Google made their intentions to win over the enterprise clear when they appointed ex-Oracle executive, Thomas Kurian, as their new Google Cloud CEO. Their enterprise ambitions were made even more evident at Google Cloud Next, Google’s first annual conference since Kurian took over. During the opening keynote, Kurian heavily focused on how they will compete in a crowded enterprise market and how they plan to become the cloud partner of choice (or at least one of them in a multi-vendor scenario).
The overarching goal of this year’s Google Cloud Next was clearly to send the message that moving forward, Google should be considered as a strategic digital transformation partner that focuses more on the enterprise’s desired outcomes and less on simply being an infrastructure (IaaS) provider that the enterprise uses.
The message was intended to resonate with C-Suite executives (like the CIO or Chief Digital Officer) at Google’s targeted enterprises in industries such as retail as well as media and entertainment. While they are targeting other industries like healthcare and financial services, these first ones make perfect sense since they directly compete with Amazon who is trying hard to put them out of business. Companies within those industries will therefore naturally rule out the #1 cloud platform , AWS. Google and Kurian know they have a better chance at winning their business if AWS is out of the picture and they only have to go head-to-head with Microsoft, at least for their Google Cloud Platform (GCP).
Going Big on Sales
Google is on a sales-hiring spree, massively expanding their go-to market organization and looking for sales and technical experts who specialize in fields like finance or healthcare to help close deals in their target industries. This is a fairly common step that enterprise vendors take. Perhaps this focus on improving sales and spending significant money to do so will include an upcoming announcement that former SAP Executive Board Member and President of the Cloud Business Group, Rob Enslin, will be coming on board to take over sales?
Regardless of who Google hires, their sales organization will look different than that of Oracle, Kurian’s previous, longtime employer. In an interview with Fortune, Kurian distanced himself from the hardball sales tactics used at Oracle, explaining that he was on the product side and not the go-to-market side. On this subject, he said, “You learn a lot on what companies do well, and you learn what companies don’t do well. And so, you bring the best and you leave behind the things you don’t necessarily agree with.”
Not Like Their Cloud Rivals
Not only does Kurian want to avoid aggressive sales tactics (and the reputation that comes with them) but he and Google Cloud want to take it a step further and differentiate themselves by being the easiest cloud provider to do business with. If they can achieve this goal, this would certainly be a significant differentiator.
Kurian explained, “To make it easy for our customers to do business with us, we are introducing a variety of new things – simplified pricing, easier contracting, co-innovation frameworks, and we are broadening our partner reach.”
While this conciliatory tone certainly sounds compelling, we have to wonder if these benefits will come with a cost. Will “simplified pricing” translate into high-level pricing that lacks appropriate transparency? Hopefully, “easier contracting” will at a minimum include a deep level of transparency, flexibility to adjust commitments based on actual needs, and long-term price protections that provide price certainty for a meaningful period of time.
Repurposing Existing Resources for the Enterprise
Google is currently an engineering-led company with a culture and employee base that is focused on things like A.I. It’s a challenge to shift the focus of a company from this type of mindset to one that is more focused on building “boring” tools for businesses. However, it is this engineering-led mindset and proven track record in developing technology that provides Google a significant advantage. If executed effectively, they have the ability to develop from this technology and repurpose it for enterprise customers. Knowing this advantage and given Kurian’s product-side experience, Kurian has spent some of his early days at Google Cloud intentionally meeting with the various product teams (Search, Maps…etc.).
A perfect example of Google leaning on already developed technology and further enhancing it to map to the known value enterprises seek is Google’s search tool which previously only pulled from data that companies stored in G Suite. It has been repurposed and enhanced as Google Cloud’s search feature which now allows enterprises to tap into information and data within third-party solutions, including big vendors that many enterprises use, such as Salesforce, SAP, and SharePoint.
Google knows that unlocking and providing access to this valuable data is going to be appealing to enterprise customers. Director of Product Management at Google, Julie Black, has stated, “More and more data is created every day, and enterprises that make really good use of that information are well-positioned to have a competitive advantage”. It is the ability to provide enterprises this competitive advantage through the enhanced search functionality that will be the key message in Google’s sales pitch.
Google also unveiled a Google+ replacement for enterprises called “Currents”. In this example, they took something that did not catch on in the consumer market but will provide functionality for G Suite users that can compete with alternatives like Microsoft Teams and/or Slack. At least, that is Google’s hope. They know they need to find a way to compete in this space given the functionality is aimed at the highly coveted deskless workers.
It will be very interesting to see how this all plays out and whether Google Cloud will start to land even more enterprise customers through its articulated focus and the changes being rolled out. My bet (and I am not betting man) is that Google is going to pull this off and truly become a digital transformation partner for enterprises. Based on my interactions with enterprise executives, Google is indeed becoming a viable option.