SAP reorganizes at the top

SAP has reshuffled top management in a move to simplify command structure.

German business software vendor SAP is realigning the responsibilities of its management team in a move to simplify its command structure, the company said Tuesday.

The reorganization at the top of SAP comes as the company positions itself against rival Oracle, which recently acquired PeopleSoft, in a race to deliver next-generation business management software.

The realignment has an impact on all responsibilities of SAP executive board members, including research and development, services, marketing, sales and training, SAP said. The changes are effective immediately.

The roles of Chief Executive Officer (CEO) Henning Kagermann and Chief Financial Officer Werner Brandt are largely unchanged.

Leo Apotheker remains responsible for global sales and field services, such as consulting and training, but also takes over responsibility for global marketing from Kagermann.

Shai Agassi, a long-time executive and board member, is responsible for software development of all existing products, including the SAP NetWeaver integration platform. He is also in charge of SAP's Business Solutions Groups, as well as product and industry marketing.

In his new role, Agassi takes control of three business units, divided by industry into services, manufacturing, and financial and the public sector.

Asked at a news conference call if Agassi was the big winner in the management reshuffle, Kagermann said the software development position "is an important one, just as important as the other positions."

Because all products will reside on the same platform moving forward, "it's key that they be put under one person," Kagermann said, referring to the development as a case of "structure following strategy."

Peter Zencke is responsible for research and "breakthrough innovation," including the development of SAP's new Business Process Platform and applications based on it.

Kagermann defined breakthrough innovation as technology for which the company "has no customer obligation, no comparable product."

In addition to his current position as head of global human resources, Claus Heinrich will manage all of SAP's research and development centers worldwide and take responsibility for final production and delivery of SAP software, as well as the internal security and IT organizations.

Gerhard Oswald will continue to lead global service and support.

SAP executives began planning the reorganization in the second half of last year as part of their discussions on the group's five-year strategy up to 2010, according to Kagermann.

The CEO, who is handing over the reins of the financial and public service product unit in addition to global marketing, said the decision to unload some responsibility came in response to a supervisory board request that he be freed of many day-to-day operations. "The new structure will give me greater flexibility," Kagermann said.

Kagermann declined to comment on his plans in 2007 when his present contract expires and on speculation that he may be grooming Agassi as his successor.

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