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SAP replaces head of key initiative

The Germany company swaps the leader of a program to migrate thousands of customers from aging versions of its business-management software to newer releases.

German software maker SAP has replaced an executive charged with leading the company's efforts to migrate thousands of customers from aging versions of its business-management applications to newer releases.

Thomas Bauer has taken charge of the program, replacing Bob Cummings, SAP spokesman Bill Wohl confirmed Friday. Cummings is still involved in the initiative and now reports to Bauer, Wohl said. Both men work from SAP's headquarters in Waldorf, Germany.

The leadership change comes as SAP discontinues the standard level of support for a number of older versions of its R/3 software. Half of SAP's nearly 19,000 customers were still on the older versions a year ago, and thousands remain on them today, Wohl said. The company is urging many of them to upgrade to a newer software packages, called MySAP ERP (enterprise resource planning), which it introduced more than a year ago. The company plans to phase out standard support for R/3 entirely within the next four to five years, he said.

Wohl downplayed the significance of the leadership change, refuting a report in the German edition of The Financial Times that linked the move to dissatisfaction over the group's progress. Wohl declined to discuss the reason for it and said such changes are routine at the company.

"We're very satisfied with where we are," Wohl said of the initiative.

The company launched the migration initiative in 2002. It's one in a number of similar programs that pull together sales, development and service experts within the company to achieve certain strategic goals, Wohl said. Another example is the company's customer relationship management effort, which is aimed at helping SAP overtake rival Siebel Systems in that market and which has been under way for three years.