AWS Channel Chief: Speed And Specialization Matter A Lot Right Now

‘The pandemic is going to be an important inertia breaker or a forcing function for a lot of these partners…to go bigger and be more aggressive and truly understand that speed matters right now,’ says Doug Yeum, Amazon Web Services’ worldwide channel and alliances head.


Amazon Web Services partners with strong convictions about the cloud and who worked closely with AWS were clearly better prepared to respond to challenges presented by the coronavirus pandemic this year, according to Doug Yeum, AWS’ worldwide channel and alliances head.

“Partners who are dipping their toes in the water in terms of going into the cloud and watching from the sidelines to see how things are going to play out…ended up having more challenges this year in terms of their business, because they just weren’t getting a lot of demand from customers looking to do more stuff in their data centers or on prem,” Yeum told CRN in an exclusive interview on Tuesday, prior to his partner keynote address today at the AWS re:Invent 2020 conference.

Many customers were trying to figure out how to quickly move to the cloud, and they were looking for partners with deep specializations in developing cloud-native applications or who knew how to quickly migrate existing on-prem applications, according to Yeum.

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“Partners who had spent a lot of time developing that specialization…had more demand this year,” Yeum said. “The pandemic is going to be an important inertia breaker or a forcing function for a lot of these partners…to go bigger and be more aggressive and truly understand that speed matters right now.”

AWS named Yeum to his post in July 2019 after he served as AWS CEO Andy Jassy’s chief of staff – known as the “shadow” role -- for nearly two years. He previously was AWS’ general manager in Korea. The AWS Partner Network has “tens of thousands” of partners, and it adds 50 new organizations each day, according to AWS.

Yeum said he’s spent a lot of time speaking with partners this year -- systems integrators (SIs), managed service providers and independent software vendors (ISVs) -- and assuring their CEOs that the AWS partner team is ready to help them make a strong commitment to the cloud provider and be better prepared for the future.

“One of the key tenets that I have for our organization is that we treat our partners as customers, and we work backwards from our customers to ensure that we‘re listening and we’re delivering on what they’re asking for…so that they can continue to grow their businesses,” Yeum said. “Our job is to work with our partners to ensure that we maximize the existing assets that they have -- assets such as their customer relationships, their deep industry knowledge and experience, and also the unique IP-based solutions -- and…to leverage the AWS platform, our people and our programs to deliver a differentiated value for their customers. When we can bring together our partners’ strengths and assets with AWS’ strengths, that’s when you get to have this multiplying value for our customers.”

In the past year, AWS has seen really large partners making the strategic decision to double down on their investments with AWS and grow their AWS practice or build solutions on its cloud, according to Yeum.

“You’ve had partners like NTT DATA or NEC in Japan or AllCloud based out of Israel but serving customers globally,” Yeum said. “You also have ISVs like Amdocs, a leader in the telecommunications industry.”

Any company looking to accelerate their adoption of trends such as remote work or learning. telemedicine, smart cities and factories, process automation or AI-enabled customer experiences has to take advantage of cloud computing to do that, Yeum said.

“Cloud computing will be the foundation for any IT strategy,” he said. “You‘re going to see an accelerated adoption across all companies, across all industries and all geographies. That’s going to create a lot of opportunities for partners who understand how to deliver an end-to-end solution, who understand how to develop cloud-native applications in addition to managing the cloud infrastructure and partners (with) deep specializations across industries, use cases or specific workloads like SAP or specific AWS services.”

AWS develops many of its services at the request of customers, so there’s already a sort of latent demand for them when they launch, according to Yeum.

“As soon as the services are made available, I expect the leading partners to quickly go deep into those services and be ready to help our customers leverage those services,” he said. “As we continue to launch these new innovations, there‘s going to be a lot of new opportunity.”

Asked what percentage of AWS partners are engaged to that desired level, Yeum referred to Pareto’s principle or the 80/20 rule. Of AWS’ “tens of thousands” of consulting partners who have joined the AWS Partner Network, only a little more than 100 have achieved AWS’ highest premier tier status.

“There are only a handful of partners, the large SIs, you can actually do the end to end, so they‘re also looking to partner with smaller, more specialized partners to provide that end-to-end solution, which we really like seeing, because we want partners to be working together,” Yeum said.

The vast majority of AWS partners are still trying to go big and go deep.

“If you‘re a small partner, you may want to really focus on specializing and making sure that you can do a specific area better than any other partner,” said Yeum, who counts himself and AWS as firm believers that partner differentiation matters for customers.

“That‘s why we’ve invested earlier than any other cloud provider and probably invested more than any other cloud provider,” he said. “We’ve helped our partners through programs like the AWS Competency Program or the AWS Service Delivery Program or AWS Service Ready Program or the MSP Program to make sure (they) have the right, deep skill sets for them to go and help customers.”