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SAP America chief boasts unit's progress

About a year after the leader of SAP America had to lay down the groundwork for a turnaround strategy, Chief Executive Wolfgang Kemna is singing an upbeat tune.

ORLANDO, Fla.--About a year after the leader of SAP America had to lay down the groundwork for a turnaround strategy at the German software heavyweight's U.S. subsidiary, Chief Executive Wolfgang Kemna is singing an upbeat tune.

Kemna emphasized that SAP America has made moves to improve its situation during the last year, particularly surrounding one of its biggest challenges--employee retention and recruitment.

"Last year, employee turnaround was just below 20 percent," Kemna said during a news conference here at the company's annual trade show. "We brought that (figure) down this year to below 10 percent."

SAP America lost a number of top-level executives last year, including Chief Financial Officer John Milana and President Jeremy Coote. Looking back, Kemna said those were tougher times.

"We've been faced with a number of challenges, particularly in the United States over the past 12 months," Kemna said to a crowded room of analysts and reporters. "Employee loyalty was not where we wanted it to be. We were losing a lot of good people to other companies...We needed to change big time."

The company has since hired a number of new executives to head different business units at the subsidiary. Michael Park, a former executive at SAP rival Siebel Systems, was brought on to lead the unit's customer relationship management division. Along with providing applications that handle a company's manufacturing, human resources and financials, SAP offers software that manages customer service, sales and marketing.

Kemna also used the news conference to highlight some of SAP's achievements during the past year, including its efforts to rearrange certain business units so that sales force and top-level executives could be closer to the customer.

Just last month, SAP America opened a new research facility at its headquarters in Newtown Square, Pa., which Kemna reaffirmed as a major expansion effort for the company. He used it as another example that SAP America has been busy working to learn more from its customers and partners.

The SAP Global Solution Center serves as a meeting place where SAP developers and experts can join customers, partners and other industry leaders to create new software products for individual companies and target certain industries. Partners including IBM, Compaq Computer and Hewlett-Packard are participating in introductory projects at the center, which is slated to be completed by the end of the year.