Q&A: Google Apps Director Dishes On Reseller Program


How is the Google Apps reseller program progressing and how effective has it been in reaching more midmarket clients?

Cho: Our efforts are continuing; we're about a year [into the reseller program]. We've had thousands of firms from small businesses up to large enterprise [solution providers] interested in working with us.

The midmarket is an important area of focus. We have a number of productive markets and have put in productive efforts there. We have a foundational set of tools and processes and staff in place and we're augmenting on all fronts.

How many partners do you have now and, if you can't give a number, maybe a percentage growth you've seen with Google Apps business through the channel over the last year? And can you break it out in terms of small, midsize and large end users?

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Cho: We haven't articulated that and we're not likely to explicitly give you a channel share. What I would say is we're about a year into it. We've seen good growth in all segments. The amount of business that we are doing with small, midmarket and large enterprises continues to increase at a fundamental level.

We have strong business ambitions to serve all small, medium and large businesses. Yet it's not part of our design to build a massively scaled direct-selling and services capability. The essential approach we have is to work with partners to scale the business. Our customers need it.

What are some of the attributes that you have in your partner base and what do you look for when bringing on new solution provider partners?

Cho: There are trends [that partners have]. Some may demonstrate a more extreme and complete nature of those trends. One is those who are already delivering around cloud and SaaS applications. Another is having a critical orientation in services capability. It's essential that authorized resellers can provide services to get customers up and running. It's not simply a resell. [We want] partners who are in managed services vs. one-time hardware or software sales.

In terms of the firms in the market, we find a range of people working effectively with us. There are cloud computing pure-plays who formed and who are completely devoted to provide consulting services around cloud-based applications.

In the midmarket and smaller VAR community, those who come from a more traditional footprint, it's a mixed adoption. There are those ahead of curve who are putting in SaaS capabilities and others who are dipping their toe in the water.

Next: Google Apps' Small Business Play?

Do you see Google Apps attracting more small businesses, or midsize or large enterprises? How about newer firms? As more small and new companies start to grow, it seems as if they wouldn't look to build out an IT infrastructure, particularly in this economy, when they can look to the cloud first.

Cho: It's not just newer firms. A lot of what we are seeing around Google Apps is taking advantage of the messaging and calendar side. Firms are in different states in terms of their openness in adopting cloud-based solutions. Folks who are on older on-premise solutions that are creaking and no longer sufficient and need a significant upgrade to on-premise are looking at cloud-based [solutions]. But there's not a demographic in the size of the firm. We have a number of larger enterprises, from Genentech to Motorola to the city of Washington, D.C., the city of Los Angeles, Hamilton Beach. There are older-style firms and more progressive firms.

What messaging do you have for partners or customers who still have concerns about the security of a cloud-based solution?

Cho: In terms of a fundamental orientation toward having concerns of putting things out in the cloud, of reliability and security, we can demonstrate that solutions we provide are more reliable and secure than premise-based solutions they have. But more than that, the application set and functionality and speed of innovation in the cloud is dramatically improved. What we provide today for standard functionality around e-mail provides corporations with everything they need, and you can add in our ability to integrate instant messaging and chat and video chat and shared docs.

Has your reseller program matured to the point where you are ready for tiered levels or differences that provide discounts based on how much business they do with Google?

Cho: We are continuing to develop the program. We are listening closely to our top partners. We are enhancing things we do in terms of marketing materials, sales training, what we provide in terms of support and what we provide in terms of technical training. We haven't announced any fundamental new commercial changes, in terms of tiering and so on. We continue to listen and to grow the program. We continue to provide the additional tools that make sense to them.

What sorts of things have you learned over the last year that you have incorporated into your channel relationships to improve them?

Cho: At a high level, we need to listen to individual requests. One of the things we can provide is a systematic way to get feedback from the partners. We are providing in different ways steps toward syndicating the capabilities that we have. Meaning that, for example, we have a lot of content and Google Apps in midsize and large companies. We can codify and capture that and put it out to the partners. We're doing a better job of packaging and pushing out to partners our best practices from our direct interactions with customers.