“How should we partner with Amazon Web Services (AWS)?” I get that question a lot from software companies. Some want to know if they should hire an ex-AWS employee to help with inside connections and networks. Others want to understand the dynamics of placing their offerings in the AWS Marketplace. Both ideas have advantages, but I think it is important to look beyond the right tactics to ensuring that the right strategy is built and executed when you invest in your AWS partnership.
The AWS partner ecosystem is generally made up of two types of partners, consulting and technology (ISVs). All ISVs will fit into the second category but both are managed similarly by AWS. ZDNet did a good job of covering the expectations AWS laid out in Q4 2016 for both types partners at re:Invent, the annual AWS conference in Las Vegas and the quotes below are borrowed from it.
“The reality is, we are going to direct business to our partners who are committed and who really understand the platform because our customers want partners who understand the details of our platform,” the CEO of AWS, Andy Jassy, was quoted as saying at re:Invent. “I’m not suggesting that you shouldn’t have other partners, that you should dump your other partnerships, but I am saying that I think a strategy of hedging is the wrong one for this time. And I think it’s a losing one, relative to the partners who really get committed to the platform.”
“If I think about that type of behavior, and I contrast it with companies like Secondwatch, Splunk, or Cloudreach who have really committed to the platform, they are making disproportionate progress in their business because they’re not just flitting at the top of the platform, they’re deep in it,” Jassy added.
“Those of you who really get committed to understanding the details and the breadth and the depth of the platform, are going to be the ones that help our joint customers the most and I believe will be the ones that have the most success as we go through the next couple of years where a lot of the playing field is going to be reshuffled.”
As we have covered before, AWS is the leader in the public cloud space. ISVs that are looking to increase their direct partnering exposure with AWS to increase market share should really dig into the words above to assist in formulating their strategies. Simply hiring an ex-AWS employee to help with their relationship or listing their software in the AWS marketplace won’t help if the ISV is spread across all of the major clouds without depth on AWS.
The Public Cloud Alliance Matrix – Start With Your Client And Move Backwards
Amazon is famous (rightfully so) for its Leadership Principles. The first, and arguably most important, principal is Customer Obsession – “Leaders start with the customer and work backwards. They work vigorously to earn and keep customer trust. Although leaders pay attention to competitors, they obsess over customers.”
This leadership principal is also your roadmap as an ISV to partnering with AWS, and other public clouds. By starting with your clients and working backwards you should be able to assemble a cloud-centric alliance strategy that provides a solution matrix for your public cloud partnering. Prior to public cloud, it was common to sell an ISV software solution to a client as an independent sales cycle. As an ISV you may have needed your own consulting or professional services teams to help in the post-sales implementation focused on your software, but the client generally had a solid grasp of their data center or infrastructure. As we have written about the public cloud gold rushes and enterprise cloud adoption cycle, this ISV sales dynamic is in flux. The clients of ISVs may not be able to purchase software until they are successfully using cloud or 12 months after their journey begins. ISVs are now highly incented to make sure that their prospective clients progress successfully in their adoption of public cloud.
When I left AWS in 2011 and started Options I/O Cloud Marketplace, I knew that I couldn’t simply sell one type of software or service to a client and enjoy a long term relationship. I needed to start by placing myself in the client’s position and work backwards. Migrating to cloud for most enterprise clients is a 24-36 month effort depending on their workload profile. Clients need help with their entire stack and operational model in order to be successful on public cloud. This also means that different products and services may need to be sold at varying times on this journey. That meant that I needed to assemble both types of partners found today in the AWS Marketplace, consulting and technology (ISV) to ensure complete success for a public cloud project.
By combining the ability of providing engineering expertise along with DevOps, Security and Optimization software offerings I was bringing a complete solution to a certain type of software development client. When I engaged the AWS sales exec and regional partner manager I had a very different message for my AWS partnership. It wasn’t “Would you like to partner on ABC client” it was “I am already working with these three other AWS consulting and technology partners with ABC client, would you like updates and to partner?” Not once did an AWS sales or partner rep ever tell me no.
This is the single biggest mistake I see ISVs make with AWS. They don’t start with the client and move backwards to form an holistic approach for the respective cloud journey. Many ISVs are hopeful that if they list their offering on the AWS Marketplace and get someone familiar with the AWS sales network that it will take off. They are frustrated after 6 months that AWS sales and partner teams aren’t bringing them client opportunities.
Public Cloud Alliance Matrix Development
Developing your public cloud alliance matrix will be different for every ISV and will evolve over time. How many different public cloud client profile types do you have? How do your in-house consulting or professional services teams compete or compliment AWS professional services provided by third parties? Do your existing alliance relationships from the data center sales cycle need to be updated for your public cloud clients? Is your ISV competition alliance strategy impacting yours? Is your direct sales team enabled to cooperate?