SAP CEO Hasso Plattner plans to step down

After more than 30 years at the helm of the business software firm he co-founded, Hasso Plattner is stepping down as co-CEO of SAP AG.

In an announcement Thursday, SAP said Plattner, 59, intends to become a member and chairman of the company's supervisory board, where he will work on long-term strategy. His nomination to that board is subject to an election at the upcoming annual general meeting in May. Accordingly, Plattner will also step down from the SAP executive board.

That will leave current co-CEO Henning Kagermann as the sole head of SAP's operations.

The move, though sudden, wasn't entirely unexpected.

According to Plattner, "Today we have the right organization in place to capitalize on the next technology wave, we are executing extremely well and gaining market share in a tough market. That makes this the right time for me to hand over the day-to-day business entirely to Henning Kagermann." Plattner will keep offices in both the company's Walldorf, Germany, and Palo Alto, Calif., facilities. "I believe that I can create more value for SAP and our worldwide customers by focusing my time and energy on mid- to long-term strategic issues," he said.

According to a recent note issued by Boston-based consulting firm AMR Research Inc., the change is unlikely to have much of an impact on users, since Kagermann has already proved his leadership abilities. The note had high praise for Plattner, claiming that his strong point has been as a thought leader and technology visionary who helped SAP to become "the goliath it is."

Moreover, AMR predicted that the company will remain on course.

For his part, Kagermann was upbeat. "Over the coming years, we at SAP want to serve our customers even better and offer them innovative solutions that will ensure a rapid return on their investment," he said. "We have the reputation, the know-how, the client base and the network of partners to remain successful. My mission is to set new standards in terms of quality, efficiency and innovation."