DSAG Chairman Takes a Bold Stance

Marco Lenck (Mitte), Beate Werner (Schatzmeisterin DSAG) und Jim Hagemann Snabe (rechts) Foto: DSAG
Marco Lenck, Beate Werner (Treasurer DSAG) and SAP Co-CEO Jim Hagemann Snabe (right) Photo: DSAG

Marco Lenck is head of IT at chemical additives manufacturer Rhein-Chemie Rheingau GmbH in Germany. Earlier this year, he promised to direct “constructive criticism” at SAP, and now, as chairman of the DSAG, it was his turn to take the helm at the recent DSAG Annual Conference in Nuremberg. And it soon became clear that he is not one to hold back when it comes to tackling uncomfortable topics. One example is licensing. “It’s taken a lot of discussion,” said Lenck, “but we’ve finally got a flexible licensing model.” Ultimately, he explained, SAP had to concede that nobody makes investments that will be a burden rather than a blessing. The successful outcome of the DSAG’s discussions with SAP is largely down to Andreas Oczko. As the DSAG board member responsible for Service and Support, Oczko had been pursuing this topic for many years and, despite starting to show signs of doubt himself, vowed at the last annual conference to persist in his endeavors. One year on, not only have the cries of protest from the SAP community about licensing subsided, but so has the impression that “HANA means expensive” – a highly desirable side effect from SAP’s point of view. “Now,” says Oczko, “I can really ask myself whether I want to change my company.” For his part, Marco Lenck can tick off the first of the four objectives he defined six months ago: “Enable value-based software licensing.”

The next burning question on the lips of the audience members at the DSAG conference was: What will happen to SAP after May 2014, when Jim Hagemann Snabe is no longer co-CEO? Will the shift of power to the United States – that many already feel is happening – become more marked? Will SAP be managed from overseas? Snabe doesn’t see an issue here. He replied: “The bond of trust between Bill (*McDermott) and me has always been very strong – we were very, very close. The reason why Bill hasn’t spent so much time in Europe is simply that I myself was in Europe.  That doesn’t mean, though, that Bill will be as present in Europe in the future as I have been. Gerhard Oswald is still the Executive Board’s ‘man for the customers’; he’s the one who stood behind improved collaboration.” Snabe also spoke of Bernd Leukert, who is responsible for application development at SAP and was recently appointed to the Global Managing Board of SAP AG – another key position at SAP in Europe. Snabe added that he will be able to observe “how the changes pan out” from his position on the Supervisory Board. However, none of this will alter the fact that Danish-born Snabe – who, with several years of language coaching behind him, spoke to the conference attendees in Nuremberg in fluent German without notes – was a very popular figure in Europe. DSAG chairman Lenck is not the only one who will mourn Snabe’s departure. Ultimately, he said, the relationship between SAP and its users depends on the commitment of those customer employees who participate in DSAG working groups to ensure that their needs are heard and will continue to be heard in the future. You could call it micromanagement as a preventive strategy.

New data centers for increased data security

The third pressing topic at the DSAG conference was mass data collection by the National Security Service and its implications for SAP customers. If data really is being trawled by foreign secret services, what can SAP do to ensure that its customers are not affected? According to Marco Lenck, “It’s just unacceptable that the Americans are getting stronger using our expertise.” He couldn’t have summed up users’ fears more succinctly. Verbal counterattacks are not in Snabe’s nature, however. “The Internet was not created for business software; it was created for consumers,” he replied. “We have to become more global by becoming more local.” By that, he means that SAP’s aim is to have a local data center in each region: nine new data centers are set to join the existing five worldwide. “Data is subject to national legislation and we’ll comply with that legislation,” said Snabe. He is convinced that this strategy will not only offer business customers better protection for their data, but that it will also enable SAP to boost its cloud business – primarily in Europe – in combination with the “Trusted Secure Cloud Infrastructure” for Europe, which Snabe is planning to initiate. The message seems to be that you can’t prevent industrial espionage, but you can at least reduce it.