SAP exec behind HANA quits in a hurry

The SAP(s sap) board member credited for guiding development of the company’s HANA business analytics product, has left the company for personal reasons, SAP said Sunday.

The news of Dr. Vishal Sikka’s exit came in the second paragraph of a press release announcing the ascension of Robert Enslin and Bernd Leukert to the software giant’s executive board.

Former SAP HANA executive Dr. Vishal Sikka

Former SAP HANA executive Dr. Vishal Sikka  (photo courtesy of Gregor Wolf.)

Given that SAP invokes HANA as a huge success every chance it gets — in that way, HANA is to SAP as Watson is to IBM — Sikka’s departure is noteworthy.

In a statement, SAP co-CEOs Bill McDermott and Jim Hagemann Snabe said that the HANA platform “established as the global standard, its roadmap is in full effect.”

Still, less than a month ago, an SAP PR agency pitching a meeting with Sikka described him to me as:

“the mastermind behind SAP’s transformation as a cloud company and he is responsible for driving all innovation globally. He led the development of SAP’s in-memory database platform, SAP HANA, and transformed the whole organization, bringing in new concepts such as design thinking and an increasing startup culture in a 40-year-old, 65,000+ employee company.”

Enslin has been with SAP since 1992, his most recent role as head of sales and services. Leukert, came aboard two years later, and has been charged with leading development of the HANA-based SAP Business Suite and will now lead global development for HANA.

In a note late Sunday, Nomura Securities Analyst Rick Sherlund said he suspected that Sikka wanted to be co-CEO and may have been unhappy “that his role as head of R&D may have been somehow encroached upon by the new announcements.” Sherlund also pointed out this is the time of year SAP, based in Waldorf, Germany, makes management changes. McDermott is expected to be named sole CEO of SAP later this month.

Sikka, Sherlund continued, was “highly regarded as a visionary and driver of the HANA architecture and his departure is viewed by us with some concern on the architectural leadership of this strategic product.” The engineering team remains deep provided there are no more departures, he said.

SAP has seen success with HANA but is still locked in an intense rivalry with Oracle(s orcl) in enterprise software writ large and with a bevy of new startup rivals in real-time analytics as well.

Sikka photo courtesy of Flickr user Gregor Wolf