Thomas Kurian's key hires show Google Cloud's enterprise ambition

We run through the Google Cloud CEO's key hires since taking the reins of the cloud vendor

Google Cloud CEO Thomas Kurian
Google Cloud

Since taking the reins at Google Cloud after Diane Greene stepped down in November last year, the ex-Oracle executive Thomas Kurian has been busy changing the culture of the organisation in a bid to better compete with the two giants of the public cloud market: Amazon Web Services (AWS) and Microsoft Azure.

In a short time the new CEO has been busy securing a set of key hires to bulk up its global sales muscle, made a handful of high profile acquisitions and signed a host of new partnerships to help attract more enterprise-scale customers onto its cloud platform.

Speaking to Computerworld in April this year during the Google Cloud Next conference, Kurian said: "The two things customers tell us is: we love your technology, but we don't have enough people from Google to assist us with your understanding of the technology and your understanding of our industry.

"So that essentially translates to growing our go-to-market function and our work with partners to deliver the right solutions for customers, which means adding people in sales and customer service and customer engineering, which is our technical teams, as well as hiring people with deep industry backgrounds."

He also told the Wall Street Journal that Google's cloud sales team is around one-tenth to one-fifteenth the size of the sales forces at AWS and Microsoft Azure, something he was clearly keen to redress.

As expected this has translated to significant growth of the sales teams at Google Cloud under a new set of global leaders. There have also been reports that renumeration packages for sales staff are changing to a more bonus-heavy scheme, like those seen historically at enterprise software vendors Oracle and SAP, so no surprise there.

Kurian added in April: "When we compete with other players, we win far more of the time than they do. But we are smaller in size. Many people have asked me, they say: 'Thomas is focused on growing sales', it is not growing sales, it is growing all of our customer-facing functions."

Read next: New Google Cloud CEO Thomas Kurian lays out his vision for the vendor

Since then we have seen Kurian make a raft of high-profile hires in senior go-to-market roles. Here we pick out a few and try to parse what they mean for the vendor's future.

Robert Enslin

The only place to start here is with the SAP veteran Rob Enslin. The extremely well-respected sales leader previously worked at SAP for 27 years, where he eventually ran the cloud business group and was an executive board member.

Enslin was tapped to become the president of global customer operations at Google Cloud in April 2019. The executive was given the blog post treatment by Thomas Kurian, who wrote: "Rob’s expertise in building and running organisations globally, business acumen and deep customer and partner relationships make him a perfect fit for this crucial role.

"Rob brings great international experience to his role having worked in South Africa, Europe, Asia and the United States – this global perspective will be invaluable as we expand Google Cloud into established industries and growth markets around the world."

Speaking to Diginomica last month, Enslin said: "I felt that there was an opportunity for me to do something really different in the industry. What drove me was the opportunity to build a significant presence in the cloud, with Google's backing, and with the fabulous engineering talent that we have here.

"To differentiate ourselves in the market we need to take the technology tool sets we have around big data, smarter analytics, AI and ML, and build solutions to truly differentiate ourselves."

It would appear from his comments that Enslin has a lot of work to do to help Google Cloud gatecrash the market dominance of AWS and, to a lesser extent, Azure. Industry-specific solutions (healthcare, financial services, retail and media are first in the crosshairs), as well as more focus on products that leverage Google Cloud's data expertise and global expansion appear to be the driving forces behind their strategy to get there.

"We are focused on simplifying how we engage with customers, so it's much easier to understand. We are simplifying our contracts, our pricing. For me, what keeps me up at night, is doing many things at speed and being able to execute at speed," Enslin also told Diginomica.

Speaking on that note, Nick McQuire, head of enterprise research at CCSInsight believes that Kurian and Enslin need to balance what has been a strength of Google Cloud's with its existing customers – close engagement with engineers – and how to attract new enterprise customers onto its platform.

"Customers that have gone with Google Cloud rave about the level of engagement and engineering engagement and the hunger the vendor has," McQuire told Computerworld. "That means customers don't have to go through layers of sales and account management to reach a Google engineering and customers love that."

McQuire believes that Enslin must find a way to "capture some of that strength of Google, and balance that with the need to scale its sales proposition" if he is to succeed in his new role.

