Most of my readers will know Shai Agassi has left SAP. Press release here.
In this post I’m going simply write what I saw and felt today, rather than play crystal ball. We had an all hands employee meeting in Walldorf with Henning Kagermann, CEO and Hasso Plattner, Chairman of the Supervisory Board.
Hasso was visibly disappointed at Shai’s departure, and after all, given that he found and built him up as his successor, entirely understandable. He explained in detail the background to Shai’s decision. In Shai SAP has lost a charismatic visionary and external spokesperson. Good news is that he is not departing to a competitor, even though several approached him. He will still have an office at SAP and will advise Hasso, so it is hardly the unseemly departure some have painted it to be.
Several things that I take away from today’s meeting.
1. Hasso is a statesman. He didn’t underplay Shai’s impact. But what he did was to rally the whole company behind the new board. It was fantastic to watch. I’m hesitant to use this analogy sitting in Germany, but there was something distinctly Churchillian about him today. I went into the meeting concerned and came out fired up. The lines ” We have a CEO, we have Henning.” and “I still know about software” raised the rafters with cheers, whistles and footstomps.
2. Another quote that stuck with me from Hasso went something like “Shai was a big tree in the forest , but like any big tree he cast a big shadow. It is now time for people in that shadow to grow and show what they can do.”
3. Henning and the board have reacted quickly and decisively to restructure the organisation. The new executive board and council model is simpler and more streamlined, and Henning has cleverly used Shai’s departure to clean up some messy organisational structures. Marketing is now consolidated under Marty Homlish, reporting to Leo. All partnering is under Zia. Product development reporting lines are simpler too. The field is streamlined with two main regions, one under Bill McDermott, the other under Ernie Gunst. (Jeff and Josh cover this in their posts, and it is all in the press release)
4. Henning stressed the need for transparency, trust and respect for others. He said “You have my commitment,now I need yours.” It was quite Cluetrainy, especially when coupled with Hasso’s “you are the culture”
5. The strategy Henning clearly articulated is exactly the same as what was announced at the field and development kick-offs.
Personally I’m sad to see Shai go. Kol Tuv Shai- I hope you bring the same impact to your next venture as you have at SAP. (update: Shai has posted on SDN)
But if our competition believe that this has crippled SAP, then they are in for a surprise. There is a steely resolution and determination here. It is rarely voiced loudly, but the meeting room reverberated with it today. I’m proud to work here, and I think the best part of 40,000 others feel exactly the same.
That said, here at SAP, we will need to let the software do the talking.