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Google Cloud partners key to 2020 enterprise expansion

In this Q&A, Kirsten Kliphouse, president of Google Cloud North America sales, discusses her top priorities and opportunities for channel partners in 2020.

Google Cloud partners will play an increasingly important role in the vendor's enterprise ambitions for 2020 and beyond, according to Kirsten Kliphouse, president of Google Cloud North America sales.

Over the past year, Google Cloud laid the groundwork for a considerable push into the channel. Google Cloud appointed Thomas Kurian as its CEO in January 2019 to advance a new customer-focused agenda. Among the vendor's channel-friendly 2019 releases was Anthos, a hybrid and multi-cloud container environment. In July, the company introduced the Google Cloud Partner Advantage Program, which consolidated a number of channel resources under an overarching framework. Google Cloud now plans to triple the size of its organization over the next two years, while pursuing a go-to-market strategy that tightly aligns with Google Cloud partners, Kliphouse said.

SearchITChannel spoke with Kliphouse about her 2020 priorities at Google's New York City office. The following interview has been edited for clarity and condensed.

What does the Google Cloud partner business look like today, broadly speaking?

Kirsten Kliphouse: At the highest level of our partner team, we have … our transformational partners that are helping organizations build out a digital transformation agenda and a strategy. Those would be partnerships like HCL, Deloitte, Accenture, Atos. And we have partner managers that work with those directly to not only build up and increase their capabilities, but also to ensure that we have go-to-market [strategies] with them for customers.

Kirsten KliphouseKirsten Kliphouse

An example would be Atos. ... We work with [Atos] not only in our largest customers to transform them, but [Atos has] some unique capabilities around … Oracle workloads. [We] work together with Atos to [support] customers that have an Oracle backend or an Oracle platform and allow them to leverage the best of Google with Oracle, with Atos. If you look at what we are doing with companies like Deloitte … we are doing some industry-based solutions with them like in retail and healthcare.

We have a whole bunch of partners that ... work with us collectively on the platform that are technology partners [like Cisco and MongoDB]. We also work with [solution developers such as ISVs] to work on top of the Google Cloud Platform, so the customer … gets the solution they want and it brings Google Cloud Platform with it, it is certified and it works well, and we have a joint go-to-market. We underpin that with a set of regionalized integrators and partners that now bring specific expertise, which is really around our channel partner program. And then we have the reseller camp.

Historically, Google Cloud hasn't been known as one that had a lot of partner business. I would say the momentum in the partner business is tremendous. It's incredible the amount of work that the partners are doing with our end customers.

What are your top priorities for 2020?

Kliphouse: First and foremost is building out our capability to be able to deliver a world-class [enterprise] sales organization … to our customers. It is not just sales or not just technical engineering or support services. It includes partners. So how do we scale and build out this direct engagement with our customers together as a team? We are going to triple my team over the next couple of years. That also means a lot of partner resources and partners coming on board and [ensuring] we drive that in a very customer-friendly way and … an inclusive way with all our partners. So that's the first thing.

What customers want us to do is solve a business problem, and that's a much different kind of sale than just driving a sale of compute and storage.
Kirsten KliphousePresident of sales, Google Cloud North America

Momentum is a [top priority]. How do we drive these right kinds of wins with partners by solving customers' business problems? We are not after just lift and shift and making sure customers have compute and storage available. What customers want us to do is solve a business problem, and that's a much different kind of sale than just driving a sale of compute and storage. And those wins that you see out in the market are game-changing wins … where we are driving [technologies] like data and analytics, machine learning and artificial intelligence. Vodafone taking its whole data and analytics platform on top of Google is an example of how we are going to transform their business. Think about what we are doing with Mayo Clinic and how we are transforming healthcare by delivering different sets of insights, businesses and solutions that enable us to think about patient care as well as caregivers differently and research and all those things.

Our big third priority for me is the partners, because we can't do it by ourselves. So, I [am focused on] activating this partner ecosystem and how … we think about it not only globally but nationally and regionally.

What are your top challenges?

Kliphouse: Scaling is one of the biggest opportunities for this business. When you are tripling the size of your business very quickly, ensuring that everyone understands and feels part of that organization … is one of the leadership challenges that I have. And it is one of the things that I actually feel most fortunate about at the same time. With our new CEO, Thomas Kurian, coming on board in January, he has been focused on making sure the organization is set up not only to continue to deliver deep product expertise in engineering, which is expected [from Google], but [also] building the same level of capability around customer [focus], and customer [focus] includes partners in that.

So, we have a very strong understanding of that mission. But this is where I really rely on the internals of Google and the strong culture that the company has. We are very focused on everyone understanding the culture and the values of the company, [such as] respecting the user, respecting the opportunity and respecting each other, across every line inside the organization. Every employee knows that, whether you are in Google Cloud or you are sitting over in YouTube. And those values enable us to [go] after scale, because we already know how to work together, because we all are centered on the same values. Our partners know what those values are all about, too. I have confidence that I can reach the scale challenges because we know how to work together and we know how to respect each other and we know how to think about our responsibility for the opportunity.

So that part I feel good about. But, still, when you are hiring on three times the amount of teams that fast, bringing them all in and making sure that culture still occurs internally … we also have to make sure we stay customer-focused at the same time. So that is what I am really working on as a team: keep the engineering talent and the focus, build the customer empathy and the customer focus at the same time while we keep the Google-iness ... alive and well, because that is the key to our success.

On the Google Cloud partner opportunity

Kliphouse: We are at the beginning of this journey. This is the most exciting part about where we are in time. When you think about all the things that come along with a [customer's] transformation, it is not just about the technology. It is about the business, and it is about the people, and it is about the processes that have to come into play with the transformation. And so partners can do all of those things.

We know customers are moving to the cloud. It is no longer a question. In fact, if you think of five years out, the majority of the workloads will start to be in the cloud. I would say today we are just beginning to get workloads, let alone having an entire set of workloads, scaled yet. Customers aren't there yet, and we are helping them get there. There are a few that are [there] if you think of companies like ... McKesson, Macy's and Target. Vodafone is a great example.

So, there is a starting point and then expand from there. How we create repeatability in [solutions] is what is going to be key going forward, [so that] partners can take the work that they have done at one bank and bring it to five more banks. That is the secret to how we help organizations reach value faster: How do we take the great work done at one client and leverage it with the other clients for partners?

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