Chairman Hasso Plattner was keen to stress the positives of Leo Apotheker’s stint at SAP during a corporate webcast today and to quell some of the rumours circulating about the CEO’s abrupt departure.
Plattner denied claims that the troubled Business ByDesign roadmap was somehow Apotheker’s fault. “This is just plain wrong,” emphasised Plattner, and so too was the rumour that he and Apotheker were not singing from the same hymn sheet. “There was no difference in opinion between Leo and myself on strategy. This is just wrong information,” he noted.
But Plattner did give a strong indication where things had gone awry at SAP, admitting that the company needed to build up trust again with customers, partners, employees, and all stakeholders.
“We have lost trust here and I’m totally committed with the team that we change this and quickly,” he said.
James Governor, principal analyst with Redmonk, suspected the main reason behind this lack of trust lay with the maintenance fiasco last year, when SAP sought to hike maintenance fees by 5%.
“At recent SAP events Leo has not been there. To some extent he was a lightning rod for the maintenance problems. I think he was a little bit too macho for the SAP installed base,” said Governor.
So when the initial maintenance rumpus blew up, Apotheker’s decision to tough it out rather than be more conciliatory to customers upfront, ruffled too many feathers. While SAP has backed down over the maintenance fees, Apotheker was the figurehead in customers’ eyes for the whole sorry affair.
“He was handed a bad hand and he didn’t play it well,” said Governor.
In his address, Plattner was keen to look forward, anticipating a good year for Business ByDesign and emphasising that the roadmap for the company called for a clear focus on growth, margins and innovation, tackled simultaneously. “We have to work to turn this strategy into reality,” he said.
Changes include a flattening of management hierarchy and changes to the way they develop new products, embracing fast radical change alongside the traditional SAP way of incremental improvement.
The key question is why was chairman Plattner taking centre stage in the webcast while the two new CEOs stayed quiet. It certainly seems to point to the fact that Plattner is very much back in the driving seat.