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Google Cloud’s Carolee Gearhart: 'We Are 100% Behind Our Partners'

The provider’s channel chief talks with Channel Futures. Get the latest Partner Summit news and more.

Kelly Teal

October 25, 2021

9 Min Read
100 percent, 100%

Being the biggest anything doesn’t automatically equate to being the best. And maybe that’s what Google Cloud, still the world’s third-largest public cloud provider, is banking on. No doubt, the company aims to enlarge its market share — see CEO Thomas Kurian’s September engineering executive reorganization as evidence. Remember, too, CFO Ruth Porat’s assertion to analysts during Google Cloud’s second-quarter earnings call: “We will continue to increase the pace of investment. And that’s true in headcount, it’s true with compute, sales and marketing, really across the board.” In line with that promise, Google Cloud is intensifying its channel efforts, extending ample reasons for partners to sell its platforms.


Google Cloud’s Carolee Gearhart

Channel_Futures_Signature_Series_Logo.png“We want to be the one they want to work with,” Carolee Gearhart, vice president of worldwide channel sales and SMB sales at Google Cloud, told Channel Futures in a recent interview.

Google Cloud intends to make that happen “by being simpler, easier to work with, being more consistent,” Gearhart added, building on a similar message she shared with Channel Futures readers in May.

Along the way, she said, the vendor will help managed service providers, independent software vendors, value-added resellers and other partners to keep setting themselves apart from peers.

“We know our success is going to be built on their success and we’ve both got to be moving in the right direction,” Gearhart said.

Is Cloud Unstoppable?

The cloud industry as a whole is headed in a seemingly unstoppable upward trajectory. Research firm Forrester now predicts cloud spending will rise at a 38% compound annual growth rate through 2022. That’s 7% higher than analysts originally projected. Similarly, Synergy Research Group said this month that, throughout the first half of 2021, cloud vendor and operator revenue jumped 25% over the same period last year, reaching $235 billion. Cloud infrastructure – comprising IaaS, PaaS and hosted private cloud services – increased the most, according to Synergy; revenue there grew by 37%. The firm’s projections show that annual spending on cloud services will double in less than four years.

All that is to say that, while Google Cloud remains third on Gartner’s Magic Quadrant, the vendor isn’t letting that ranking put a damper on its goals. The cloud opportunity forecast by a range of analysts is too high. To that point, even though Google Cloud continues to operate at a loss, it’s funneling billions of dollars into product development and launches, and direct and indirect sales efforts. In fact, when it comes to the channel, Google Cloud has seen notable traction, Gearhart said.

“In 2021’s first half, our channel partners won 75% more deals than in the same period last year versus this year, and saw a 175% increase in the number of deals year over year,” Gearhart said.

Along similar lines, Forrester says partners can achieve an 86% return on investment with Google Cloud, up from 50% in last year’s study. Each year, Google Cloud commissions Forrester Consulting to deliver a partner-centric Total Economic Impact report. The most profitable partners hold Google Cloud specializations and offer professional services, Forrester found.

No wonder, then, that Google Cloud plans to release at least 10 more certifications over the next 12 months, and has taken the wraps off various partner incentives and support offerings. It’s all about giving partners the tools to distinguish themselves from the competition, Google Cloud says.

“Our goal in creating a differentiation journey is to help our partners leverage their existing strengths, while building even deeper Google Cloud-specific depth in those areas,” Derrick Thompson, global head of partner differentiation, wrote in an Oct. 5 blog.

To that end, Google Cloud introduced a variety of new resources at its recent Google Next event. And it gave partners an inside look at even more news at Partner Summit, its conference within a conference, which media are not allowed to attend. Not to worry, though — Channel Futures got the scoop from Gearhart.

What’s in Store for Google Cloud Partners

Google Cloud has a lot in store for the channel; its executives understand that partners produce more when they have top-tier vendor support. (Indeed, Forrester tracked that in its study: “Google’s straightforward incentives program has a significant impact on the practice’s margins and profitability,” it said.) When it comes to enablement and incentives, Partner Summit did not disappoint.

First, Google Cloud has …

… streamlined its channel payments process. That means partners get paid faster. The sooner partners receive money from a vendor, the more motivated they are to keep selling those platforms and services.

Google Cloud also has debuted more “campaign kits,” or templated marketing tools. Gearhart said Google Cloud has more than doubled the number of campaign kits for partners since 2019.

Next, Google Cloud has taken the curriculum it uses for its internal sales teams and tailored it to the channel. That platform, Launchpad, will be generally available in January. In essence, Google Cloud has broken down the so-called cloud journey into routes (think of it like a subway chart) that show the best path by sales role and solution, such as data, analytics and so on.

“We are trying to give them prescriptive maps,” Gearhart said.

Launchpad will contain on-demand content that partners can use to educate a new hire or a new practice area, for example.

“We’ll give them the proverbial easy button to help them direct their teams forward,” Gearhart said.

