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SAP CTO hits back at criticism over UK MD changes

Adrian Simpson says that SAP is ‘actively recruiting’ to find the right candidate

SAP CTO Adrian Simpson has spoken out against criticism that the company's operations are in a 'state of flux' after three changes to its UK chief in three years, claiming that SAP takes the UK market very seriously and is actively searching for the right candidate to fill the position.

It was revealed earlier this week that SAP's most recent UK managing director (MD), Steve Winter, would be moving to another role within the company after just six months in the post. Fred Hessabi, who also serves as SVP and general manager of continental Europe, will act as interim MD until a full-time replacement is found.

Hessabi is now the third UK MD that SAP has had in less than three years.

This news prompted Angela Eager, research director at analyst firm TechMarketView, to claim that SAP's UK operations were now in a 'state of flux' and that the rapid changes were hard to view in a positive light.

In an exclusive interview with Computerworld UK, SAP's CTO defended the company's decision and said that focus on the UK was still strong.

"I think we are taking the UK market very seriously. It's our third largest market across the global company, and has a lot of focus because a lot of growth comes from it," said Simpson.

"There have been changes in management, yes. But at the same time these people have stayed within SAP and have moved onto other parts of the organisation and into important roles. Sometimes the talent in the UK is taken into bigger roles."

He added: "However, we still have got a great pool of talent within the UK and we are growing very fast. We have been on a big recruitment drive in the first quarter so we can align ourselves with our new market strategy."

SAP has structured itself around five new market categories: mobile, database and technology, analytics, cloud and applications.

Simpson did, however, say that the biggest challenge for SAP was that its UK customers "didn't know all of the things" it does now, but insisted that it would communicate this going forward.

When asked if customers over the past three years had had a stable point of contact in the UK's senior management team, Simpson argued that there "hadn't been a complete change of management and there are people in SAP who have been in management positions for many years".

The UK and Ireland SAP User Group responded to the change in MD by saying that "continuity and consistency in management at SAP is really important to the user community". Simpson believes that this has been provided to the user group despite the changes.

"The user group has many points of contact into SAP and certainly in my many roles at the company I've been engaged with them and worked with them on a number of different topics," said Simpson.

"I think the user group has been very well supported by SAP when they have wanted to be engaged. I don't think that they have had any issues getting support when they have asked for it."

Interim MD Fessabi, who is based in Paris, is only a "temporary measure" according to Simpson, and an active search is under way to find the right candidate to fill the position.


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