The brains behind SAP HANA quits post on backdrop of board shuffle

Vishal Sikka SAP 2The latest reshuffle in SAP’s top ranks is bittersweet. The German business intelligence (BI) giant has gained a CIO and four new board members, all company veterans with decades of industry experience under their  belts, but lost the mastermind behind its HANA in-memory database. The platform is the lynchpin for the company’s plan to shift its business model from traditional on-premise software licenses to cloud services and analytics.

First, the good news. Robert Enslin, who began his career at SAP in 1992 as a consultant supporting clients in South Africa and today runs global customer operations, has been tapped to serve as a director on the firm’s executive board. He is joined by Bernd Leukert, who’s  just been promoted to head the development of HANA applications. Leukert was previously appointed as a member of the global managing board, which now counts two more heavy hitters: Helen Arnold and Stefan Ries.

A 18-year veteran of SAP, Arnold currently heads the company’s Business Innovations and Application Services organization. In addition to gaining a board seat, she’s also assuming the role of chief information officer, a position in which she will focus – among other things – on promoting the cloud-based version of HANA. Ries, in turn, recently rejoined SAP to lead global human after a three year stint as principal consultant at executive search agency Egon Zehnder.

Now the bad news. Dr. Vishal Sikka, who led the  development of HANA as the firm’s CTO, has stepped down for “personal reasons”. His departure represents a major blow to SAP, which is currently in the process of retooling its entire portfolio for the database and faces increased competition from both traditional rivals such as IBM and Oracle as well a  new wave of startups bent on disrupting the business intelligence market.  Sikka’s eventual successor will have big shoes to fill as the competition heats up and CIOs continue to abandon their monolithic SAP deployments in favor of next generation solutions.

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