In terms of product incentives, Google Workspace now features simplified deal registration and an adoption rebate to encourage more customers to adopt the portfolio. Google Cloud has expanded this offer to more partners, not just those in its premier program.

On Google Cloud, specifically, partners can get more rebates for midmarket consumption. And premier partners can earn higher discounts.

More Is Coming: Co-Investment, Certifications, NPS Activity

Google Cloud believes that offering more rebates and discounts will help partners to attract more customers. As more clients show increasing return on investment, they’ll adopt even more Google Cloud products, the provider surmises. In fact, to improve the chances of adoptions and renewals, more co-investment with partners is on the way, Gearhart said. Together with certain partners, Google Cloud will subsidize the services for a particular workload so get customers up and running more quickly. This, Gearhart said, “is a vehicle to achieve a specific outcome for specific services.” Then, when a customer assess how much money it saved, and productivity and efficiency it gained, it’s more likely to buy more from Google Cloud.

But helping partners increase client numbers and satisfaction takes deep expertise and knowledge. Usually the channel attains those qualities not just via experience, but also through vendor certifications — or what Google Cloud calls “specializations.” These pay off, said Google Cloud’s Thompson, who leads the partner differentiation group.

“Eighty-seven percent of … survey participants were more confident about their cloud skills and 71% reported that certification enabled or will enable increased work with existing customers and helped to scale their business,” Thompson said, citing a 2020 third-party study featuring statistics from research companies including Gartner and IDC.

Perhaps largely because of those outcomes, “the number of partners holding at least one expertise has doubled year over year,” Gearhart told Channel Futures.

It’s no surprise that Google Cloud wants to build on that momentum. Throughout 2022, the provider will add at least 10 more specializations to its already existing 14. Two of the areas those will cover include edge intelligence and zero-trust architecture — hot topics within the cloud world.

Google Cloud is putting a lot into its global partner program. And because its core go-to-market strategy involves the channel, the company wants to make sure everything is going well. That’s why it’s launching a new initiative around Net Promoter Scores. Google Cloud will approach end users and ask how the partner did.

“We are looking to ensure that we are able to really understand what the customer experience is in working with our partners,” Gearhart said. Google Cloud, she said, has to be certain “that what they’re doing is …

… fantastic and the customer experience is great.”

Partners, too, may trigger customer surveys, if they want feedback right away.

No Question: It’s a Hybrid, Multicloud World

Cloud channel partners have nothing but opportunity in front of them.

“Cloud-associated markets are growing at rates ranging from 15% to over 40% per year,” said John Dinsdale, a chief analyst at Synergy Research Group. “Cloud is increasingly dominating the IT landscape, benefitting companies throughout the cloud ecosystem.”

Google Cloud knows this. That’s why it’s throwing its weight behind its MSPs, VARs, ISVs, consultants and other partners.

“There’s no question that we’re living in a hybrid and multicloud world,” Gearhart said. “That is only accelerating.”

Customers have to create and manage multiple cloud environments — a demanding task for anyone but especially for organizations that want to spend their time making money, rather than operating technology. That puts partners in a prime position. The ones who run more services on customers’ behalves, and who develop their own unique tweaks on their offerings, will stand out.

“We’re all still living through our pandemic world, unfortunately, but it has brought certain things to the forefront,” Gearhart said. “The folks who are still around are going to survive this. But who’s going to thrive in this?  Who is able to take this moment and pivot to new business models? … The folks who look at this as an opportunity … will thrive, not survive.”

More to Come from Google Cloud

Again, Google Cloud may not be the behemoth cloud provider, but it’s not small and it is making headway.

“The acceleration is incredible,” Gearhart said. “When I think about just the first half of 2021 … we were at 300% more deals than in the same period in 2018. The acceleration is very, very high. We had six times as may partners involved in [big] deals in 2021 as we did in 2018.”

The company is securing that partner loyalty because it is dedicated to the channel. Partners agree.

“Google has always signaled that it’s the most flexible cloud, empowering customers to build applications and analyze data across different environments in the most sustainable way,” said Jenn Viau and Brian Suk of Google Cloud-only MSP SADA in an Oct. 18 blog. “SADA is excited to partner with Google Cloud … to solve new business challenges in the cloud.”

MSP Maven Wave made a similar observation. Google Cloud, the Atos-owned company said, has attained some “incredible achievements.”

“We’re so excited to see what the future holds as we ‘solve for what’s next,’” the company wrote, referring to the tagline for Google Next (for which London-headquartered MSP CTS even held watch parties).

For Gearhart, the sentiments are mutual.

“You’re going to continue to see a real, ongoing investment in our go-to-market,” she said. “We are 100% behind our partners.”

Want to contact the author directly about this story? Have ideas for a follow-up article? Email Kelly Teal or connect with her on LinkedIn.


About the Author(s)

Kelly Teal

Contributing Editor, Channel Futures

Kelly Teal has more than 20 years’ experience as a journalist, editor and analyst, with longtime expertise in the indirect channel. She worked on the Channel Partners magazine staff for 11 years. Kelly now is principal of Kreativ Energy LLC.

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