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SAP shuffles execs to chase cloud success

Former SuccessFactors CEO says Auf Wiedersehen

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It is time for musical chairs at SAP, and the desire to ramp-up products that run on the cloud and sell more of them is calling the tune to which the executives are dancing.

The German software giant said in a statement that Lars Dalgaard, head of its entire cloud operations and the founder and CEO of SuccessFactors, was leaving the company, although he would continue to be "an investor." SuccessFactors created SaaS-style human resources software, and SAP shelled out $3.4bn to acquire it in December 2011 when a mad dash for cloud apps began for SAP, Oracle, IBM, and others.

Dalgaard, who has been the cloud evangelist at SAP and helped inject "cloud DNA" into the software maker, as SAP puts it, will step down from the executive board on June 1. Bob Calderoni, CEO of SAP's Ariba subsidiary, will become president of SAP's global cloud operations. SAP slurped Ariba for $4.3bn in May 2012 to get hold of its online marketplace.

In a conference call with Wall Street analysts discussing Dalgaard's departure, the talk focused on who would take on this cloud evangelistic role at SAP. Bill McDermott, one of SAP's co-CEOs, said that he was "really ecstatic" that Dalgaard would remain an advisor to SAP.

"The cloud DNA is now embedded across 65,000 hearts and minds, and it has now become the soul of SAP," said McDermott. "So we are the cloud company. And while it is nice to have one evangelist for the cloud, it is even better to have 65,000."

So this is the real question: how long before Dalgaard takes the billions of dollars he banked from the sales of SuccessFactors and starts another cloudy application software company?

In other executive changes, Luisa Delgado, another executive board member in charge of human resources and labor relations, is leaving the company to try to become a CEO in her own right, and Werner Brandt, the company's CFO, will take over her responsibilities.

SAP also said it was going to create a single software-development organization that reports to the SAP executive board. Vishal Sikka, who was instrumental in the creation of the HANA in-memory database that has gotten SAP more attention in the press than its lawsuits with Oracle, has been tapped to be in charge of the Technology and Innovation portion of the executive board. Sikka has a doctorate in compsci from Stanford University and worked there, at Xerox, and at two other startups before joining SAP in 2007, and has expertise in programming models and artificial intelligence.

Bernd Leukert was also appointed executive vice president for application innovation, and will run the application development organization at SAP and report to Sikka.

Finally, Gerhard Oswald, formerly in charge of the on-premise delivery area of the SAP executive board and of its global support operations, has been put in charge of a new scale, quality, and support area of the board, and is being specifically given control of the HANA Enterprise Cloud implementation of the in-memory database created by SAP.

Oswald joined SAP in 1981, four years after SAP started selling its SAP R/2 applications, working on mainframes and doing quality control on the SAP R/3 ERP suite that made the German company not quite a household name in the 1990s, but close. After R/3 was delivered in 1993, Oswald ran the R/3 services division and took over SAP's global support operations a few years later. Oswald has a degree in business administration from the University of Mainz. ®

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