Sanjay Poonen brings his extensive executive history to a new analytics role at SAP.Sanjay Poonen has always seized challenges where he has found them, and he apparently has encountered no shortage of opportunities. Today, as the newly minted SVP and general manager of analytics at SAP, the youthful executive continues to build on an already impressive resume. A first-generation immigrant from Bangalore, India, Poonen came to America to study at Dartmouth and eventually earned his MBA from Harvard Business School. Along the way, he parlayed his education and background into a career that spans several well-known software corporations. From Microsoft, where he worked on early iterations of the Exchange platform, Poonen took a strategy role at Taligent, (spun off by Apple and IBM) where he learned, he says, "The lessons of a startup with great talent and a less-than-clear market focus." He went on to become one of the founders of AlphaBlox, which was, in turn, bought by IBM. Poonen gained greater visibility in his three years at Informatica, where he rose to become SVP of worldwide marketing. Following two years at VERITAS, where he witnessed the largest software merger in history, Poonen was drawn back to the data business, which he professes to be his calling. Just eight weeks into his tenure at SAP, DM Review editorial director Jim Ericson sat down for a chat with the well-traveled executive.
DMR: How did all of your experiences lead you to decide to join SAP? SP: In part, I thought back to my experience at Informatica. Although we were on the pioneering edge and pushing what I believe was a state-of-the-art product for analytics, we just did not have the go-to-market presence that a larger company like SAP has today. Although we built a good product, if large companies like SAP got their act together, it was going to be very, very hard for the standalone players in analytics, largely because analytics is too tied to the core business process. It can't be treated as a bolt-on application. So, it was the inflection point of the technology at SAP becoming more mature, and my sense that SAP could win by what I call mass and class. By "mass," I mean the weight of our customers and our 60 percent market share. By "class," I mean two things, the first being the products and technology SAP began to develop in the last two or three years that were starting to become best of breed in many areas. The other part of the class aspect was the team that Leo [Apotheker] and Shai [Agassi] had developed, with Leo on the sales side and Shai on the product side. This was also attracting many of the most talented industry people I had met from Siebel, PeopleSoft, Oracle and others. We have got a big plan ahead of us, and I'm happy to play a part in orchestrating it.
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