President of SAP Customer Experience departs

Alex Atzberger is leaving his post as president of SAP Customer Experience. He will be replaced by industry veteran Bob Stutz. The news comes two weeks after Bill McDermott announced he was stepping down as SAP CEO.

Alex Atzberger is the latest departure from the ranks of the SAP leadership team.

Atzberger's departure follows on the heels of Bill McDermott's, who left his post as SAP CEO two weeks ago. McDermott was replaced by co-CEOs Jennifer Morgan and Christian Klein. The change is not a surprise to some industry experts, but it raises questions about the future of SAP Customer Experience and its ability to compete with Salesforce in the CRM market.

Alex AtzbergerAlex Atzberger

Morgan announced Atzberger's departure in an email to SAP Customer Experience employees Tuesday. The email also said that enterprise industry veteran and former SAP employee Bob Stutz was joining SAP Customer Experience as president of engineering and operations.

"Alex Atzberger has decided to leave SAP. We thank Alex not only for his service and the incredible legacy he leaves behind at SAP, but for launching this business and helping us take this next step," Morgan said in her email.

Stutz is coming from Salesforce, where he was the CEO of Salesforce Marketing Cloud and chief analytics officer. Stutz has previously been in executive roles at Siebel Systems, SAP and Microsoft, where he was responsible for its customer experience technology portfolio as vice president of Microsoft Dynamics CRM.

"Bob's resume speaks for itself," Morgan said in her email, "He's been shaping the customer experience technology arena for his entire career. And not only does he know this industry, he knows SAP. He spent time here earlier in his career and he's coming back to SAP to help take us into the future."

SAP Customer Experience (CX) is the re-branding of SAP C/4HANA, the CX platform that SAP has positioned as one of the pillars of the intelligent enterprise. SAP C/4HANA is the amalgamation of several SAP CRM products, and the company hopes it can redefine the CRM market by combining customer-facing applications with SAP back-office ERP systems. SAP CX's cloud suite includes SAP Commerce Cloud (Hybris), SAP Sales Cloud (Callidus), SAP Customer Data Cloud (Gigya), SAP Marketing and SAP Service Cloud.

SAP Customer Experience struggles to match Salesforce

It was not a surprise that Atzberger left SAP, given the recent departure of McDermott, said analyst Joshua Greenbaum, principal at Enterprise Applications Consulting.

"My sense is that Atzberger was very close to Bill McDermott, and I think that, with all the changes that happened at the CEO level, it was time for Alex to move on as well," Greenbaum said.

The larger remaining question is what the future of SAP Customer Experience will be as it struggles to put a dent in Salesforce's CRM dominance.

"It's a really interesting moment, and [SAP is] bringing on a guy who has deep expertise in industry leading companies, and ironically comes back to where he started," Greenbaum said. "I'm curious about where this is going to go, and there's a question in my mind about whether SAP really wants to be in the core CRM world, as opposed to surrounding CRM with some of these assets that it's been assembling under the CX umbrella."

SAP Customer Experience has struggled to compete with Salesforce, which may be one reason why SAP is bringing Stutz in. Stutz's motivation for returning to SAP is less clear, said Predrag Jakovljevic, principal industry analyst for Technology Evaluation Centers in Quebec.

"I'm not sure why Stutz is coming back to SAP. Perhaps he now sees a good opportunity and [that there are] good pieces in place or perhaps Salesforce became too crowded for him after the Tableau acquisition," Jakovljevic said. "SAP CX has certainly not stopped Salesforce's growth yet, to put it mildly."

CRM experience may count

Stutz brings a long history of CRM experience, having started at Siebel Systems and building enterprise CRM platforms at SAP and Microsoft, said Kate Leggett, vice president and principal analyst at Forrester Research. This background, combined with Stutz's experience of running Salesforce Marketing Cloud, may provide SAP Customer Experience with the juice it needs to take on Salesforce.

"SAP needs a seasoned hand to lead product development. They also must uplevel their CRM messaging and positioning, as few customers outside of the SAP installed base use SAP CRM assets," Leggett said in a blog post. "On the other hand, Salesforce has lost some of its luster as it spreads itself thin. Perhaps it's time for Stutz to start anew and build a solid suite that will give all competitors a run for their money."

Atzberger the latest in SAP leadership changes

Virtually the entire SAP leadership ranks have turned over in 2019. In April, Robert Enslin left his position as head of the cloud business group and was replaced by Morgan. Barry Padgett left his role in April weeks after he was named president of a newly created Intelligent Spend Group, which combines Ariba, Concur and Fieldglass. Longtime executives Bjoern Goerke and Bernd Leukert departed earlier in the year.

Atzberger joined SAP in 2005 as an MBA candidate and eventually became chief of staff to then-CEO McDermott in 2013. Atzberger became president of SAP Ariba in 2013, and was named president of SAP Hybris in 2018. SAP Hybris morphed into SAP C/4HANA and then became SAP Customer Experience.

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