John Chen leaves Sybase, SAP doesn’t look back

    By: Mr. Adrian Bridgwater on Oct 30, 2012

    John Chen has made an inevitable exit leaving his role as Sybase CEO this week.

    Many from the Sybase camp will have mixed emotions and feelings about his departure, less so within SAP where his role has been more functional in terms of the transition of Sybase technologies to the new parent.

    Highly popular with his own staff and analysts, Chen had arguably less time for real users.

    His attitude towards members of the press was also lacking; downgrading press below the analyst community on numerous occasions.

    Change of Sybase Image

    After 15 years in his role as a “corporate turnaround specialist” Chen made some shrewd moves to try and shrug off the perpetual “what ever happened to Sybase” comments that have followed the firm for several years. The US $5.8 billion purchase of SAP in 2010 has arguably done more to address that challenge inside just two years now.

    TW2008_JohnChen_keynote.jpegChen told Bloomberg news, “It’s time for me to relinquish the ownership of this franchise.”

    “I always thought about this like marrying off your daughter. You know it’s the right thing to do, you just want to hold on a little more -- but it’s time to move on to other challenges,” said Chen.

    What he perhaps meant to say was: SAP asked me sign a contract confirming that I would stay on a full two years to oversee the technology transition and then I was free to take my payoff and leave.

    But credit where credit is due, Chen took the company from four consecutive years of net losses (and with the movement to focus on mobile technology) to a point when it had recorded profitable figures for a full seven years.

    Before Chen: BC

    Let’s also remember that pre-Chen (or should that be BC), analyst firm Gartner Inc. predicted a 70 percent probability for “Sybase’s death” – perhaps that’s why Chen spent so much time focusing on analysts rather than the tech press during his tenure.

    Bloomberg also quotes SAP chief Bill McDermott, “Sybase was a very successful company on a standalone basis, but John had the temperament to see the dream of scaling the important idea of mobility to literally millions of people - - that’s where SAP came in. With [the addition of cloud software and real-time analytics] we think we’ve got the nexus of forces, and a lot of that came through the Sybase acquisition and John’s leadership.”

    While two other corporate acquisition chiefs have joined the SAP board: SuccessFactors founder Lars Dalgaard and Ariba CEO Bob Calderoni, John Chen never did so.

    Good luck in your next role John, just remember the users please.

    Released: October 30, 2012, 11:51 pm | Updated: March 22, 2014, 3:35 pm
    Keywords: Opinion News | John Chen




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