SAP Names Vishal Sikka as Its First CTO

SAP AG named its first chief technology officer on Wednesday, the latest move to reorganize its executive ranks following the resignation two months ago of Shai Agassi, president of its products and technologies group in the U.S.

Vishal Sikka, formerly senior vice president and chief software architect at SAP, will head the company's newly created office of the CTO, responsible for ensuring a "clear and harmonized road map" for SAP's products, the company said. He will report to CEO Henning Kagermann and be based in the United States.

SAP felt it needed a CTO to oversee some broad changes that are under way at the company, including its renewed focus on the mid-market, the introduction of new on-demand products, and the continued rollout of NetWeaver and its SOA strategy, said SAP spokesman Frank Hartmann.

Sikka's appointment appears unlikely to herald big changes in the company's roadmap. Rather, his new title will help to affirm his authority as the head of SAP's development efforts in the U.S. "We thought it was necessary bearing in mind the strong strategic focus of such a role and the responsibilities he is going to bear," Hartmann said.

Indeed, Sikka's new duties do not appear very different from those of his previous job as chief software architect, where he was responsible for SAP's roadmap and software architecture.

His promotion will fill a gap in SAP's U.S. executive ranks after Agassi's departure, said Bo Lykkegaard, a research manager with IDC in Denmark. SAP needed "a senior person with clear management responsibilities and the authority to really drive development decisions," he said.

"If the guy's good enough then it's a good move for SAP. I was seeing a hole there after Shai Agassi," he said.

Hartmann said Sikka shouldn't be seen as a replacement for Agassi, whose responsibilities have been divided among several executives who report directly to Kagermann, although part of his job will overlap with Agassi's former duties, Hartmann said.

Agassi was credited with spearheading SAP's NetWeaver and on-demand strategies and his loss was seen as a significant setback for the company. Once tipped as a future SAP CEO, he resigned April 1 after SAP voted to keep Kagermann in that position until 2009.

SAP also recently lost another senior executive, Aliza Peleg, managing director of SAP Labs in the United States, who will leave the business applications company by the end of June.

It wasn't immediately clear how Sikka's responsibilities as CTO will differ from those of his previous job, where he was responsible for SAP's road map and software architecture.

Before joining SAP, he was responsible for application development technologies at Peregrine Systems, the IT management software vendor acquired by Hewlett-Packard Co. in 2005. He holds a doctorate in computer science from Stanford University and is based in SAP's office in Palo Alto, Calif.

SAP is close to completing a revamp of its main applications platform through the addition of Netweaver, its software for SOA development. It is also about to roll out a major on-demand product for the midmarket called A1S.

The company wasn't alone among big vendors in not having a CTO. Oracle lacks the position, although it has a chief corporate architect who serves a similar role. Microsoft Corp. doesn't have one, although Ray Ozzie was CTO briefly before taking over from Bill Gates as chief software architect.

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