Christian Klein has brought his SAP into a safe haven. The share price is satisfactory and existing customers are appeased. Employees are not overly demotivated and some partners are surprisingly optimistic. What is missing is a plan for how to proceed.
SAP CEO Christian Klein seems deeply relaxed. He is traveling by train to the World Economic Summit in Davos. All is well and everything is under control. Even during the stage appearances at Sapphire in Orlando and Barcelona, existing customers and partners saw a good-humored and confident Christian Klein.
This year's SAP Annual General Meeting passed off without escalation: Professor Plattner received very broad support from shareholders for himself, his Supervisory Board and Executive Board team, and his proposals.
SAP CEO Christian Klein does not need visions of the ERP future, he is trying to save his SAP from collapse - that is commendable, but not strategic! The effort of Christian Klein and his colleagues on the board can be summarized: We guarantee support for S/4 Hana until 2040; no other IT provider makes a similarly far-reaching commitment.
Conversely, S/4 support until 2040 means: Christian Klein has no idea how things will continue. There is no vision for an S/4 successor. The ERP strategy is based solely on Hana and S/4. Embarrassing for Christian Klein is the fact that his existing customers, the community and the SAP user association DSAG are already much further along. A DSAG discussion showed the potential of the SAP Business Technology Platform (BTP) and the resulting Embedded Abap, also called Steampunk, SAP's own programming language. Some experts are certain that BTP and Steampunk must be the SAP basis for a successor to S/4 Hana.
Everything will be better in 2024, when Punit Renjen takes over from Professor Hasso Plattner as Chairman of the Supervisory Board. At the same time, many supervisory board mandates expire in 2024, giving Punit Renjen the chance to put together a new, innovative team. The new Supervisory Board Chairman would be well advised to do as Jim Hagemann Snabe did at Siemens. Former SAP co-CEO Snabe has his supervisory board members evaluated once a year by an external HR consulting agency. At Siemens, supervisory board positions are not awarded on the basis of friendly relations, but exclusively according to a strict performance catalog.
The alternative supervisory board culture of a Jim Hagemann Snabe is perhaps one reason why he never thought of rejoining Professor Hasso Plattner after leaving the SAP Executive Board. After all, Plattner's vote is still the only one valid on the SAP Supervisory Board until 2024.
For a successful SAP future, Punit Renjen needs an agile, innovative Supervisory Board. He needs people who fulfill their supervisory duties with competence, constructive criticism, and a sharp mind, while at the same time using experience and vision to convey the right advice to a retreaded Executive Board in an open and transparent manner.