SAP loses Aussie MD Ebbeck


news The long-serving leader of German software giant SAP’s Australian business, Tim Ebbeck, has unexpectedly resigned, with the company currently conducting an executive search to find a replacement.

The company revealed Ebbeck’s departure in a brief statement issued yesterday afternoon. “Tim Ebbeck (ANZ MD) has resigned after eight years with SAP – the last four of which he served as leader of the ANZ business,” it said. “Tim made a significant contribution to SAP’s growth in Australia and New Zealand, and has indicated he’ll be taking an extended break after many years of hard work, before embarking on his next endeavour.”

“SAP has extended its appreciation to Tim for his contribution to the business over the years, wishing him every success for the future. We are currently undertaking an executive search to find a suitable replacement. Shane Grobler, chief operating officer, SAP ANZ will act as country manager in the interim.” The resignation is believed to have taken effect last week on Friday 6 January.

Ebbeck’s LinkedIn profile states that he joined SAP as its local chief operating officer in February 2003, after a lengthy history as the South Pacific (including Australia) chief financial officers of Unisys and Compaq. He was appointed as the local CEO and managing director of the company in January 2008, following the departure of then-local chief Alan Hyde. Immediately prior to the role, Ebbeck had been senior vice president and chief commercial officer of SAP’s Asia-Pacific and Japan division.

Ebbeck’s time leading SAP has seen it make some major wins in Australia. The highest profile was probably the German giant’s success in breaking Australia’s core banking IT market wide open through winning a substantial deal which has seen its software placed at the heart of the Commonwealth Bank’s core banking replacement project — an initiative which has a total value of over $1 billion. SAP is working on the project with partner Accenture.

However SAP has also recently signed deals with a number of other players — the National Australia Bank for one, as well as companies like Goodman Fielder, Fortescue, AGL Energy and government departments such as Queensland Rail and the Department of Defence.

Perhaps SAP’s biggest issues in Australia during the period have been the ongoing payroll systems debacle at Queensland Health, which has seen many public servants go without their pay for periods. However, a report into the effort made no specific mention of SAP — blaming the problems primarily on poor governance within the State Government rather than the software used for the project.

SAP Australia’s other major struggle during the period has been fighting off the challenge posed to its market share (along with Oracle, SAP dominates much of the business software market) by Software as a Service players like SAP has traditionally preferred the on-premises deployment model, but over the past year has taken its first steps into SaaS or ‘cloud’ hosted applications in Australia, courtesy of partnerships with companies like Oxygen and Fujitsu, and even launching its SaaS Business ByDesign product locally in August last year.

During his tenure as leader of the company’s local arm, Ebbeck has taken a relatively low profile; declining a number of interview requests and rarely appearing before the media.

Perhaps his most memorable appearance in public came in March 2011, when the executive broke ranks dramatically with other leaders in Australia’s technology sector, declaring Federal Labor’s National Broadband Network project a “wasted investment” because it doesn’t focus on wireless technology. “Frankly, I am tired of all the discussion being focused on the broadband network,” said Ebbeck at the time. “It is not the most important of these infrastructure requirements, as supportive as I am of ubiquitous broadband with a strong wireless focus. I contend that water and transport infrastructure are the top priorities out of the list of seven.”

Ebbeck’s comments appeared to fall in line with other comments he has made regularly on his Twitter account, sharply criticising major Labor initiatives and the Greens while praising Coalition figures such as Shadow Communications Minister Malcolm Turnbull and NSW Premier Barry O’Farrell. Ebbeck has been especially vocal in his opposition to the Labor policy popularly known as ‘the carbon tax’.

The executive’s sometimes blunt style in commenting on issues on Twitter has also occasionally earned him sharp rejoinders from other figures — such as San Francisco-based tech analyst Ray Wang, who asked Ebbeck who he was, after the SAP MD told the analyst he was planning to stop following him on Twitter due to “too much personal rubbish” being posted.

It’s not clear just yet what Ebbeck’s next move might be. However, the executive has set up a new company, Ebbeck Holdings Pty Ltd, as well as changing the name of his Twitter account. “Embarking on move from PC to Mac … hmmm … brave?” he wrote yesterday.

Image credit: SAP


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