What would SAP Hybris be like without Carsten Thoma, the executive who has led the customer engagement and commerce (CEC) platform maker for the last 20 years?

It's not a hypothetical question. Thoma, who co-founded the company with some of his college buddies when he was in his early 20s, told CMSWire he will be leaving by the end of the year.

"It is the right time (to go)," he said during an exclusive interview late last week. Thoma noted he is leaving behind a strong CEC portfolio — Hybris Commerce Suite, Cloud for Customer, Hybris Marketing, YaaS (Hybris as a Service) and (coming soon) Gigya — and a world-class team that is committed to making customer's lives easier.

"The company is in in a great position, we have a strong foundation, a pipeline full of innovation, and great traction," he said, and then added, "I would not be leaving if that were not the case."

A Long and Amazing Run

"It has been a long and amazing run," said Thoma, acknowledging that it has also, at times, been a "very rocky road."

In the case of the latter, he was more than likely referring to his decision to completely rewrite Hybris with a microservices architecture based on Cloud Foundry.

At the time, the Hybris team was practically "scalded" by SAP brass for doing so, Constellation Research analyst Holger Mueller told CMSWire not long after Hybris-as-a-Service (YaaS) was launched.

It's worth noting that Thoma pointed not only Hybris, but SAP as a whole, in the right direction. Cloud Foundry is now the basis of SAP's highly successful Hana Cloud Platform (HCP) as well.

Why Leave SAP Hybris Now?

Inquiring minds and SAP Hybris customers will want to know whether Thoma’s exit correlates to any rifts he may have recently had with leadership at SAP, which acquired Hybris in 2013 for an estimated $1 to $1.5 billion.

Thoma insisted that wasn't the case. He said SAP was the right home for Hybris. He then pointed out that the world's third largest software company has made a very successful move to the cloud and into the services business.

"What SAP has accomplished is simply breathtaking," he said.

Learning Opportunities

So could Thoma's resignation be tied to the expiration of a continuity agreement he made when he sold his firm to SAP?

Thoma said "no," then expounded that he was calling-in for the interview with CMSWire from Italy where he was about to get married, noting that he will soon become a father as well.

"There will never be a better time than now," he said, explaining that this is literally the beginning of a next chapter for him.

Succession Plans

The question remains, who will take over for Thoma?

Thoma insisted he didn't know, then added that "the bases are loaded." The next SAP Hybris president could be a Hybris insider, an SAP outsider or someone from within the mothership.

"A new accountability model will need to be applied," he noted, but that will apparently happen on someone else's watch.

"I have left my imprint on the company," he said.