Asked whether his decision to leave was based on having too few duties, Snabe called the notion "funny." Leadership is about "developing leaders all around you to take on bigger challenges," he said. Sikka has developed into a "full-blown innovator" in charge of 20,000 developers and through HANA has "been reinventing the database layer, which was a mature market," Snabe added. "We are in a very, very strong position with Vishal Sikka."
McDermott's pending ascension as well as Sikka's potential role moving forward also speak to cultural change at SAP. McDermott will be the first American to head the vendor since its founding, and Sikka and much of SAP's product development activities are based outside of its Walldorf headquarters.
"I am a truly global executive working for a truly global software company," McDermott said, adding that he will spend a "fair share of time in Germany" moving forward.
McDermott also struck down long-standing speculation that he is interested in a political career.
"I'm not exactly certain where this political rumor comes from but I've heard it enough times now to want to set it straight," he said. "The passion of my life is SAP. I have no plans nor have I had any plans to run for office."
McDermott will fulfill the term of his contract, which runs through June 2017, and would stay longer if asked by SAP's board, he said.
As sole CEO, McDermott will be charged with managing SAP's continued transition from on-premises software license sales to SaaS (software as a service). While SaaS still represents a small portion of SAP's overall revenue, the totals are growing as customers making new purchases decide to add cloud products rather than expand their on-premises license base.
Like all traditional software vendors, SAP has to manage the expectations of investors when it comes to SaaS, since the revenue is typically garnered through ongoing monthly subscriptions rather than the large up-front payments and annual maintenance fees derived from on-premises sales.
Chris Kanaracus covers enterprise software and general technology breaking news for The IDG News Service. Chris' email address is Chris_Kanaracus@idg.com