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SAP gains greatly from addition of Sybase CEO Chen

by Dave Hannon

September 7, 2010

By Dave Hannon, Insider Learning Network 

As the dust continues to settle on SAP’s Sybase acquisition, one of the clear benefits emerging for SAP is the addition of Sybase CEO John Chen, and in more ways than one.  

In the recent post-close press conference in Boston, SAP co-CEO Bill McDermott made a point to say that Sybase has, “a tremendous leader in John Chen, a technology luminary.” And perhaps no one at SAP knows that better than McDermott. According to a recent Bloomberg article, McDermott and Chen met more than 10 years ago and kept in touch over the years. In fact, it was McDermott who “popped the question” to Sybase (Chen’s words, not mine) during sales strategy sessions earlier this year.

But in addition to Chen’s leadership and vast technology expertise, SAP will benefit from Chen’s overseas experience and credentials. For example, McDermott recently told Bloomberg that China is a clear focus for SAP going forward and specifically mentioned that the “rich relationships” Chen has built in China will figure prominently in that plan. “The potential here is just thrilling, so we want to treat China as if it’s a second home,” McDermott said.

For Chen, a native of Hong Kong, China was his first home, so his knowledge and expertise will be invaluable as German giant SAP strives to do more business in China. Anyone that has done business of any kind in China understands that it has as much to do with relationships and culture as it does sales and marketing. Chen’s knowledge of and experience in the Chinese market goes well beyond selling software – he is a prominent voice among all CEOs on trade relations with China. He has testified before Congress on U.S.-China trade relations and in 2005 was appointed to President Bush’s Export Council.

Chen is also a proponent of companies leveraging the immense technology expertise emerging in countries like China for development. “Opening doors, not shutting them, is the key to maintaining our competitiveness,” Chen told CNBC last month. “Clearly, innovation is now happening elsewhere. Whereas we could once count on attracting the best and the brightest to our shores, now we have to go to the source.”

Chen’s emphasis on relationship-building is reflected in Sybase’s long list of technology partnerships, many of w hich SAP could benefit from directly or indirectly. Clearly, SAP has been a big proponent of partnerships with its Ecosystem concept. But if SAP has an ecosystem, Sybase has a galaxy. Check it out here. And more and more, software megafirms are looking at partnerships — and in some cases partnerships turned into acquisitions — for fast growth into new areas.

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