Channel Chief Bertrand Yansouni Is Leaving Google

Google channel chief Bertrand Yansouni is preparing to leave the Internet-services giant less than a year after he took the reins of the company's expanding partner program, Google confirmed Thursday.

Yansouni's resignation, first reported in tech news site The Information, comes at a critical time for the Mountain View, Calif.-based cloud provider, which is battling front-runners Amazon Web Services and Microsoft in an ultra-competitive cloud market.

Yansouni was recruited to the position of vice president for global partner sales and alliances in November by his former boss at VMware and current Google Cloud leader Diane Greene.

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Google channel partners told CRN they learned of Yansouni's impending departure in recent weeks.

When he came to Google from Cloudera, where he led the big data startup's partner program, Yansouni was immediately tasked with leveraging Google's expanding partner ecosystem to challenge Microsoft and Amazon for cloud dominance. That was a tricky assignment for the seasoned channel executive, given his new employer had less of a channel heritage than other enterprise tech vendors of its size and significance, and a tradition of playing by its own rules.

But Yansouni told CRN in an interview a few months into the job that he was surprised by the channel sophistication at Google.

"One thing I just didn't appreciate coming into Google Cloud is how much of a vibrant ecosystem of partners already exists and the amazing contributions they've made to the growth of the business. I feel sort of a responsibility to build on that," he said in March.

During his brief tenure, Yansouni did implement some changes that pleased partners.

One of his first goals was to break down silos in the program, he told CRN. He focused his team on encouraging partners to represent the entire Google stack, from its G Suite productivity apps, to Maps, Chrome, Android, and especially Google Cloud Platform.

To that end, Yansouni oversaw changes in Google's go-to-market organization that aligned sales agents more by accounts, instead of product lines.

Yansouni also eliminated an incentive in Google's compensation structure for salespeople to take deals direct – an element long derided by channel partners.

"It's a strong signal for our partners and for our field in terms of how serious we are about being a channel-friendly environment," Yansouni told CRN at the time.

Some partners told CRN they at times suspected Yansouni was slightly disillusioned working in an organization as large as Google. The nature of being an executive in a massive enterprise kept him from exclusively focusing on his relationships with customers and resellers, as he imagined he would.

The Information cited a source who said Yansouni had mentioned his interest in getting back to a startup-like culture.

Under Yansouni, Google made strides in leveraging its partner ecosystem, but the next channel chief will need to keep the focus on shifting engagements to the channel, said Tony Safoian, CEO of Los Angeles-based SADA Systems.

Google Cloud is still overwhelmingly a direct sales business by all accounts. The actual breakdown – partners estimate a single-digit percentage of all sales going through their practices – is skewed by a massive spend coming from a handful of customers like Apple, Snapchat, Spotify, Coca-Cola, and Home Depot.

Safoian believes Yansouni's replacement will need to tackle that disparity.

"The leadership at Google, in no uncertain terms they understand the role of the partners in growing the business, the need for partners to be able to resell consumption-based products and services. Aligning the field go-to-market strategy with partner value is always a challenge. It's a balancing act," Safoian said.

"We're optimistic that Google is all-in with the partner-enabled, partner-first strategy, but it's going to take some work to enable that at scale and on a consistent basis down to the field execution level," he told CRN.

Google partners are seeing a wave of new customers driven by Amazon's competitive posture in the retail market, especially after its acquisition of Whole Foods, Safoian said.

Google's next channel chief should immediately focus on helping partners seize that opportunity. At the same time, partners have an obligation to demonstrate their value to Google by closing deals, growing customer spend, and advancing the value proposition for customers, Safoian said.

"We're actively working to prove why working with a partner is so much better than trying to do deals directly," he told CRN.