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Can you CEO?

The cover of Harvard Business Manager read: Can you be a CEO? A particularly relevant question in the SAP community. Since CEO Professor Henning Kagermann, many people have taken the CEO chair, sometimes in pairs.
Peter M. Färbinger, E3 Magazine
23 February 2023
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This text has been automatically translated from German to English.

The eternally successful CFO Luka Mucic

Ex-CFO Luka Mucic bid farewell at this year's annual press conference, saying, "At my 37th and last annual press conference for SAP, I am proud to report that SAP has delivered excellent results and continues to see growth momentum in the cloud. We are on track to achieve our growth and profitability targets for 2023. I am firmly convinced of the continued success of the most exciting transformation in SAP's history. I am very grateful to have been part of the wonderful SAP family for 27 years."

CEO turnover

37 financial press conferences by one CFO is quite an achievement, even among Dax companies in Germany. Luka Mucic has thus seen many CEOs come and go in his 27 years at SAP: Hasso Plattner, Henning Kagermann, Léo Apotheker, Jim Hagemann Snabe, Bill McDermott, Jennifer Morgan and Christian Klein. Whether all of them were really able to become CEO may be doubted. Whereby a second look is necessary: Léo Apotheker can be CEO, perhaps not SAP CEO. But the current question is: Can Christian Klein also be CEO?

CTO turnover

While the CFO's job at SAP is no less stressful, it is more constant - which should actually apply to the CTO with the old adage of computer scientists: Never change a running system. In recent years, there have been almost as many changes in the CTO position at SAP as there have been in the CEO chair. The appointment as SAP CTO was shaped even more by Professor Hasso Plattner than any other personnel decision. Three names are representative of this: Shai Agassi, Vishal Sikka and Jürgen Müller.

Kingmaker Plattner

It seems that the appointment of a new CEO or CTO has always been a very subjective, personal and spontaneous decision by Professor Hasso Plattner. This scenario will now change permanently as Plattner's last year as Chairman of the SAP Supervisory Board approaches. He has promised to present a successor at this year's Annual General Meeting and to step down himself.

Hasso Plattner's departure marks the end of an SAP era that was characterized by a strong supervisory board and a loyal and obedient executive board. Christian Klein became CEO, not only because of his intellectual abilities, but also because of his strong lobby in the supervisory board. Because Luka Mucic had fewer of these allowances, he also remained CFO without the prospect of the CEO job.

Can Klein be CEO?

Given his good positioning on the Supervisory Board, the question does not arise: Can Christian Klein also be CEO? He does a solid job as SAP CEO and, together with Luka Mucic, was an excellent team. Klein dutifully fulfills the duties of a CEO and strives for sustainable repair service behavior in the complex SAP landscape. In retrospect, it can be said: Yes, Christian Klein could be CEO. Whether his skills will be sufficient for future challenges remains to be seen. Harvard Business Manager writes that the role model of CEOs has changed: "Top management is at the beginning of a new era. Wanted: CEO with flair - expertise and financial knowledge are no longer enough.

Empathy and social skills determine careers in top management. Over the past two decades, companies have visibly redefined the role of top managers. The management of financial and operational resources continues to play an important, albeit diminishing, role. Instead, one qualification is gaining in importance: strong interpersonal skills. This is especially true in environments where productivity and success depend on effective communication, such as in technology-intensive companies."

From CFO to CEO

Dominik Asam joins SAP from Airbus, where he was CFO. Prior to that, he worked at Siemens and Infineon. He joins SAP as the successor to Luka Mucic. It is uncertain how long he will be content with the CFO post. With his professional experience and expertise from various industries, he is superior in career terms to the young SAP board members Christian Klein, Jürgen Müller and Thomas Saueressig. The next logical step for CFO Asam would be SAP CEO - he can do it, as his companions attest. Whether Hasso Plattner and Gerd Oswald will allow their offspring to fall remains to be seen. It remains to be seen how Christian Klein and Dominik Asam get along.

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Peter M. Färbinger, E3 Magazine

Peter M. Färbinger, Publisher and Editor-in-Chief E3 Magazine DE, US and ES (e3mag.com), B4Bmedia.net AG, Freilassing (DE), E-Mail: pmf@b4bmedia.net and Tel. +49(0)8654/77130-21


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