Two months after the resignation of Shai Agassi, a driving force behind SAP's product strategy, the German software vendor has announced the appointment of its first chief technology officer.

Vishal Sikka, formerly senior vice president and chief software architect at SAP, will head the company's newly created the chief technology officer (CTO) role, responsible for ensuring a "clear and harmonised roadmap" for SAP's products, the company said. He will report to chief executive Henning Kagermann and be based in the US.

SAP felt it needed a CTO to oversee some broad changes that are underway at the company, including its renewed focus on the mid-market, the introduction of new on-demand products and the continued roll-out of NetWeaver and its service oriented architecture (SOA) strategy, said SAP spokesman Frank Hartmann.

"We thought it was necessary bearing in mind the strong strategic focus of such a role and the responsibilities he is going to bear," Hartmann said.

Sikka shouldn't be seen as a replacement for Agassi, whose responsibilities have been divided among several executives who report directly to Kagermann, although part of his job will overlap with Agassi's former duties, Hartmann said.

Agassi had been president of SAP's product and technology group and was credited with spearheading its NetWeaver and on-demand strategies. Once tipped as a future SAP chief executive, he resigned 1 April after SAP voted to keep Kagermann in that position until 2009.

SAP also recently lost another senior executive, Aliza Peleg, managing director of SAP Labs in the US, who will leave the business applications company by the end of June.

It wasn't immediately clear how Sikka's responsibilities as CTO will differ from those of his previous job, where he was responsible for SAP's roadmap and software architecture.

Before joining SAP, he was responsible for application development technologies at Peregrine Systems. He holds a doctorate in computer science from Stanford University and is based in SAP's Palo Alto office in California.