The board of directors at Infosys, a provider of consulting, technology, and outsourcing solutions, yesterday named Vishal Sikka, formerly a member of the executive board at SAP, as its new CEO and managing director. Sikka will take the reins from S. D. Shibulal, one of Infosys' founders, on August 1.
Infosys, which is headquartered in Bangalore, India, provides software development, maintenance, and independent validation services to companies in banking, finance, insurance, manufacturing, and other verticals.
"I am honored to lead Infosys, an iconic company built by pioneers in the technology industry," Sikka said in a statement. "Computing technology is reshaping every industry across every walk of life. We, at Infosys, have a unique opportunity to deliver breakthrough solutions that will bring greater value to our clients, employees, investors, and other stakeholders."
At SAP, Sikka was responsible for all products, from traditional and cloud-based applications to technology and platform products, including HANA, analytics, mobile, and middleware. He also led multiple initiatives to accelerate innovation and research at SAP.
Denis Pombriant, founder and managing principal at Beagle Research, likens the move by Infosys to when IBM brought on Lou Gerstner, the former head of RJR Nabisco, to lead the company in 1993. Gerstner, who remained as CEO of IBM until his retirement in 2002, is largely credited with single-handedly turning around IBM's fortunes.
"Everyone said [Gerstner's] experience at Nabisco was not relevant to IBM, the biggest tech company in the world at the time," Pombriant says. "They were right, too, except that Gerstner wasn't hired to maintain the status quo but to remake the company, and that he did."
Can Sikka do the same at Infosys? Pombriant isn't certain: "The guy has a great pedigree, including a Stanford Ph.D. and plenty of relevant experience at SAP," he says. "He needs to remake the company because the industry is in great upheaval. Perhaps he can, but I'd feel better if his resume had one entry about a lemonade stand."
Sikka, a native of India, got his start at Xerox's research labs prior to founding iBrain. His second startup, Bodha.com, focused on developing technology for non-invasive, service-based integration of enterprise applications and information. Sikka joined Peregrine Systems as area vice president for platform technologies following its acquisition of Bodha.com.
Sikka came to SAP in 2002 to head up its advanced technology group. Later he was promoted to senior vice president of architecture and chief software architect and then to chief technology officer.
In 2010, Sikka was named to a newly reconstituted executive board at SAP, from which he resigned on May 4 citing personal reasons. His departure spurried all kinds of rumors about a personnel shake-up at SAP, but nothing new on that front was announced at its Sapphire Now user conference in Orlando, Fla., last week
Despite the lack of apparent synergy between Infosys and SAP, Infosys executives are confident in their choice of a new leader.
"I am pleased with the selection of Dr. Vishal Sikka as our new CEO," said Executive Chairman N. R. Narayana Murthy, in a statement. "Vishal brings valuable experience as a leader of a large, global corporation. His illustrious track record and value system make him an ideal choice to lead Infosys."
"I believe that Vishal brings the vision and capability we need to take Infosys to greater heights," Shibulal said in a statement.