There has been yet other senior executive changes at SAP SE. The global ERP software applications provider announced yesterday that the company’s Supervisory Board has appointed both a new Global Chief Marketing Officer, and Global Customer Success Manager.

According to the announcement, Adaire Fox-Martin, SAP’s existing Global Success Manager, who has been with the company since 2008, reportedly informed the Supervisory Board that she will depart the company at the end of this month.

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Julia White will assume the role of Global CMO, after a 20-year stint at Microsoft Corporation where she led product marketing for both Microsoft Azure and Microsoft Office 365, during its transition to a Cloud based offering. According to the announcement, White will be tasked with strengthening SAP’s go-to-market strategies with a focus on product, industry and digital marketing needs, along with a focus “on bridging customer and ecosystem needs with product management.”

White’s appointment is a  three-year term effective March 1, and she will reportedly be based in the United States. She is a U.S. citizen, and her academic credentials include an MBA from Harvard Business School and an undergraduate degree from Stanford University.

SAP’s apparent former CMO, Alicia Tillman had been performing the role since August of 2017, after a three-year stint as CMO for the SAP Ariba business unit. A posting on Linked-In indicates she will be leaving SAP.

Scott Russell will assume the role of Global Customer Success after the departure of Adaire Fox-Martin. He is a ten-year veteran of SAP, primarily appointed in field leadership roles in the company’s Asia-Pacific and Japan region, including President, Chief Operating Officer and Senior Vice President. He joined SAP after a prior 11-year career at IBM.

Global Customer Success involves responsibility for sales, services and customer engagement on a global basis.

 

Implications of These Appointments

These latest executive changes come after the lead-up from the unexpected departure of former CEO Jim McDermott and later, dissolution of a co-CEO leadership model with the announced departure of Co-CEO Jennifer Morgan in April 2020. Morgan was appointed Co-CEO in October 2019 and mutually agreed with the company’s Supervisory Board to depart the company, effective at the end of April 2020. Before the co-CEO role, Morgan served in the role of Customer Success Manager.

German born Christian Klein, SAP’s now sole CEO, has a tenure that dates back to 1999 as a student, and subsequent roles in SAP’s customer support operations. He previously served as CFO of SAP Success Factors and he was appointed Chief Operating Officer in 2016 and member of the SAP Executive Board in 2018. Klein is now under enormous pressure to accelerate SAP’s trajectory as a pure Cloud-based ERP applications provider including the SAP S/4 HANA ERP suite which has not garnered larger numbers of existing SAP customers toward an upgrade path.

In October of last year, SAP stunned investors and the global equity investment community by cutting the company’s profit and sales outlook for the remainder of 2020 and for the termed Ambition 2023 strategy plan, extending the plan out to the year 2025. That was taken as a sign that with the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic’s impacts to businesses, customers are very reluctant to take on an expensive and time-consuming upgrade to a backbone ERP application. Specific customer movement toward upgrading to SAP S4 HANA, Digital Supply Chain  or other associated applications related to SAP’s Cloud based architecture has required multi-year efforts and related expense on the part of SAP customers. The ongoing uncertainties of the global economy are such that C-suite executives are opting to defer such efforts.

In our written perspective of last April, we observed that in times of crisis, SAP organizational power invariably shifts back to a Walldorf centric perspective, as well as founder’s and Supervisory Board Chairperson Hasso Plattner’s leanings and perspectives. We further opined that other senior management changes were likely to occur as Klein came to grips with was would be required in direction and subsequent executive leadership changes.

According to a Google search, Adaire Fox-Martin’s executive term contract at SAP had extended to 2025. We can only speculate that she made a decision to depart earlier, perhaps to pursue a new opportunity.

This all implies different leadership and direction in customer focused interaction, product marketing and messaging. We anticipate continued focus on industry-specific go-to-market which has always been SAP’s strength in the past, and a renewed emphasis on coordinated and hopefully, more integrated marketing strategy which has traditionally been a weakness.  From our lens, it implies that the Supervisory Board and Klein felt that such a leadership change was indeed necessary and needed a keener focus at the corporate leadership team level.

Once again, another transformation of SAP’s go-to-market, messaging and direct customer communications should be expected.

 

 

Bob Ferrari

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