Consulting firms like Deloitte and Accenture are forming mutually beneficial business partnerships with Google around selling the Google Cloud platform to enterprise customers.
Deloitte and Google expanded their relationship at Google’s Next conference in April. The companies have a goal of driving billions of dollars of business to each other per year, said Tom Galizia, who leads Deloitte’s strategic alliance with Google in the US.
Accenture launched a formal business group with Google in 2018, which it also extended at Next to partner on digital transformation solutions across more industries.
Google’s cloud sales still lag behind Amazon and Microsoft. Partnerships with consultancies open a key sales channel and present a lucrative opportunity to diversify away from digital advertising.
And because Google Cloud is interoperable with Google’s marketing platform, consultancies can leverage it to get closer to the CMO and compete with agencies.
“We’re not just a services company,” said Ajit Thomas, go-to-market lead for the Accenture Google Cloud Business Group. “We’re a digital agency. We understand marketing workflows. We can help with the change management around that. Our traditional competitive set doesn't have that skill set.”
A Google-plus-Deloitte/Accenture pitch is attractive to marketers, because it allows them to leverage Google’s technology with the consulting firms’ expertise in analytics, change management and systems integration.
But these partnerships could further consolidate the advertising market around its dominant player and leave marketers with less choice, said Ana Milicevic, principal and co-founder at Sparrow Advisors.
“As a CMO, do you want to do what everybody else is doing,” she said, “or do you want to find your customers in a different way?”
Google and the enterprise
Google wants to scale its capabilities in artificial intelligence, machine learning and data science to industries beyond advertising. And with 80% of parent Alphabet’s revenue coming from advertising, Google sees cloud services as a way to diversify its revenue.
Allying with consulting firms, a common enterprise sales strategy, helped Amazon and Microsoft gain a collective 65% share of the cloud market, according to Gartner.
By contrast, Google’s sales and customer support capabilities are “somewhat underdeveloped,” Milicevic said, which has hampered the company’s growth. Even on the advertising side, Google has never been renowned for its services, relying on agencies and resellers to support its customers.
This oversight is Google’s biggest weakness, Milicevic said.
“Other tech behemoths want a more direct relationship to the customer,” she said. “It’s hard to be in a competitive situation and have a different approach.”
But when Google brought on long-time Oracle exec Thomas Kurian to run Cloud in late 2018, it signaled the need for a more hands-on sales approach. At Google Next, Kurian pledged to hire aggressively for the Cloud sales team, which he estimates is one-tenth to one-fifteenth the size of Amazon’s and Microsoft’s.
In the meantime, Google will lean into consulting firms’ platform expertise and relationships with clients to help drive cloud sales and adoption.
“We have multibillion-dollar industry practice areas,” Deloitte’s Galizia said. “We have manpower and feet on the street that have lived and breathed these platforms.”
Tying in marketing
Google has historically kept its advertising and cloud businesses separate, but the two are starting to overlap as CMOs increasingly rely on data and analytics. BigQuery, Google’s data warehouse, is a popular tool for businesses to run analytics across the enterprise, from sales to marketing, CRM, logistics, etc.
Most marketers have their media data in Google Marketing Cloud, and Google makes it easy to port that over to BigQuery to do more holistic analytics. That connection with marketing is Google’s differentiator against Microsoft and AWS, said Michael Ossendrijver, CEO of digital agency DQ&A.
“Google is seeing that in order to keep driving spend through programmatic pipes efficiently, business data has to be integrated more,” he said. “That’s where the Accentures and Deloittes of this world have been sitting for years.”
Because Google already has such strong penetration with its marketing cloud, converting just 10% of those clients into enterprise cloud customers could drive a meaningful revenue to the business, Milicevic said. “No company would benefit from the bulk of their revenue coming from one line of business,” she added.
Google sees consulting firms, experts in data and analytics, as more optimal partners than agencies, which only have relationships with the CMO.
“I don't know what [the holding companies] come back with other than creativity, which is not really working,” Milicevic said.
The consultant and the marketer
Ironically, while Google needs the consulting firms because of their relationships beyond CMOs, the consulting firms need Google because of its relationships with CMOs.
“This disruption of agencies and the move of CMOs into the enterprise suite is wildly attractive to us,” Galizia said. “Google’s position there is significant.”
Consulting firms use Google Cloud to sell their vision of digital transformation to marketers. With Google, consultants can tell a neat story about joining previously siloed data sets from across the enterprise to run a more efficient operation.
While Google and consulting firms offer a powerful sell to marketers, their alliances could further consolidate Google’s dominant position in the advertising industry and leave marketers with less choice when it comes to their technology decisions.
As Google continues to raise its garden walls to meet consumer privacy needs, it’s pushing more marketing functions, like Ads Data Hub, into the cloud, making it an even easier sell-in. But as marketers clamor for more choice, they should be careful before getting locked in with Google as their single cloud provider.
“Brands are looking for the utmost flexibility to flesh out all the systems and how they can achieve their objectives,” said Joe Weaver, president and CEO at Promatica Consulting. “The one thing you will never get with a big tech company is [the ability] to tell that company what to do.”