SAP's co-CEO Bill McDermott will become sole CEO of the software giant when Jim Hagemann Snabe moves up to the company's supervisory board in May 2014 - three years before his contract was due to expire.
Snabe, who is only 47, will step down from day-to-day management after a 20-year career at SAP. He cited personal reasons for stepping aside as CEO. McDermott, whose contract also runs until 2017, and Snabe were appointed in February 2010.
"We have done great things since then, got through the global economic crisis and jointly with the employees and the management board made SAP a highly innovative and profitable company again," Snabe told the Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung newspaper. [in German]
However, SAP has been struggling to develop a coherent strategy to deal with the rise of cloud computing - beyond acquiring a number of up-and-coming companies. Indeed, SAP has spent more than $14bn on acquisitions since they were appointed joint CEOs. This includes $6.4bn on Ariba ($4.3bn) and SuccessFactors ($2.1bn) alone.
Although sales growth has slowed recently, Snabe pointed to SAP's Hana in-memory database as one of the new drivers of growth, alongside cloud.
Philip Adams, chairman of the UK and Ireland SAP User Group, said that it was a "shame" that Snabe would be vacating his role. "We are pleased he'll be moving onto the supervisory board as he's been a great customer advocate and has had huge passion for making sure SAP delivers the best possible products to us," he said.
"He is from the same mould as [SAP co-founder] Henning Kagermann when it comes to focus on product and the customer... During their joint tenure Jim has been seen as the product guy and Bill as the sales guy, so it will be interesting to see if further changes are made to ensure there continues to be the same level of focus on product and customer value.
"Clearly there are always challenges, such as those we have raised around licensing. However with Jim's knowledge, expertise and experience retained on the supervisory board and Bill at the top, we hope SAP will continue to deliver value to its customers and prosper," concluded Adams.