SAP Needs Some Shai Agassi-Style Global Thinking Now

| About: SAP AG (SAP)

Just to add insult to injury in the recent shellacking SAP took in Oakland, former SAP VP Shai Agassi -- the man who would have been SAP's CEO now (or at least co-CEO) if he had just waited patiently in line like a good boy -- has just been named 28th leading "global thinker" on the Second Annual Annual Top 100 List of Global Thinkers.

I can't actually find the actual list on the web site of the list maker, Foreign Policy magazine, but take my word for it. The above link takes you to the guys tied for number one in global thinking, Microsoft (NASDAQ:MSFT) co-founder Bill Gates and that very successful tailor from Nebraska, the owner of the Berkshire Hathaway (NYSE:BRK.A) shirt company. If you keep working your way through the web site using subsequent links you get to Shai. My guess is that this is the speaker list for the upcoming Davos convention. But I don't see Bono or Al Gore?

But back to the IT investment research implications... According to published reports during the recent damages-phase of the Oracle (NASDAQ:ORCL)-SAP trial (that was the only phase of course), Agassi said in a two-year-old taped deposition that he led the evaluation of the TomorrowNow acquisition. Therefore presumably he recommended it to SAP's boards along with a caution that Oracle would maybe/likely/probably sue SAP. Also according to published reports, Agassi estimated in an email that IT investment analysts would quickly figure out that this idea would hurt Oracle future earnings so much that its market valuation would plummet because the big profits in enterprise software are on the services side of the income statement. (In reality, investment analysts yawned at the idea and although I have not read the transcripts and filings I would guess that back in 2006-2007, SAP's boards would have spent no more time thinking about this idea than on the annual SAP paper-clip budget.)

So that was the "global thinking" part of the TomorrowNow idea. I admired what Agassi was doing at the time with the SAP NetWeaver business. It was similarly wide in scope and potentially game-changing for the enterprise software market. SAP's middleware business quickly but quietly passed the billion-dollar mark. The thinking was outside the box (shame on me) even if the TomorrowNow fiasco led to some inside the buoy sailing.

As I said, I haven't studied the transcripts. Please correct me if the public record says I'm wrong about either SAP top-executive knowledge or Agassi's personal involvement:

  • If SAP knew before the acquisition that wide scale theft was a matter of standard TomorrowNow business practice, that fact has implications for the Oracle-Rimini Street lawsuit as well. I'll explain why I think that if anyone wants to discuss.

  • If Agassi personally was involved in the subsequent TomorrowNow operations (he says he was not), including the illegal downloading of Oracle software to which SAP has admitted and about which SAP executives have admitted knowing post acquisition, then the whole global thinker thing takes on a different dimension.

[Side note: From an IT perspective, working through the list to Shai you also find Amazon's (NASDAQ:AMZN) Jeff Bezos and Apple (OTC:APPL) co-founder Steve Jobs, and the Google (NASDAQ:GOOG) Boys. Eric Schmidt did not appear to make it; it sucks to be just the hired hand. And why do non-IT people like Foreign Policy magazine keeping assuming there is some meaningful link between a retailer, Amazon, and an IT device development/marketing firm, Apple? Is it just because some of the Apple devices are for sale at the Amazon retail store? No it's because a Kindle is like an iPad. Gee, and a calculator is like a supercomputer too.

[Second side note: Speaking of shellackings, President Obama came in at number three after Buffet/Gates at number 1 and the leaders of the International Monetary Fund and World Bank. In golf, that would put Obama in fifth place instead of third but apparently the rules are different in foreign policy.]

Disclosure: no financial interest in companies mentioned