SAP's New Co-CEOs Pledge to Listen and Innovate

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SAP is headed toward a new era of growth and rapid innovation, said new co-CEOs Jim Hagemann Snabe and Bill McDermott during a press conference at the Cebit trade show in Hanover, Germany, on Tuesday.

SAP removed Léo Apotheker as CEO in February and appointed McDermott and Snabe in his place, restoring the dual-CEO model the vendor has used in the past.

Company co-founder Hasso Plattner took center stage when that announcement was made, leading observers to speculate he would take a more hands-on role moving forward. But on Tuesday the spotlight shone on Snabe and McDermott.

The new SAP needs to have less bureaucracy and a stronger focus on customer needs, McDermott said. "We need to get the job done and do it in a way that inspires people."

SAP is trying to rebound from a slump in internal morale after a difficult period marked by sagging software sales and customer outcry over an increase in support fees.

One key strategy involves moving to agile software development practices, which are marked by small teams that work closely with customers and deliver frequent iterations of an application, theoretically bringing the final product closer to meeting user requirements.

SAP began adopting agile development practices last year, Snabe said. Teams of 10 employees are tasked with developing part of a given application, producing a new iteration every four weeks, he said.

"This methodology is not new, but so far it was only used by small companies, and we are scaling it to 12,000 engineers," Snabe added.

Reactions from employees to the change have been "amazing," he said. "You cannot imagine the power of this in a company."

About 20 percent of SAP is working in this manner so far, but the goal is to have agile methods adopted company-wide, he said.

The executives also touched upon their working relationship. Snabe is in charge of software development and McDermott has more focus on sales.

"We speak daily," McDermott said. "Saturdays and Sundays too. It's obvious that two minds with different ways of thinking, but that both want SAP to be the greatest company ... can't possibly be bad."

SAP can get more done with the co-CEO structure, Snabe added. "I do believe we're moving at a radically different pace."

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