Snowflake Inc Director Alliances & Channels, APAC Guy Baldwin shares his smarts on building strategic alliances that last and why all roads lead back to customer satisfaction.
By Joanne Leila Smith
According to HTF Market Intelligence recent report ‘Asia-Pacific Software-as-a-Service Market 2018-2023’ The SaaS market is anticipated to grow at a CAGR of 34.28% during the forecast period 2018-2023.
Based on the deployment model, the SaaS market can be segmented into public cloud, private cloud and hybrid cloud. In the Asia Pacific region, Japan is leading in SaaS adoption.
The industry, depending on your perspective, is in an accelerated growth phase, with customers preferring to use SaaS wherever possible. By moving to the Cloud, it cuts straight to the outcome with no time being spent on maintaining underlying services infrastructure; clients move straight to the part when they can start to generate value and, when it comes to big data and analytics this is entirely the point.
Companies want to spend little time setting up and managing IT infrastructure and services; they want to cut to the part where they derive actionable intelligence typically for better customer insight or improved business operations.
Typically, the time and effort for setting up the underlying services is large. Getting to SaaS changes this into minutes and shifts the investment focus into value creation.
Another major driver of growth is that by being cloud based, clients bring unit economics into the mix; they can scale down technology to much smaller organisations or smaller starting points; so the entry barriers of price are no longer the domains of the largest brands in the world. Anyone can use these technologies for sometimes just hundreds or a few thousand dollars compared to the hundreds and sometimes millions of dolllars needed to be spent to even begin to build these kinds of practices without the need to hire system specialists or pay large consulting fees to get started with large up front licencing fees.
Given that Cloud is front of mind for most organisations undergoing some form of digital transformation, we asked Snowflake Inc Director Alliances & Channels, APAC Guy Baldwin to unpack his expertise in taking clients on their journey to cloud migration.
Snowflake is considered a classic Silicon Valley company, where it’s perceived to be one of the de facto leaders in the US Cloud Data Warehouse market. The past 18 months Snowflake appears to be building a solid footprint in SE Asia, with the opening of offices in Australia, New Zealand and Singapore.
“In the US, if we go through all the different vertical markets, whether that’s financial services or health care or retail we could point to some big household names, like Nike, Adobe etc, are very happy Snowflake users. However, Singapore is certainly a very high growth area for us and we are in the market looking for additional sales and pre sales people in Singapore,” says Baldwin.
According to Baldwin, what is fundamentally different about Snowflake is it literally was built from the ground up to every last piece of code.
“The reason we undertook such a huge amount of work is we saw fundamental limitations with existing systems. For example, with a lot of offerings in the market, you need to hire very expensive skilled staff to go run some very complex ecosystems, think of a Gmail or salesforce.com. However, from a Snowflake perspective, you just load in your data using the tools you use already and off you go. This makes it very accessible for SMBs and SMEs. What I find very exciting is, we like to celebrate signing on big brands, however, if you’re a one-man SMB, you get to use the same code that Nike uses. It’s the same software and everyone just pays for exactly what they use, essentially down to the second. The old way of selling and buying software was that you had a very large enterprise license. We remove all the complexity that this model entails,” says Baldwin.
Snowflake runs on public Cloud and Baldwin says it can scale as large or as small as the client needs. There’s no limitation.
“Scalability is a massive draw for clients. Increasingly, the data that we’re dealing with isn’t just structured data. It’s also a lot of semi structured data. For example, in Singapore with its Smart Nation initiatives, a lot of the data coming off traffic lights and sensors is what we call semi structured; it’s not in standard rows and columns’ data. One of the great things about Snowflake is, we can load in semi structured data and Snowflake decodes it and presents it the same way as structured data,” says Baldwin.
While taking care of client demand with tools, we asked Baldwin to share his smarts on creating strategic alliances; particularly from a delivery perspective, given that SaaS does so much of the heavy lifting already.
“We need technology partners. We also need organizations to get value out of that data. We also need data science experts; young people now run data science models on top of Snowflake. So this is really just what I call the technology ecosystem. There’s also people who do things like data governance and data lineage, you know, so there’s many other products here. Snowflake is just one component of what I see as a very large technology landscape and the combination of those different products is different for every customer,” says Baldwin.
When looking to build strategic partners, Baldwin says tight working relationships are critical to customer success.
“We want organizations who commit to us. So in terms of both getting trained up we want organizations that work very closely with our sales force, and our pre sales people to align to whatever is the customer need. I’m more interested in having a smaller number of committed partners, than a very wide ecosystem of partners who you don’t know or who don’t work with us on a daily basis,” says Baldwin.
We asked Baldwin given that there is a heavy, and justifiably so, emphasis on technological excellence, is inter-personal skills also on his radar when looking to build partnerships?
“We want partners to have the right skills, but it most certainly helps if they’re also individuals that we can work with too. We solve pretty complex challenges for some of our customers, team projects can have its ups and downs, so having a partner where you have a tight relationship is absolutely key, and that’s what our customers need and it really comes back to what’s best for the customer. Personally, and I think as a business, one of things we strive for is to be completely transparent,” says Baldwin.
Measuring performance regularly also helps to keep the relationship, and client satisfaction on track. Baldwin says no one should be exempt.
“On a quarterly basis we’ll review a partner in terms of how are they marketing with us, are they creating value, are our customers getting great customer care. We do benchmark them but, I fully expect our partners to benchmark us too because that’s a true partnership. I would much rather have a difficult discussion which is an honest discussion, because ultimately that gives better customer outcomes. To be honest, the organizations that we’ve sought out have all come with stellar reputations. Organizations with a good reputation will deliver a reflective service. It always seems to come back to word of mouth for any type of sales, at any level,” says Baldwin.
On the question of value creation, Baldwin says you don’t get to be as big as an Accenture or deploy to a PwC unless you’re solving some very big challenges for customers.
“When we talk about extracting value from data, there’s been a lot of rearview mirror, sort of dashboarding, if you will, when you look back at the business and you report to executives on how business is going. But increasingly, we’re seeing predictive analytics becoming more pronounced… We also need vertical specialists. People who really know, financial services, people who understand healthcare, manufacturing etc. We need partners to bring that local subject matter expertise,” says Baldwin.
While predictive analytics is a hot topic, it tends to invite discussion on data handling and privacy. We asked Baldwin whether the opportunities for selling, cross-selling and upselling through hyper-targeted use of customer data is a beast that can be contained.
“Everyone has concerns about data privacy. But I think we can all agree that if we can manage data privacy appropriately, we can use that to drive better outcomes across a variety of industries, such as insurance, health, technology, education, safety, retail etc and that’s a very positive thing. The reality is data is being collected by everyone. It’s being anonymized, it’s being stored and it’s being used; whether it’s to sell a product, achieve better health outcomes, drive better insurance premiums etc, data privacy will be an ongoing conversation in all industries – as to how we manage that, is another conversation entirely!” says Baldwin.