Google Cloud’s revamped partner program and portal goes live today - including in Australia - with the intent of making it easier for partners to engage with the company and better highlight their expertise to customers.
The newly named Google Cloud Partner Advantage program consolidates 16 partner programs under one umbrella and will trigger Google Cloud’s first recruitment efforts to increase its partner ecosystem, according to Nina Harding, chief of global partner strategy and programs.
New Google Cloud chief executive officer Thomas Kurian has been recharging the No. 3 cloud provider, which trails No. 1 Amazon Web Services and No. 2 Microsoft Azure, since he formally took the reins this year with a vow to increase investments in channel programs and sales.
“We're over 13,000 partners today, and we have not been proactively recruiting,” Harding told CRN. “With the launch of Partner Advantage, it's the first time we're going to start turning on some of those recruitment engines.”
The program focuses on six industries aligned with Kurian’s enterprise push - financial services, healthcare, retail, manufacturing, the public sector and communications, media and entertainment. And it focuses on five solution areas - infrastructure, data management, business analytics, packaged applications, and productivity and work transformation.
“There's a single point of entry into the program versus all these different engagement points,” Harding said. “Our core tenets of the program were really around creating a simplified approach to partnering focused on helping the partners differentiate themselves to customers.”
Google Cloud has trained new partner advisors that will be assigned to every partner to help them navigate their business with Google, and it’s introducing new expertises based on products/technology, priority workloads and industry.
“We've removed the friction, we've simplified the contracting and the engagement, and we will have this one partner advisor that will guide you through all of that,” Harding said.
The program has three engagement models: for partners that want to sell by collaborating with Google Cloud sales or integrating Google offerings into their portfolio; for services partners that want to provide consulting and integration services, and transform and manage customer applications and workloads, or provide Google Cloud authorized training; and for partners focused on building their own product and running it on Google Cloud Platform, building an extension for a Google Cloud product or integrating their existing product with a Google Cloud product.
“A partner now joins based on their behavior -- what do they want to do with Google?” Harding said. “We're not artificially creating guardrails around them.”
Google Cloud initially worked with research firm IDC to help build the program.
The cloud provider had several good guiding principles from the start, according to Steve White, IDC’s vice president of channels and alliances.
“The first one was…being customer-centric around everything they did,” White said. “So that's the sense check for everything -- make sure that there's value to customers.”
Google Cloud also wanted to ensure the program was flexible for partners and made it easier for those who work with the cloud provider across different areas. It also wanted partners to have a good experience with Google at all stages.
“They want to be 100 percent through partners, and that's a big aspiration,” White said. “(They) want 100 percent partner attach to all of (their) partner deals.”
Asked about changes in partner compensation in terms of margins, Harding said there were “little tweaks here and there.”
“We are as competitive, if not better, on our margins,” she said. “That we can definitely validate out there.”
Every partner will be assigned a Google Cloud partner advisor – a named contact to proactively help them navigate Google and grow their businesses.
“Instead of having a person for each type of engagement you have with the company, which some of the other vendors have, you now actually have the benefit of one person helping you navigate,” Harding said. “One of the biggest pain points we heard from partners out there is understanding how to navigate a company. That partnership can be very complex, because there's so many different contacts.”
Google Cloud previously had partner program support – partners could call in and get general support, but there wasn’t one person assigned to their business, although higher-level strategic partners had access to partner development managers and partner sales managers.
“A partner advisor is going to help provide advice on the program, the different benefits you have, how to leverage the incentives the right way, how to find training and education that meets your needs or how you want to grow your business,” Harding said. “They'll really be that guide.”
Google Cloud has been training the partner advisors for the last three months in advance of their July 1 start date.
“Our expectation is that they would have a touch point (with partners) at least once a month,” Harding said.
The partner advisors and additional technology engineering and product support from Google Cloud will allow partners to leverage the full capabilities of Google Cloud’s technology assets and portfolio, said Thomas Galizia, global chief commercial officer for Deloitte Consulting’s Alphabet/Google business, who was involved in the partner program’s redesign.
“One of the most appealing aspects of Google Cloud Partner Advantage program is increased access to Google Cloud’s technical, business, marketing and sales expertise,” Galizia said. “This allows us to collaborate more extensively and build impactful customer proposals, proofs of concept and industry/functional solutions that anticipate and address our enterprise clients’ most pressing needs and opportunities.”
New Partner Portal
Google Cloud worked with Salesforce, the cloud-based customer relationship management platform company, and Deloitte Consulting, a Google Premier Partner, on the new Google Cloud Partner Advantage portal.
“The new portal will bring together in a very simplified way all the information about their partnership and provide a great deal of transparency around where they are today and what are the next steps that they need to take to grow their partnership,” Harding said. “It will also take in all the transaction processing that they need to do, so things like deal registration and deal referral. They can see all their opportunities in the same console, in the same portal.”
