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What AWS Partners Want From Incoming CEO Adam Selipsky

‘It’d be smart for AWS to look at the old playbook that some of the legacy IT manufacturers have done and really invest in the channel — use the partners that are out there as their distributed sales team to go out and win more market share,’ says Ethan Simmons, managing partner at PTP, a born-in-the-cloud consulting and services firm based in Norwood, Mass.

Better incorporating partners into sales motions and further developing the channel ecosystem are among issues that Amazon Web Services partners want incoming CEO Adam Selipsky to tackle while ensuring the industry-leading cloud provider maintains the fast pace of innovation it’s been known for under founding CEO Andy Jassy.

Selipsky, the former CEO of Seattle analytics platform provider Tableau, starts at AWS today. He will be shadowing Jassy for several weeks until they both transition into their new roles in the third quarter, with Jassy becoming the CEO of parent company Amazon.com, replacing Jeff Bezos.

It’s a return to AWS for Selipsky, who first joined Amazon’s cloud division in 2005 – a year before its launch – and had served as vice president of marketing, sales and support, a chief operating officer role, until his 2016 move to Tableau.

Selipsky’s most important responsibility will be continuing to push the pace of innovation, services and offers that AWS is bringing to market, according to Ethan Simmons, managing partner at PTP, an AWS Advanced Consulting Partner and born-in-the-cloud consulting and services firm based in Norwood, Mass.

“The competition is heating up between Azure and GCP (Google Cloud Platform), so AWS needs to stay in front of that curve and keep on doing that,” Simmons said.

From a partner standpoint, Simmons hopes to continue to see channel program enhancements that AWS has been making under channel chief Doug Yeum, who started in July 2019.

“AWS, at some point, from a sales standpoint, is going to have to realize that in order to continue the pace of growth, they’re going to have a hard time continuing to hire salespeople,” Simmons said. “And with the cost of that sales organization, it’d be smart for AWS to look at the old playbook that some of the legacy IT manufacturers have done and really invest in the channel — use the partners that are out there as their distributed sales team to go out and win more market share. There’s a lot of work that AWS can do to mature their channel strategy and how they work with partners in conjunction with working with their customers.”

AWS has continued to maintain a very direct sales motion working with customers, Simmons said.

“They’re known for their statement about being customer-obsessed,” he said. “I would love to see some partner obsession as well and working on better incorporating partners into their selling motion. Leverage the channel, leverage that distributed sales team, make their program (easier) to execute through distribution or as a partner working directly with AWS. Working through distribution isn’t always thought about when they when they create these (sales) programs. For us, as a channel partner, sometimes that just causes complication and stress. Microsoft has that traditional IT channel mentality of using partners to drive their business. I think AWS needs to also leverage those resources that are out there to accelerate their growth.”

Lemongrass Weighs In

Eamonn O’Neill, cofounder and chief customer officer at Lemongrass, is hoping Selipsky’s experience at Tableau and working with other players in the field has given him a much better idea of how customers view AWS versus its competitors, so AWS is able to “respond to those new challenges and threats that we’ve seen from Microsoft and GCP.”

“I’m hoping to see him bring that experience to make sure that AWS can stay toe to toe with the other players,” said O’Neill, whose Atlanta-based company is an AWS Premier Consulting Partner that helps large and midsize enterprises migrate and run their SAP applications on AWS. “I’d love to see him re-emphasize the importance of…how AWS is going to be the preferred vendor for enterprises to get their SAP landscapes onto a hyperscaler. That would be our preferred outcome.”

Selipsky’s previous experience at AWS should provide consistency culturally, according to O’Neill, who expects AWS will maintain customer obsession as a primary leadership principle.

“That’s been a very successful attribute of AWS,” O’Neill said. “The culture is so strong in the company. It’s a very agile culture, and a lot of people can work to a great degree of autonomy, and that’s what’s expected. You’re meant to go off and invent yourself. You’re meant to take the lead and initiative directly to the customers. That makes for an organization that can actually operate really well without micromanaging. Obviously, Andy Jassy has been a titan in the market, and what he’s achieved has been phenomenal, but I think the bigger success to some degree would be that the organization should be able to continue on without him being day-to-day involved.”

AllCloud’s View

Partners need more AWS focus on their ecosystem and guidance from Selipsky on what’s needed to accelerate their companies’ growth and AWS’ business, according to Eran Gil, CEO of AllCloud, a San Francisco cloud professional services company, AWS Premier Consulting Partner and Audited MSP Partner.

“They’re significantly more focused on the partner community as of the last couple of years, but it’s an ecosystem that still has a lot of opportunity to grow,” Gil said. “I think his understanding of how to develop an ecosystem even further than Jassy has done over the years…would go a long way. I’d like to see even more structure than I think Doug Yeum has brought…in the last year and a half that he’s been in the (channel chief) role.”

That includes more structure around how AllCloud, as a systems integrator, can collaborate with AWS on customer engagements, along with further differentiation of the various partner tiers.

“Within one tier — call it the premier tier, which is the highest tier — there’s a lot of different partners,” Gil said. “You can find organizations that are subscale there, and you can find organizations that are edge scale there, and then you can find organizations like the global system integrators there. The requirement or the expectations to further differentiate I think would be something that would be interesting to see them continuing to evolve and develop. We want to see more maybe expectation of specialization and verticalization, and then that working hand in hand with the teams in the field, whether it’s their technical teams or sales teams and how they promote those organizations in the field.”

Gil also would like Selipsky to tap his Tableau experience to bring more AWS focus to data and analytics, particularly analytics visualization.

“I think that would be very interesting to see more focus on the data and analytics world and the next phase of how customers use public cloud services, whether it‘s AWS native services that are focused on data and analytics, AI and machine learning, or…product partners — the Databricks of the world and Snowflakes of the world and others,” Gil said.

Tapping Innovations Of The Broader Amazon

Selipsky’s understanding of the AWS culture, leadership principles and product stack, coupled with his track record of leading a high-tech growth company at Tableau, will be key to him “hitting the ground running,” according to Forrest Danson, global chief commercial officer for the Amazon/AWS alliance at Deloitte Consulting, a top global systems integrator.

“We built over a billion-dollar global practice around the AWS platform, and it’s one of our fastest growing alliances,” Danson said. “As a key alliance partner for us, as well as a key partner for many of our clients, we expect many of the priorities that AWS and Andy put in place will remain…critical for the organization. How they invest in the relationships with partners, really kind of top-down support for teaming around the accounts and many of the partner programs they put in place to support us both on integration around our sales teams and technical support within those deals, but also executive engagement around our critical deal portfolios, have been a critical part of our joint go-to-market approach. We expect that to continue. As we see more and more clients having critical decisions on launching their digital transformation programs, that joint commitment from both our organizations is often critical to the board and the C-suites of those organizations.”

“As we look at enterprise and what it takes to get our clients to especially move out of proof of concepts into these big bigger transformations, I think we’re determining what joint investments we need to do around those,” Danson said. “Many of those are things that can be turned into programs in the future, but it’s a willingness to kind of figure out what we need to do together and then innovate around that. That’s what we really need the partners program to do. We’ve been doing that with Doug Yeum and the team for the past couple years here, and I think that will continue.”

Selipsky also will need to work closely with Jassy as Amazon commercializes other innovations from across the broader company, just as it did with Amazon Connect and the Just Walk Out retail technologies, Danson said.

“I think that will be an increasingly important part of their agenda and something we’ve been teaming with them around,” he said. “I think Adam’s well-suited to think across the enterprise around that. That’ll be an ever-important part of the product complement that they have to take to the market.”

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