SAP Hires New EVP to Lead Platform Ecosystem Development

News Analysis: SAP's announcement of Zia Yusuf as executive vice president of platform ecosystem development efforts brings up a question: What happened to George Paolini?

What happened to George Paolini? Thats the question that has slowly bubbled to the surface following SAPs announcement March 28 that it appointed Zia Yusuf as executive vice president to lead SAPs platform ecosystem development efforts.

Yusuf, who formerly lead SAPs Corporate Consulting Team, Corporate Strategy Management team and the Design Services Team, is taking over the top ecosystem building spot from Paolini, who held the position for just over a year.

SAP officials confirmed March 30 that Paolini left the company, but they did not say why.

A former Java community builder extraordinaire, Paolini came on board SAP on March 15, 2005, reporting to Executive Board member Shai Agassi.

His task: Build a world class partner program around the companys NetWeaver development platform, bringing in both ISVs [independent software vendors] and system integrators—key players in any platform building exercise.

He seemed well suited to the position. Back in the day when Java was a new technology Paolini—then at Sun Microsystems—was charged with building out a developer community around the fledgling technology.

Today, hes largely credited with turning Java into the worlds largest third-party developer ecosystem.

With SAP, however, Paolini said he faced a few more obstacles than he did with Java—particularly in dispelling the notion that SAP is proprietary.

"Thats a big piece of it," conceded Paolini in a March 23, 2005, interview with eWEEK.

"SAP was built on proprietary technology. Obviously the world has changed and SAP has done a good job of changing with it," said Paolini. "Now were going from a follower to a leader."

His plan was to model the build-out of SAPs NetWeaver developer community around much of his work with Java, with the exception that his focus would be around utilizing SAPs standards-based Enterprise Service Architecture while sort of obfuscating ABAP, the companys proprietary programming language.

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"The goal here is really to take the rich heritage of the company, which is all built on ABAP language, and extend that through a set of WSDL interfaces as a set of services that can be incorporated into a set of applications," said Paolini.

Beyond that, Paolinis efforts throughout 2005 were focused on bringing partners in to develop a services framework, gathering new ideas based on existing models (the work done by the Eclipse Foundation is a prime example) and build out two existing programs at SAP, its Developer Network and Powered by ISV NetWeaver program, for ISVs that want to build (and certify) applications on NetWeaver.

Joshua Greenbaum, principal of Enterprise Applications Consulting, said Paolinis exit is not for lack of success around the NetWeaver partner program, which is "absolutely inundated" with partner requests.

"Paolini had big plans and a big mandate—a dramatic and exciting one, too," said Greenbaum.

"The good news with Java is [Paolini] really did grow this amazing community. The bad news is it didnt really do a whole lot in terms of increasing Suns revenue. There may have been tension with that."

Or maybe the job needed some "inside chops," suggests Greenbaum.

Yusuf comes from SAPs internal consulting group, where he had a lot of responsibility around strategy.

He also reported directly to SAP CEO Henning Kagermann (in his new role Yusuf will report to Agassi).

Yusuf, who was not available for comment, is chartered with continuing to build an open ecosystem based on an industry standard design, officials said in a March 28 press release.

"SAP has built a strong ecosystem of more than 360,000 members in our SAP Developer Network, including more than 1,000 ISVs building software for the SAP NetWeaver platform," said Agassi, in a statement.

"Much of the credit goes to the ecosystem team led by George Paolini."

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