The portal incorporates feedback from almost 150 partners who tested it at April’s Google 'Next' conference in San Francisco.
“Google is great at soliciting partner feedback in cases like this and others,” Simmons said. “Nice to see the transparency beforehand versus being stuck with what is rolled out and trying to backtrack. It’s a small thing that makes a big difference.”
Google Cloud chose Deloitte as the advisory and implementing partner to lead the replatforming of its salesforce modules and systems for sales and pipeline management, as well as the core buildout of the partner portal and content. Deloitte also oversaw all of the underlying data migration.
“This has been one of the most collaborative designs and implementations that I’ve been a part of in my 27 years at Deloitte,” Galizia said.
Google Cloud also interviewed a lot of customers to understand what matters to them in seeking cloud partners, according to Harding.
“You'll see a huge focus here on customer success stories and helping to evangelize (partners’) customer success, helping them build a new concept called expertise,” Harding said.
Partners can earn expertises – which are a level below specializations – by demonstrating customer success across products/technology, workloads or industry verticals, and by having two certifications.
“The way they do that is by showing us either through a customer success story or a reference from a customer saying that I can endorse this partner…and they helped me with these products,” Harding said. “That's how we're getting around, quite frankly, partners saying, 'I can do anything across any industry or any product or any solution.’ That helps customers also understand that that partner has been vetted, and we know for a fact that they have experience in that area.”
Product/technology expertise areas are Google Cloud analytics, compute, databases, application development and monitoring, identity and security, machine learning and machine learning application programming interfaces, networking, operating system and hardware (Chrome), productivity, and storage and delivery in addition to Google Maps platform, open-source technology (Kubernetes, MongoDB, etc.), partner technology (Cisco, SAP, etc.) and competitive technology (AWS, Azure, etc.).
Priority workload areas of expertise are data warehouse, hybrid platform modernization, marketing analytics, SAP, virtual machine migration and work transformation (G Suite).
Industry areas of expertise are auto and transportation, education, energy, financial services, gaming, healthcare, life sciences, manufacturing, marketing and advertising, media and entertainment, public sector (government and schools), retail, software and internet, and small and medium business.
Google Cloud partner specialisations signal deeper capabilities.
“These are your PhDs, these are your top partners that have experience in multiple implementations, have demonstrated excellence and are really specialized in a particular area,” Harding said.
Specialisations require four technical credentials earned by a partner’s employees in the specialisation area, three customer success stories acknowledging that Google technology and the partner’s services have addressed a business need, two customer engagements showing a partner’s documented approach to their design, build and implementation methodologies, and a business plan with their capacity and investment in the specialisation area.
“We are continuing to roll out new specializations,” Harding said.
For the work transformation specialization, for example, there is a specialization for partners deploying G Suite for enterprises and a separate specialisation for partners deploying G Suite for small and medium-sized businesses.
“What we're starting to see is a lot more of that market differentiation, because we're finding a lot of traction in the enterprise space,” Harding said.
Current services specializations are application development, cloud migration, data analytics, education (professional development and transformation paths), infrastructure, internet of things, location-based, machine learning, marketing analytics, security, work transformation (deploying G Suite for small and medium-sized companies) and work transformation (deploying G Suite for enterprises). The training specializations are in data analytics, infrastructure and security.
Built With Partners
The new Google Cloud Partner Advantage program was not built in an “ivory tower” to manage partners, according to Harding, who said she conducted more than 26 focus groups around the world and met with 360-plus partners to talk about their businesses and what they needed from Google Cloud in terms of sales, technical and marketing help to fuel their growth.
“The partners have been part of actually creating it, validating it,” Harding said. “They've been testing the systems and our new partner portal.”
Harding saw the need to simplify the partner program when she joined Google Cloud in 2017.
“We had a number of different partner programs that met the needs, but they were fairly organically developed,” she said. “We would build something around G Suite, we would build something around GCP (Google Cloud Platform), and we would build it around a particular partner type -- this is the GCP offering for resellers, this is the GCP offering for services partners.”
“We have the opportunity right now to send something that's really game-changing,” she said. “So that's exactly what we took as the challenge. How do you take all these different types of partners and make a program that's simple? That's why we did it with the partners -- to really get to the essence of what they needed.”
With Partner Advantage, Google is launching a comprehensive enterprise-grade program with enabling processes, standards and systems, Deloitte’s Galizia said. “Tiering the third-party ecosystem into members, partners and premier players is well-defined with clear joint accountability in business planning, capability buildout and commitment to targeted customer successes,” he said. “The recent senior hire of Justin Jester reinforces Google Cloud’s commitment to a robust customer success program inclusive of the role of partners.”
Google Cloud hired Jester in May as its new vice president of customer experience. He previously worked for almost 20 years at Microsoft, most recently as vice president of worldwide customer success.