Who will be Cloud Wars Top CEO for 2019?
Who will be Cloud Wars Top CEO for 2019?

Who’s Top CEO: Salesforce’s Benioff? Oracle’s Ellison? Google’s Kurian? Or??

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With all of the top cloud vendors delivering remarkable performances in 2019, which leader deserves to be the Cloud Wars CEO of the Year?

Across all of the Cloud Wars platforms, we are unabashed evangelists for the power of the cloud as a transformative engine of innovation, growth and opportunity.

For each of the past 2 years, we’ve named a CEO of the Year to recognize extraordinary vision, leadership and achievement for an executive who’s managed to stand out within the remarkably gifted set of leaders spurring world-changing transformation.

In 2017, our first year, we named Microsoft’s Satya Nadella as the CEO of the Year. Nadella stood out for engineering the remarkable turnaround at Microsoft, as he—by his own admission—set out to “transform everything we do inside the company.” Under Nadella’s brilliant leadership, Microsoft has had a lock on the #1 spot in the Cloud Wars Top 10 for the past 2 years.

In 2018, we honored AWS CEO Andy Jassy for the ongoing growth and innovation at the #2 company in the Top 10. I also highlighted Jassy’s bold gambit to move Amazon’s entire sprawling empire—not just the AWS Cloud, but the whole corporation—off of nemesis Oracle’s databases and onto AWS’s own.

So who will it be, here in 2019?

While the leaders of the #1 and #2 cloud vendors in the Top 10 continue to set torrid paces for the whole industry here in 2019, some other executives have also led enormously successful campaigns this year centered on customer value, innovation, growth, and expansion. Here are some I’m considering:

#3 Salesforce co-CEO Marc Benioff

The charismatic Benioff is only a year away from playing some very serious footsie with $20 billion in annual revenue. No other software-only cloud vendor has come close to that mark, and it reflects Benioff’s well-deserved recognition as one of the legendary leaders of our time.

#4 SAP co-CEOs Jennifer Morgan and Christian Klein

Both are excellent and high-potential leaders, but since they’ve been in their co-CEO roles for only a handful of weeks, they can’t really be considered. Next year, of course, is a different story.

#5 Oracle chairman Larry Ellison

Yeah, yeah, technically Ellison’s no longer the CEO at the company he founded 40 years ago. But until Ellison takes up sailboat racing or some other non-techie pursuit full-time, he’ll continue to be the person who really runs the show at Oracle regardless of who holds what title. His SaaS business is booming. His cloud-native Autonomous Database could be the most-successful product the company’s ever had. And via that new database, he’s doing a classic Ellison move of rewriting the rules of the game to align with his vision of the future.

#6 Google Cloud CEO Thomas Kurian

Kurian has brought tremendous change and growth to Google Cloud since joining in January. Of particular note is how he has raised the customer to a pre-eminent position in everything the company does. Kurian’s also well on his way to tripling the size of the global sales organization and building out an extensive customer-experience and customer-success team and culture.

Cloud Wars

Top 10 Rankings — Nov. 11, 2019

1. Microsoft — Q1 cloud revenue of $11.6B = 35% of company’s total revenue!
2. Amazon — As growth rate falls behind MSFT, will AMZN expand into SaaS?
3. Salesforce — Is Benioff planning to switch more databases from Oracle to AWS?
4. SAP —Microsoft deal drives growth as Q3 cloud revenue tops $2B for new CEOs
5. Oracle — Ellison: Autonomous DB growth “so extraordinary, we’re not forecasting”
6. Google — No Q3 cloud revenue details, but “significant growth” across the globe
7. IBM — Cloud + industry expertise powers huge partnership w/ Bank of America
8. Workday — CEO Aneel Bhusri says Oracle, SAP can’t match it in Fortune 100 mkt.
9. ServiceNowBill McDermott takes over as CEO as Q3 revenue reaches $900M
10. Accenture — $9B cloud business up 23% in ‘18
#7 IBM CEO Ginni Rometty

Will Rometty’s $33-billion bet on Red Hat pay off? Can it spark much-needed growth across not only IBM’s cloud business but the entire company? Can she bring clarity and momentum to the far-flung collection of products and services currently wrapped up in the IBM Cloud banner?

#8 Workday CEO Aneel Bhusri

Bhusri has pushed his company to the brink of $4 billion in annual revenue, established Workday HCM as the leader in the Fortune 100, and has added several high-growth product lines to support that flagship HCM business. While Bhusri shuns the spotlight, the CEO has quietly created a cloud powerhouse that might have the best relationships with customers of any company in the Cloud Wars Top 10.

#9 ServiceNow (incoming) CEO Bill McDermott

This one’s tricky. Can a person who hasn’t even taken over at his company have enough marketplace impact to be considered for CEO of the Year? Or was McDermott able to achieve in just 9 months at SAP—including cloud-revenue growth of 40% for the year— enough to merit a full shot?

Closing Thoughts

Clearly, there are lots of worthy candidates for the Cloud Wars 2019 CEO of the Year. They’ve all been helping to drive the massive changes triggered by digital transformation and the parallel dynamic of every company becoming a software company. 

Do you have a favorite for this year’s award? Share it with me on Twitter at @bobevansIT. I’ll take suggestions into account before unveiling the winner at year-end.

Disclosure: at the time of this writing, Microsoft, SAP, Oracle, Google Cloud, IBM and Workday were clients of Evans Strategic Consulting LLC and/or Cloud Wars Media LLC.


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