Amit Zavery

It didn't take Kurian long to make a high-profile poach from his former employer, with Amit Zavery arriving from Oracle in March. At Google Cloud he takes on a head of platform role, where he will also lead the API-specialist team at Apigee, a company Google acquired in 2016.

Not a sales leader, the University of Texas and Harvard Business School alum was formerly executive vice president for the Oracle cloud platform having worked his way up over a 24-year career at the database giant.

Kirsten Kliphouse

Kurian also hired Google Cloud's first ever president for North American sales in June 2019, appointing Kirsten Kliphouse. Having worked at Microsoft and then Red Hat, Kliphouse will be responsible for growing the vendor's customer base across all company sizes.

"As president of Google Cloud for North America, I lead the customer and partner-facing teams that serve enterprises, mid-market customers, and small and mid-sized businesses," her new LinkedIn profile reads. "My goal is to help customers realise their aspirations by bringing our teams together to co-create the possible through the use of technology. With less than 50 percent of enterprise workloads in the cloud today, there is no better time than the present to enable the future."

Eduardo Lopez

At around the same time as the Kliphouse hire Google Cloud appointed its first president of Latin American sales. Eduardo Lopes, a 20-year Oracle veteran in Brazil, joined his old colleague Thomas Kurian in June.

Chris Ciauri

Most recently, Google Cloud hired Chris Ciauri to be its new president for EMEA in September, where he will lead the sales organisation for the region. The former Salesforce general manager for EMEA has 20 years of enterprise sales experience.

Predecessor Sebastien Marotte is stepping into a new role as vice president for channel EMEA.

Amitabh Jacob

Continuing the trend of new international sales leaders, Google Cloud appointed Amitabh Jacob as the head of partnerships and alliances for India in February 2019.

The executive arrives with strong experience, having led partner channels and alliances for rival Amazon Web Services previously and having held roles at Microsoft, IBM and RSA.

Acquisitions

Google Cloud also added talent to the organisation this year via acquisitions.

The biggest acquisition came in June with the offer of $2.6 billion for analytics vendor Looker. In July, the cybersecurity company Chronicle also moved from being a standalone Alphabet company into the Google Cloud organisation. Lastly was the buy of cloud storage company Elastifile for an undisclosed price, also in July.

Read next: Notable technology acquisitions 2019

Partnerships

It isn't just hires and acquisitions that have been on Kurian's agenda though, with a raft of new partnerships being announced over the past six months.

VMware is the headline-grabbing partnership this year, with Google Cloud now supporting VMware workloads. Read next: What's behind the Google Cloud-VMware partnership?

It also partnered with the skills platform Pluralsight this month to help get more engineers trained on its platform. Read next: Pluralsight partners with Google Cloud to provide cloud skills learning

Wipro, DXC and Cypherium have all signed fresh partnership deals with Google Cloud this year too and the vendor partnered with a selection of 'best in breed' open source vendors earlier this year, including Confluent, DataStax, Elastic and MongoDB, complete with unified billing.

Final thoughts

All of these moves signal the same thing: Thomas Kurian is dead serious about growing Google Cloud's enterprise customer base, and hiring experienced executives that have done that before is a key pillar in his strategy.

As McQuire at CCSInsight observed: "What [Kurian] has done with the moves he has made since November in deals and hires are really a reflection of his commitment to what he said he was going to do."

That being said, talent isn't the only thing the vendor needs to acquire: it must also execute on this strategy, bring game-changing products to customers, and make it easy for them to adopt.

"That sales team has to reflect a strategy he has around key areas of going in to talk about business problems and align that with its cloud infrastructure but, more importantly, its data analytics and machine-learning capabilities and bringing innovation to those problems," McQuire added. "So not just hiring sales people and paying them well, but hiring more seasoned people to come in and execute on that strategy."

Aside from key hires and an evolving go-to-market approach, Google Cloud has also made moves this year to improve its integration with other enterprise providers, as the vendor aims to remove any lingering reasons for customer prospects not to adopt its cloud platform. Taken at face value it is easy to see a recognition from Kurian of both the long and short term, as well as the technical and personal aspects, required to win in this market.

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Copyright © 2019 IDG Communications, Inc.

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