Vishal Sikka Departs SAP

May 5, 2014


Sunday evening, May 4th, I learned Vishal Sikka, CTO and an executive board member of SAP, had resigned for “personal reasons.” News of his departure is shocking to me. Earlier this year, I met him to learn about the transformation he was leading. Vishal is a very impressive individual.

  • About 25,000 employees reported to Vishal. SAP has some 70,000 employees total to give you some perspective.
  • People in Vishal’s organization are in shock and traumatized by his departure. They won’t have definitive answers about what his departure means for some time yet. Vishal’s vision was clearly instantiated in the product roadmap; it can’t turn on a dime.
  • Vishal’s story seemed almost too good to be true and, perhaps in the end, it was. He was leading SAP and its SAP customers to a new and, in my opinion, better place. However, those who lead enterprise-wide transformations scare those who are reliant on and nervous about changing the status quo. There is always friction and resistance to change. SAP’s status quo won last night.
  • He seemed to enjoy a very cordial relationship with his team. He knew people in Palo Alto by their first names, something that surprised me. After all, an important guy like Vishal doesn’t have time for such trivialities, right? Wrong.
  • In a streaming media event, Vishal appeared to be a rock star at SAP. He had the ability to advocate for non-traditional development issues, e.g., pricing products and services. His ability to influence and make change had to scare some people in leadership roles, people who didn’t hold back voicing their concerns.

My friend and colleague, Ray Wang of Constellation Research, noted that Vishal’s departure boiled down to 3 issues:

  • Vishal advocated for building platforms as opposed to applications
  • Vishal was enabling customers to build versus buy applications and solutions
  • Vishal was enabling customers to innovate versus simply executing what SAP defined

Who was most concerned about this paradigm shift that Vishal was leading? Sales and the board of directors. The board took action to alter the path Vishal was putting the company on.

Big companies do what they have to to protect revenue streams. Ultimately, I surmise SAP had real fear that Vishal was going to upset revenue streams.

When SAP tried to cage an innovator like Vishal, he had little choice but to flee the building. Change is hard even for a smart, engaging, charismatic professional like Vishal. And, change is even harder for SAP, a company that has seen a number of executives leave the company.

I hope Vishal, his team and SAP find a compelling way to thrive.

Dave Gardner, Gardner & Associates Consulting

© 2014 Dave Gardner



For Change Sake, Meet People Where They Are

May 5, 2014


I was contacted by a manufacturing company in a world of hurt. The short version: the client had purchased an ERP system with the hope that business execution would improve. It didn’t. There were no processes in place to be integrated with the new tool. No one used it. The ERP investment was yielding no business benefit.

The client had an open stockroom and did not want to build a cage around it. When it came time for process roll-out, I had to share the idea of “transacting inventory” to account for its consumption by individual job. I knew “transacting inventory” would never resonate with this team so I had to invent a sticky way of making the point.

As I drove by a Wal-Mart, I discovered a solution to my problem:

  • Wal-Mart is like a big open stock room
  • If you don’t pay (transact the merchandise) at the register on your way out the door, it’s shoplifting.
  • And, for my client, if they didn’t stop by the “register” to charge off the parts to the job, that, too, would be considered shoplifting.

The notion of “shoplifting” became the key to my training and to changing the business practices and culture around ERP adoption. Afterall, who would want to be accused of shoplifting?

This idea stuck. When someone would come out of the stockroom with one or more parts, the other people on the shop floor would point at the person and ask if they shoplifted the parts. This became a big part of driving inventory accuracy.

Without this “shoplifting” idea, I doubt we would have gotten the adoption we needed. The company had a 35-year history of not transacting inventory–it was like being in the wild, wild West. Yet, I helped my client cross this uncrossable chasm in a matter of minutes.

The lesson: meet people where they are, not where you wish they are, if you want them to adopt change their world. It’s okay to make it fun sometimes, too.

 Photo Credit: Alison Christine,

Thought for the week:

“Your life does not get better by chance, it gets better by change.” – Jim Rohn
What do you think? I welcome your comments!

Dave Gardner, Gardner & Associates Consulting

© 2014 Gardner & Associates Consulting  All Rights Reserved

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