While the boom in industry-specific solutions is a new phenomenon that every major cloud provider is pursuing, the case of Google Cloud is particularly distinctive because it launched its entire industry-specific effort just 2-1/2 years ago.
After a recent lively conversation with the leader of Google Cloud’s industry solutions business, Lori Mitchell-Keller, I came away with 10 overarching reasons that underpin Google Cloud’s strategy in this booming category and that reveal the huge impact CEO Thomas Kurian has had since his arrival in January 2019.
Here are those 10 takeaways plus some illuminating perspectives on each from Mitchell-Keller, who joined Google Cloud about a year ago after a distinguished career in SAP’s industries business. And you can hear my entire conversation with Mitchell-Keller on our Cloud Wars Live podcast episode.
1. Businesses are racing to get smarter.
“First, customers want to figure out how to get significantly smarter, and quickly. Most companies have a lot of data, but it’s all in different silos.” So a key value driver within Google Cloud’s industry-specific solutions is helping clients bulldoze those data silos.
2. Everyone needs to get smarter.
Most corporations “usually have some data scientists or ML experts that can really dig into the data and provide great insights, but that’s not available to everyone in the company,” Mitchell-Keller said. “So we’re talking about helping customers ensure that their entire workforce is becoming smarter.”
3. Ability to adapt to change and disruption.
“A second big thing we hear from clients is that they really want more of a freedom to adapt to the market as it changes. Many of these companies have large on-premise solutions that are typically very transactional and they’re trying to figure out how to get the freedom to be able to use their data to look at a new market insights versus being able to see only what’s built into the solution.”
4. Workforces: dispersed but connected.
“Another big question is, ‘How do I better connect my workforce and connect with people across my organization?’ ” Mitchell-Keller said. “The ability to really collaborate and connect and be able to work concurrently on documents has been a real challenge.”
5. Don’t rip and replace; augment.
“We provide the opportunity to augment existing solutions without telling clients they should rip and replace. As you know, we’ve been talking about multi-cloud and hybrid cloud for quite some time and our solutions work on other clouds, not just ours. So the idea is how can we help our customers get better without a lot of churn or having to rip out some of the core solutions that they’ve been using.”
6. The need for speed.
“Speed is definitely another dimension, like growth and profitability, that all customers are looking at. With COVID, speed took on huge importance and became a huge imperative for every company.” Mitchell-Keller cited three examples: the big grocery-store chain, Albertsons, was experiencing a huge influx of phone calls related to store hours, mask requirements, etc. In two weeks, Google Cloud stood up a “Rapid Response Virtual Agent” to handle almost all of those calls.
At home-improvement retailer Lowe’s, Google Cloud helped get curbside pickup in full gear in less than 2 months. In healthcare, Humana wanted to be able to extract vital information and insights from the deluge of phone calls coming in from members. “In less than three months, we installed a solution using AI and ML to actually analyze those calls and to give Humana some really great insights and resulted in an 80% reduction in the processing time on any analysis around that call center experience,” she said.
7. ML, speed, and co-creating with customers.
“I have to say that our unique AI and ML capabilities, which I think are ranked highest in the market by lots of outside sources, really help us to be able to respond to our customers very, very quickly. The whole way we build solutions from start to finish is involving customers at every step of the journey.”
8. Attacking the big ugly hairballs.
“The heart of what we’re doing across all the industries is really to tackle the toughest challenges that the C-suite executives are having,” Mitchell-Keller said. “It’s not enough to just solve problems that are already out there, that have other solutions. That’s not what we’re interested in. We’re interested in solving those tough challenges that either don’t have a solution today or have a solution that’s not doing the best work it could do.” For example, demand forecasting: “Businesses have been using the same algorithms to do this work for decades. And yet today we have lots of new information that we can use, like traffic patterns, weather, trends, as well as using ML to better understand how a demand might evolve over time.”
9. Beyond efficiency to transformation.
“We can build from the ground up and be very agile in the types of industry solutions that we’re building. And I want to make sure I’m clear that we’re looking at industry transformation. We’re not looking at industry continuous improvement—of course, certainly we have solutions that help with that—but what our customers really wanting from us is understanding how do they transform their business? How do they find new opportunities for revenue growth and new business models that they wouldn’t have otherwise been able to implement without the help of Google Cloud?
10. Meeting customers where they are.
In a couple of instances, Mitchell-Keller emphasized that wherever possible, Google Cloud’d industry teams look to enhance what customers already have rather than competing directly against established solutions or providers.
“To be very clear, we’re not in the business of building a demand-planning solution to replace any of the transactional vendors out there. We want to just help with the algorithm that can sit on top of any demand-planning solution. Again, our desire is not to cause churn in our clients, not to cause a rip and replace, but actually to provide them capabilities that augment what they already have,” she said.
Some specific examples of that:
- Retail search: “Our retail search is not meant to be a full e-commerce solution—it’s meant to be additive on top of whatever e-commerce solution that you have, so that the search capabilities get a lot better and you’re able to return what the customers are actually looking for, not what you think they’re looking for.”
- Mortgage applications: “Our Lending DocAI solution is also not meant to replace loan-origination systems. It’s meant to augment those systems to be able to let them process faster because they can read the documents and infer what’s being asked for, what the answers are. And so those solutions, as well as demand forecasting that I used earlier, these are all meant to make the solutions that are out there better.”
- Combatting money laundering: “Now in some cases, there’s not a good solution out there at all,” she said. “Let’s take anti-money laundering, where those solutions typically return about a 95% false-positive rate. So the capabilities that we’ve brought out that we’re working with a customer on to pilot is actually bringing that dramatically down by tens of percentage points. And that’s a huge savings to the customer in terms of not having to research as many claims as they had been.”
I put Google Cloud in the #2 spot because of a combination of its Kurian-inspired leadership and vision in this emerging field and because their execution plan employs the entire company in a unified effort to meet the rapidly emerging need among customers for advanced purpose-built solutions.
I also believe that Mitchell-Keller’s outlook and mindset, reflected clearly in the 10 attributes outlined above, are playing a major role in turning Kurian’s compelling vision into high-impact reality.
Disclosure: at the time of this writing, Google Cloud was a client of Cloud Wars Media LLC and/or Evans Strategic Communications LLC.
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