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Cloud prez Robert Enslin is latest SAP exec to ditch German ERP firm amid restructuring pains

Three decades of experience gone as staff voice fears for HANA platform

SAP veteran and cloud president Robert Enslin has quit as the German enterprise software firm forges ahead with restructuring, amid industry talk that its in-memory data platform HANA is in trouble.

Enslin, who joined SAP in 1992, was promoted to his last role just two years ago and was most recently crucial in the firm's eye-wateringly expensive acquisition of Qualtrics, which CEO Bill McDermott celebrates every chance he gets.

The president of the cloud business group is said to have "elected to resign" to pursue an unspecified "external opportunity" and will be replaced by Jennifer Morgan, SAP confirmed.

A canned statement was released late on a Friday night – timed perfectly to limit reporting and speculation – and was full of the usual praise from and for both sides.

The statement also confirmed that Adaire Fox-Martin, the SAP board member brought in to deal with the South Africa corruption scandal last year, is taking over sole responsibility for global customer operations.

Enslin's exit is the latest in a line of major losses for SAP after the departures of global services and support exec Bernd Leukert and CTO Bjoern Goerke.

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It also comes a week before SAP is due to report the first financial results of fiscal '19, and follows speculation about the company's future as it launched a €950m restructuring plan.

SAP confirmed the plan in January, which it said is to "simplify" internal structures and reposition the business around product areas deemed most important to customers.

One well-placed source has suggested to The Register that part of the restructuring would see SAP combine database and data management lines, as well as analytics and Leonardo into a single line of business.

Meanwhile, a digital core unit – which SAP currently describes as its ERP business suite S/4HANA, SAP S/4HANA Cloud and the SAP ERP application – would be made up of Hana Enterprise Cloud, S/4HANA, the office of the CFO and digital supply.

SAP said it will not comment on this.

HANA under pressure

Another key plank of the restructuring plan is the trimming of some 4,400 staff. This was positioned as a way to bring in new skills – which, translated, means replacing the old guard with fresh (and likely cheaper) faces. SAP, however, has insisted it will finish 2019 with a larger "overall" headcount than the one with which it started the year.

Initially, SAP claimed it would ease people out of the door with early retirement and voluntary packages, and efforts began in earnest in March, with most of the layoffs said to have hit the US and Germany. However, word has since circulated that SAP has struggled to achieve the number of voluntary redundancies it anticipated.

Many of the jobs lost have been from the database side of the company – including HANA stalwarts. High-profile departures have included Rich Heilman and Thomas Jung, senior bods who have jointly chalked up decades of HANA service.

When the pair went public with the news last month, there was an outcry across social media – but it is now understood they both have new roles within SAP, with Jung's being in the cloud business group.

Nonetheless, feverish – and unconfirmed – talk has swirled on anonymous message board The Layoff, with posters not only sharing what they believe to be the hardest-hit divisions but also discussing the reasons for what they see as SAP veering badly off course.

One poster stated SAP was "reversing course" on HANA, citing many of the much-discussed problems with the database such as costly licensing.

Hana thrown-spanner

HANA is the in-memory data and analytics platform upon which SAP's flagship ERP and CRM products S/4HANA and C/4HANA are built, but to adopt it, customers have had to shift to a new infrastructure and architecture. To push this change, SAP planned to end support for some products in 2025.

But the effect has been to prompt customers to reconsider their whole stack, with competitors like Oracle seeing this as a prime opportunity to win over some new clients to its own ERP cloud suite.

Problems were exacerbated by confused messaging about what HANA actually was when it was first launched in 2010, along with a perceived lack of technical skills by staffers – at least according to SAP HANA managed service biz Centiq. The implication has been that HANA has not been the roaring success SAP had hoped for.

Recently, speculation the German firm was shifting focus from developing its HANA platform in favour of SaaS products became so rampant that the firm wheeled out chief technology officer Juergen Mueller to deny HANA was being sidelined.

"Anyone who questions our commitment to SAP HANA doesn't understand the strategy of SAP," he protested.

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"The reality is that SAP HANA has been wildly successful for SAP and for our customers, with more than 28,000 customers on the SAP HANA platform... Given the scale it has achieved already, we look to constantly build on the past success by introducing new SAP HANA offerings."

Mueller added that SAP's restructuring efforts were, in part, to "invest more of our resources in areas where SAP customers tell us they expect us to invest" and that "new SAP HANA innovation" was one of those.

A standard canned statement reiterated SAP's commitment to HANA, saying the restructuring changes would be "fully in line" with its existing product and tech priorities.

"All decisions are entirely focused on strengthening our focus and centralising efforts to scale and maximise internal collaboration." ®

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