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All change - Rob Enslin joins Google from SAP

Den Howlett Profile picture for user gonzodaddy April 17, 2019
Rob Enslin joins Google - this is a big enterprise software landscape shake-up.


via Google
Rob Enslin (via #teamenslin)

When SAP announced that Rob Enslin had decided to leave SAP, the scuttlebutt went into overdrive betting on where he would land - Accenture or Google? It turns out that after a couple of weeks well deserved vacation that Google won the day. Why does this matter?

In a brief exchange with consultant/analyst Frank Scavo I said that this represents one of the biggest leadership shake-ups in enterprise software I've seen in a number of years.

From the Google blurbs (Enslin replaces the incumbent Paul-Henri Ferrand), attributed to Thomas Kurian, who recently joined from Oracle :

Today, it is my pleasure to introduce Robert Enslin, Google Cloud’s new President of Global Customer Operations. Rob’s expertise in building and running organizations globally, business acumen and deep customer and partner relationships make him a perfect fit for this crucial role. Rob will report to me, and he starts on April 22.

Rob spent the last 27 years at SAP in leadership roles across sales and operations, most recently as the President, Cloud Business Group and Executive Board Member. He developed and managed SAP’s entire cloud product portfolio, led the field revenue and enablement efforts across multiple geographies, and oversaw core functions including professional services, ecosystem, channel, and solutions. 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.

As someone who has known Enslin for some years, I can say that this is a huge catch for Google. Frank Scavo speculates that:

For now, Google's immediate objective appears to be to take on Amazon and Microsoft for cloud infrastructure services. But with hiring of Kurian and Enslin, will Google also start moving into enterprise applications? Or will it be content to just be a platform provider.

In the immediate aftermath of the announcement, there was much Twitter discussion as to what this means. Jeff Nolan, a long-time investor, and SAP alum is not convinced this is a winning combination:

Nolan is of the view that AWS is the enterprise winner and that Kurian's enterprise chops, combined with Enslin's sales experience are not enough to elevate Google, arguing that Google is approaching enterprise from the wrong angle. That debate will continue for sure but SAP's long time alignment with Google will not go unnoticed.

There is no debate that Google has struggled to make headway in the enterprise space. Outside GMail  and arguably GCal, its cloud apps have fared poorly. Job one will be for Enslin to convince buyers that their data is theirs and not used for advertising use.

Kurian joined as a replacement for the much respected but ultimately falling Diane Green as head of Google's enterprise division. Kurian is not a sales guy where Enslin has nothing to prove in the SAP sales world.

But will the combination of Kurian and Enslin as proven powerhouse players in the enterprise space bring Google to the enterprise table in real fashion? That's certainly up for discussion though, as Bill McDermott. CEO SAP presaged:

He’ll be a great champion for SAP in his new opportunity


My take

Kurian and Enslin are much-respected operators in the enterprise space. Kurian as the past Oracle cloud dev guy and Enslin as the sales lead represent a formidable combination. Precisely what this means going forward has yet to be understood. Ben Haines argued that:

One thing is for sure - Google is now in the enterprise spotlight in a manner it's never been before.

In a brief direct Twitter message exchange, Enslin thanked me for our years of conversation. I expect that to continue. Unlike many executives who pay lip service to analyst opinion, he is open to hearing what we hear in the field and responding by way of action. I look forward to better understanding his thoughts on Google's place in the enterprise pantheon.

As an aside, the Kurian-Enslin match says plenty about the shifting tides in the enterprise software landscape. We will wait to see how this plays out.

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