Short on strategy, SAP needs Plattner's charisma

* SAP has been left out of M&A action

* New co-CEOs not seen as visionaries

* Plattner pledges to improve morale

LONDON, Feb 8 (Reuters) - Software giant SAP SAPG.DE has appointed two capable new chief executives but analysts say it needs the energy and experience of co-founder and chairman Hasso Plattner to lift it out of the doldrums.

New joint CEOs Bill McDermott and Jim Hagemann Snabe will provide a solid combination of sales and product expertise, but leave plenty of room for Plattner to move in after Leo Apotheker’s sudden resignation on Sunday. [ID:nLDE6170XB].

“What neither McDermott or Snabe have is technology visionary capabilities. That’s got to come from elsewhere, that’s where Hasso plays a role,” said Thomas Otter, a director at IT research firm Gartner.

SAP said in its brief statement on Sunday night that Plattner would “continue to play a strong role in advising the new leaders on technology and product development”.

Morgan Stanley analysts wrote in a note: “In our view, Hasso Plattner’s continuing role in strategic direction will enable SAP to move more quickly and certainly towards new areas of technology, like cloud computing (or software as a service).”

SAP, the world leader in business software applications has sat on the sidelines while its rivals, energised by new technologies like cloud computing, have been busy merging with each other and transforming the competitive landscape.

On Monday, Plattner said SAP had to regain its customers’ trust as well as its competitive edge, and promised exciting new products, although he played down his role, saying: “I hope I don’t promise too much, because I’m only chairman.”

SAP’s appointment of Chief Technology Officer Vishal Sikka to the executive board was also seen in some quarters as a sign of Plattner’s increasing influence.

“He has a very close relationship with Hasso, he was brought into the company by Hasso. That’s more evidence of Hasso’s direct involvement,” said Otter.


Plattner, 56, is a larger-than-life character who has kept a close eye on SAP since retiring from active management in 2003, and is a key link between the German company and the IT firms of Silicon Valley, where he spends much of his time.

His share of SAP, which he co-founded in 1972, made him a billionaire. He now sails his Morning Glory yacht competitively, an activity in which he has had a lively rivalry with Larry Ellison, CEO of SAP's main competitor Oracle ORCL.O.

But his flamboyant style and taste for life’s luxuries shouldn’t fool anyone that he has taken his eye off the ball, says Stefan Ried, analyst at research firm Forrester.

“He’e been a very active board member, much more active than you would expect from the outside,” Ried said. “He’s had a lot of influence in where the company was going.”

Pressed to explain Apotheker’s departure and his own role in the affair, he declined to comment, but he did say SAP had to learn to innovate, look after customers and maintain profit margins at the same time -- and hinted morale could be better.

“We are a public company and profit is everything but in order to be profitable it needs to be a happy company,” he told a conference call. “I will do everything possible to make SAP a happy company again.” (Reporting by Georgina Prodhan, Editing by Sitaraman Shankar)