SAP picks Canadian exec to lead North American ops

A slew of recent global leadership changes at enterprise resource planning (ERP) software vendor SAP AG, including one that takes former head of the Canadian office to a broader role as president of SAP North America, is meant to help “tell the new SAP story” to customers.

Robert Courteau, the newly minted president of SAP North America was previously chief operating officer for global field operations. And prior to that, headed SAP’s Canadian operations. Courteau’s successor, Mark Aboud, talked to ComputerWorld Canada about the slew of global leadership changes including the recognition that Canadian leaders are getting within the Germany-based company.

“It shows there’s a lot of good stuff happening in Canada and it’s valued around the world,” said Aboud, managing director for SAP Canada.

The news of Courteau follows that of another Canadian SAP executive, Conrad Mandala, who very recently led SAP’s Canadian channel operations before moving to a U.S.-focused role as national vice-president for small and medium-sized businesses.

Courteau assumes the role previously held by Robert Enslin, who has now been named president of global sales. Jose Duarte is president of global services. Franck Cohen assumes Duarte’s prior role as president of SAP EMEA. Eric Duffaut is president of global ecosystem and channels. Sanjay Poonen is president of global solutions go-to-market.

Aboud said the changes at SAP have everything to do with helping customers “catch up to what the possibilities are” given the company’s expanding focus from ERP technology provider to include analytics, mobile and in-memory offerings.

“It’s not really a reorganization per say,” said Aboud. “It’s an alignment and a simplification of how we get what we have to our customers.”

Less than half of SAP’s business today is ERP but customers don’t necessarily see it that way, said Aboud. “(We’re) telling the new, innovative story better … it’s just about wanting to accelerate things,” he said.

Ray Wang, CEO and principal analyst with Constellation Research Inc., said customers have not yet seen all of what SAP has to offer in its widened portfolio. “Given the acquisitions they’ve made, it’s important that they bring all solutions management and field together so they can go out and share what they have,” said Wang.

The sheer size of SAP has unfortunately been an impediment to relaying the message of new technologies, said Wang. The top two layers of management at SAP may be well aware of the company’s transformation, but that is only just slowly beginning to permeate through the ranks.

But Wang cautions that, although it’s vital to convey SAP’s broadened focus, the real problem for customers is reducing cost of ownership of existing SAP offerings before new ones can be considered.

“I think they have to address that issue first and then they can move to something else,” said Wang.

Constellation Research estimates IT budgets have grown a mere two to three per cent this year, yet new technologies must be paid for with existing budgets. Wang said SAP cannot ignore this.

“Part of the message and the confidence that has to be added from SAP is really a piece on how do we optimize our legacy infrastructure, how do you help us find some cost savings and how do you show that what we’re doing is going to help us grow the business,” said Wang.

Last year in March when co-CEOs Jim Hagemann-Snabe and Bill McDermott took the helm, they committed to continuing to expand the volume of business and its customer engagement model with the goal of returning to a double-digit-growth company.

This recent slew of leadership changes follows the departure of three SAP executives last December. Doug Merritt, who left his role as executive vice-president and general manager of sales for Business Objects, later joined Baynote Inc. as CEO. Bob Stutz, who headed mobile apps, joined Hewlett-Packard Co. Singh Mecker, senior vice-president and head of global sales partners, also left the firm.

Follow Kathleen Lau on Twitter: @KathleenLau

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