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Wookey returns to SAP to head Intelligent Spend unit

Industry veteran John Wookey is back at SAP to run the newly formed SAP Intelligent Spend and Business Network as SAP Ariba executive Chris Haydon departs.

The SAP executive carousel continues to spin with the departure of Chris Haydon.

The company announced that Haydon has left his post as president of SAP Procurement Solutions and that former SAP executive John Wookey has rejoined the company as president of the newly formed Intelligent Spend and Business Network unit. SAP Procurement Solutions, which includes SAP Ariba systems, has been folded into the new unit.

The SAP Intelligent Spend and Business Network was launched Oct. 1 to integrate SAP's spend management portfolio of products, according to an SAP spokesperson. The unit will bring together product engineering teams that are focused on SAP Ariba procurement and SAP S/4HANA operational procurement, external workforce management from SAP Fieldglass, and travel and expense management from SAP Concur.

However, the new business unit is not entirely new as SAP Ariba and SAP Fieldglass have operated as a cohesive entity called SAP Intelligent Spend since 2019.

Wookey returns

Wookey, an enterprise computing industry veteran, was most recently the executive vice president of industry applications and platform technology teams at Salesforce. He has also held senior leadership roles at Oracle and was executive vice president for development at SAP from 2008 to 2011.

John Wookey, head of Intelligent Spend and Business Network, SAPJohn Wookey

As president of SAP's Intelligent Spend and Business Network, Wookey will manage the team responsible for procurement products and engineering, external workforce management and travel and expense management software; the intelligent spend management platform; business networks and ecosystem; and customer experience. He reports to SAP board member Thomas Saueressig.

SAP will continue to sell SAP Ariba and SAP Fieldglass products and services on their own.

Haydon was at SAP Ariba for the last 10 years in a variety of executive roles. His departure after an eight-month stint as head of SAP Procurement Solutions is the latest in a series of recent turnovers in the SAP executive ranks, particularly in the Intelligent Spend unit. Former SAP Ariba president Barry Padgett was the first head of the SAP Intelligent Spend unit in April 2019; he was replaced by Mike Eberhard, who left SAP in March 2020.

Piecing together spend management

The struggle for SAP to find its footing in spend management may have prevented the company from seizing opportunities to lead in a market that has become increasingly important for businesses that need better applications and services for procurement, cost control and more agile supplier relations, said Jon Reed, co-founder and principal analyst for enterprise analysis site

Jon Reed, co-founder, Diginomica.comJon Reed

Wookey may be able to finally get SAP to put the spend management pieces together and have the portfolio add up to be more than the sum of its parts, Reed said.

"I've been disappointed by SAP's lack of progress so far on pulling those spend management assets into one cohesive solution, and [SAP Ariba's] user experience is so long in the tooth it borders on being a legacy product," he said. "But I think Wookey is a great hire to address these issues. If SAP can do it, they might be able to achieve both the intuitive UX we associate with true cloud products and more combined functionality that most competitors can offer by including Fieldglass and Concur."

Dana Gardner, principal analyst, Interarbor SolutionsDana Gardner

It's important that SAP does well with the SAP Intelligent Spend and Business Network unit because the areas of supply chain management and external talent management are of critical concern to businesses right now, agreed Dana Gardner, president and principal analyst at Interarbor Solutions, an enterprise computing analysis firm based in Gilford, N.H.

"SAP has an enormous opportunity to take its cloud-first, intelligent spend business to the next level as businesses the world over seek digital transformation, actionable insights and further automation across these essential business functions," Gardner said. "These are both areas of huge stress and opportunity, and SAP cannot afford to miss the unique chance to deeply ingrain itself into these companies as they transition to the new normal."

Wookey could be the right choice to lead these efforts for the company, he said.

"[Wookey's] record and level of experience are top-notch, both in technical and business strengths, and his Salesforce and Oracle time will be very pertinent," Gardner said. "SAP now needs to execute and provide an aura of stability and innovation leadership, especially as it further integrates business insights for the benefit of customer outcomes and optimization, and now's the time to deliver on that."

Predrag Jakovljevic, principal industry analyst, Technology Evaluation CentersPredrag Jakovljevic

Wookey's previous experience with Salesforce and, before that, running Fusion Apps at Oracle may help SAP mainstream the spend management pieces, but time will tell on that, said Predrag Jakovljevic, principal industry analyst at Technology Evaluation Centers, an enterprise consulting firm in Montreal.

"He is very seasoned, but the thing is whether the [Intelligent Spend and Business Network unit] might be a different animal than ERP and CRM," Jakovljevic said. "On another hand, SAP may be looking to integrate [spend management] more into the core, and the previous leaders might not have shared this view. Wookey might have a better acumen for that."

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