SAP’s innovation champion Sikka departs

Vishal Sikka, the SAP executive most closely associated with the supplier’s innovation drive with the in-memory database Hana, has resigned

Vishal Sikka, the SAP executive most closely associated with the supplier’s innovation drive based on the in-memory database Hana, has resigned. Sikka (pictured) became the member of SAP’s executive board responsible for technology and innovation at the end of May 2013.

Sikka was responsible for all product development and innovation at SAP globally. His resignation was followed by a 2% drop in the company's share price in early trading on Monday. It came on the eve of the supplier’s annual customer event Sapphire, to be held in Florida in June 2014.

CEO Bill McDermott is now the main figurehead for SAP as co-CEO Jim Hagemann Snabe joins the company's supervisory board but relinquishes his chief executive role.

The company's supervisory board has appointed two new members: Bernd Leukert, who will take charge of global development; and Robert Enslin, SAP's leading customer relations manager.

Sikka, McDermott and Hasso Plattner, SAP's supervisory board chairman, all spoke at the company’s launch of a new innovation centre in Potsdam, Germany, named after Plattner, in mid-February. Sikka declared then his ambition for SAP to “solve the greatest problems of our time”, with a new generation of software design.

Sikka and Plattner have together formed an animating force behind Hana and its associated network of start-up companies. Sikka has been a strong advocate of SAP's turn to the cloud, mobile, and visually appealing software, one form of which is the Fiori apps product line. At last year’s Sapphire he said he wanted to see more imagination and design from SAP’s own developers.

SAP has declined to comment on Sikka’s departure, other than stating it was for personal reasons.

Plattner added his own tribute: “I would like to personally thank Vishal for his contribution to take SAP to this stage. We remain friends as he pursues the next step in his journey.”

Industry analysts interviewed on Computer Weekly’s US sister site expressed consensus that Sikka’s departure will have a limited impact on the supplier’s near future technical development.

Joshua Greenbaum, president of Enterprise Applications Consulting said: “I don't think it's going to be as significant as it might appear. SAP's got a pretty deep bench. Vishal did frontload SAP with a lot of things to do on making Hana a reality and spent years on solid execution. But you don't necessarily need Vishal to see everything through."

Philip Adams, Chairman, UK and Ireland SAP User Group said: “It's a shame to see Vishal leaving SAP, especially with Jim Hagemann Snabe soon to step down as co-CEO. From a customer point of view, both of them have done a great deal to deliver both innovation and customer value. SAP is clearly going through a management transition and we look forward to working with Robert Enslin and Berd Leukert as they settle into their new roles. We also hope that the new executive team, along with the supervisory board will continue to keep balance of focus between innovation, customer value and sales.”

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