Partners Cheer Google's New Solutions-Oriented Channel Approach

The day before Google's Cloud Next 2017 Conference, new channel chief Bertrand Yansouni and other Google execs hosted partners at an off-site summit in San Francisco. During those sessions earlier this week, they outlined a new approach to how Google will work with its channel, one encompassing investments in product, sales and enablement programs and encouraging a mindset geared to comprehensive solutions, not individual products.

The new "unified approach" breaks down channel silos by rewarding partners for selling the whole Google Cloud stack, a change that was overdue, Yansouni told CRN. Previously "partners and sales agents were aligned by products, not accounts and solutions," he said.

Partners are elated with the new philosophy, telling CRN it aligns with how enterprise customers actually look to purchase technology. Google's program changes illustrate that, after some stumbles, the consumer-tech powerhouse is starting to understand the critical enterprise market.

[Related: Google Leverages Its Consumer Tech To Bulk Up Enterprise Cloud Services]

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"There's a really positive change that's afoot," Aric Bandy, president of Agosto, a Minneapolis, Minn.-based Premier partner, told CRN.

Google has tweaked a compensation model that could, in some scenarios, fail to provide financial parity to sales reps when delivering deals to the channel. Field agents no longer can be better compensated for taking customers direct, Yansouni told CRN, which eliminates any potential for channel conflict.

To further encourage the solutions-focused approach, Google introduced four new specialization credentials that partners can earn to validate specific skills. It also launched a revamped partner directory that makes it easier for partners to promote their expertise, as well as a new engineering team that advises partners on large engagements.

The "unified approach" assigns Google's sales reps to accounts instead of products. And the cloud operator will tabulate all revenue across the portfolio when assessing whether a partner rises to Premier status, Yansouni said.

Rajesh Abhyankar, CEO of Princeton, N.J.-based Google Premier partner MediaAgility, told CRN that change in tier qualification should be warmly welcomed by partners.

"When we heard they'd be deciding Premier tier on combined partner revenue on all products, our initial reaction was it's fantastic," he said. "For us Google saying there's only one Premier tier, sell any of these products and meet the quota, means an easier path to achieve that status."

MediaAgility has always approached engagements with a broad solutions mindset, looking to drive profitability by solving business process challenges. Now Google's channel structure is aligned with that approach, he said.

The new compensation-neutrality model for sales agents demonstrates the new channel leadership's commitment to avoiding any potential conflict with partners, Abhyankar added.

Simon Margolis, director of cloud platform at SADA Systems, a Premier partner based in Los Angeles, said the changes are significant, even for partners that won't be directly affected.

"It’s the messaging that we are listening to," Margolis told CRN.

As one of Google's largest partners, SADA doesn't worry about achieving Premier status and securing better margins through that designation. But "it shows us where their head's at," Margolis said. "Unifying the program, that’s music to SADA's ears. This is how you approach enterprises."

"These guys actually understand what it takes to build a healthy ecosystem," Bandy, of Agosto, said of Diane Greene, the former VMware CEO who now leads Google Cloud, and the many former VMware execs she has recruited to Google, including Yansouni.

The changes they just introduced represent the third or fourth evolution of Google's approach to partners, Bandy said.

"It's what Microsoft has been doing forever, it's what Microsoft partners have been doing forever, it's about truly understanding the business and bringing to bear all that Google can offer to solve those business problems," Bandy said.

Partners that will still be around in 18 months are those that will make that pivot, Bandy said.

The partner engineering teams are another sign that Google recognized it's "connected at the hip" with partners, Bandy said. In the exploding market, "there's more demand than supply when it comes to deep competence and industry expertise" so Google has to work with partners in fulfilling customer needs.

And the partner directory upgrades make it easier to identify partners with deep skill sets, further demonstrating Google is focused on domain expertise.

Back when Google's channel was primarily focused on Apps, later rebranded G Suite, there was no need for a lot of partner differentiation, Bandy told CRN.

"In GCP that’s different, we all have different competencies," he said.

For that reason, in addition to revamped certifications, Google has introduced four partner specializations: infrastructure, application development, data analytics and machine learning.

For a company like Agosto that has deep expertise in advanced technologies like Internet of Things and machine learning, earning specializations will help win those types of engagements, Bandy said.

"Customers recognize technical proficiency," said Vanessa Simmons, director of business development at Pythian.

That's why the Ottawa-based Premier partner has already qualified for the Data Analytics specialization, Simmons said, which "differentiates our expertise and sets us at the front of the pack among the growing Google partner ecosystem."

Google Cloud is doing more than ever to build their partner ecosystem, she told CRN.

More changes are coming, Yansouni told CRN, across requirements in the programs, revenue targets to achieve Premier status, and certification requirements.