as good as the best sales leaders anywhere in enterprise software today. When Bill becomes sole CEO in few weeks , I expect Rob to be a solid general for him . Congrats to Bernd and Rob – very well deserved . I just wish SAP managed to keep Sanjay Poonen too . But Steve Lucas is still there – so there is no real shortage of top talent .

And I think this reshuffle helps Bill McDermott get a great start on his tenure as sole CEO with almost a completely new board to assist him. With Hasso and Jim in supervisory board, he should have plenty of support to chart a great course for SAP. Wish you the best, Bill !

What about Hana , Vishal’s little girl ? As much as Vishal was the face of Hana – there are plenty of people who are experts on Hana in SAP at all levels . The real question is whether SAP continues to keep a technology focus on Hana , or let apps take front seat again and Hana just powering everything in background . Success of a platform is based on apps built on it – so I am hoping SAP strikes a good balance on apps VS technology when it comes to hana . SAP is not breaking down Hana numbers for its quarterly reporting anymore – so I am guessing such an equilibrium will happen soon .

I hope SAP keeps the Hana startup program alive and well – and in addition focuses on building a deeper relationship with other type of partners (HW, SI, SW, Cloud). Ecosystem is SAP’s biggest advantage – and it is important that the company takes the partners in confidence as they transition product and engineering leadership .

I do feel bad for my many friends in SAP who work in P&I – it’s always painful to go through a leadership transition and it’s after effects . I can only hope that you emerge stronger on the other side . I can’t even begin to imagine what I would have had to go through emotionally if I hadn’t left SAP .

I can only speculate what Vishal is going to do next . With his eye for spotting technology trends and passion to see world change for the better – my best bet is that he will become a VC or an Angel investor . But then he could surprise me by choosing to be an entrepreneur again , or join a big company (unlikely but not discounting it ). But whatever option he chooses – I just want to wish him the very best and hope he takes some significant time off to recharge . Good luck V !

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15 thoughts on “Vishal Sikka leaving SAP – My initial thoughts

  1. Thank you, Vijay. It’s a tough day today for sure. My heart is still with SAP. I am hopeful that we’ll remain strong.

  2. Hi Vijay.

    Great blog.

    Is Amazon Cloud Services a big threat to HANA. Is there something we SAP consultants should infer from proposed Lay offs at SAP, exit of top executives etc. Please let us know your opinion on the future of ECC and other SAP products.

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