Google CEO: VARs Are 'Fundamental' To Search Giant's Strategy

Google Chairman and CEO Eric Schmidt said that solution providers are "fundamental" to the search giant's strategy of bringing technology breakthroughs to businesses of all sizes.

Google partners, meanwhile, said the search giant's strategic focus on the channel is paying off in dramatic sales gains for them.

In a brief interview with CRN after an appearance at the MIT Media Lab in Cambridge, Mass., Friday, Schmidt said that the company's strategy to reach billions of users depends on solution providers.

Asked about Google's channel strategy, Schmidt pointed to the company's Google Apps product line. "Look at our Google Apps products and look at what we are doing for small business. We have everything that [solution providers] need now," said Schmidt.

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Allen Falcon, CEO of Horizon Info Services, a Westborough, Mass.-based solution provider and Google partner, said his Google Apps and Google Postini services focus propelled a 350 percent sales boost in the third quarter of 2010 versus the third quarter 2009.

Next: Services Google Is Not Able To Offer

Falcon said the channel is ’absolutely’ strategic to Google, bringing in new business that Google would not be able to get on its own.

’As a channel partner, we are able to structure deals and offer services -- before, during and after the sale and migration -- that Google is not providing and not planning on providing,’ Falcon said. ’A few examples include instructor-led, Web-based training and Tier 2 end-user support by phone and email.’

And as Google continues to take a stronger hold in the cloud space, Falcon said Horizon Info Services has found Google to be responsive and to have strong tools available for partners, which are important components to partner success. And if an issue does arise, Google takes swift action.

’We have good access to channel managers, marketing and support resources. While we occasionally run into logistical issues, we are able to get these resolved promptly,’ he said.

Next: Google's Channel Program Is Maturing

Falcon added that Google’s channel program is still maturing, and he expects it to improve as it grows. ’Google's channel is still young, so we expect and see services, tools and resources, to continue to improve,’ he said. ’We have access to joint marketing programs and activities that help us identify prospects and close business.’

Cloud Sherpas, an Atlanta-based Google Apps and Google Enterprise partner, said in just two-and-a-half years the company has migrated more than 400,000 end-users to Google Apps. The company also prides itself on zero percent churn.

Michael Cohn, vice president of marketing and product management for Cloud Sherpas, said that kind of sales growth shows just how integral the channel has become to Google. Cloud Sherpas also leverages Google’s Apps Marketplace to offer its SherpaTools software, which adds IT management functions for administrators and adds new capabilities to Google Apps like directory management, user management and access control.

’Foremost, Google recognized relatively early that to reach midmarket and enterprise customers, they are better served by staying focused on building the platform while allowing partners like Cloud Sherpas to deal with the deployment challenges unique to each customer engagement,’ Cohn said. ’Second, we've seen first-hand Google's commitment to the channel in terms of personnel. The size of the Google Enterprise organization that we interact with on a regular basis continues to grow as the market for Google Apps booms.’

Next: A Cache Of Tools To Help Partners Win Deals

Cohn noted that Google has amassed a cache of tools for partners to access to help them win deals, make sales and boost business.

’Google makes a number of resources available to assist partners with marketing, sales and deployments; many of these resources are available to all resellers on a public portal site,’ Cohn said. ’For strategic partners like Cloud Sherpas, however, we have a dedicated Google Apps channel manager that helps us navigate the growing organization and unique customer challenges. Our partner manager is our champion inside Google and regularly helps us get things done.’

One area where Google has proven its channel matters is in its attention to partner feedback, Cohn said. Cloud Sherpas is a member of the Google Apps Advisory Board, so it has seen first-hand some of the requests from partners, including improving sales processes, internal systems and marketing support. Goggle takes each request to heart and offers solutions swiftly, usually in a quarter’s time, he said.

’If there's one thing we'd say Google could do to help the channel, it would be to continue marketing the Google Apps story in a broad sense,’ Cohn said. ’Billboards and back page magazine ads are a great start, but we still find customers that don't understand exactly what Google Apps is. There are many success stories on the platform that still need to be told.’

Steven Burke contributed to this article.