When I started the Solutions Architecture (SA) team at GCP, we landed on the mission to “make cloud easier.” Especially at the start, Cloud was just too hard. We needed:
- Products (e.g. Google Cloud Machine Learning),
- those needed features, (e.g. AI Platform Notebooks)
- those features needed docs, (e.g. AI Platform Notebooks documentation)
- docs needed to be contextualized into examples, (e.g. blog post titled, “Using Google Cloud AI Platform Notebooks as a Web-Based Python IDE”
- quantified into architectures and estimates,
- validated by case studies, for lots of use-cases
- repackaged as training,
- games… whew.
GCP SA’s (and our DevRel/OCTO/CE/SCE/PSO/TAM/OMG/BBQ friends), you rock.
(Yes, Jan got hosed in this photo, it’s ok, he can code himself a replacement face. I promise Jamie is behind Théo hacking, and Jen is behind goofy Brennan, also hacking. Varun wins best smile, Kyle is not THAT tall, and Anees, Mari, and Preston are understandably preoccupied checking for the pizza delivery. Hugs to the lot of yah!)
We knew that this list of needs was so vast that many orgs failed customers by skimping on the tech and the truthiness; we knew the vaccine against “marketecture” (see example below)
was hands-on, direct engagement with customers. While we prototyped and demoed and definitely built some really incredible stuff, it turns out there was one asterisk on that “hands-on” idea: rules being what they were, we really couldn’t code, or deploy, or operate for customers. We understood the valid business and legal reasons for this, but it definitely meant that the last mile, the spot where our guidance made connection with the challenging scenarios of the real world was always ever-so-slightly opaque, distant.
So now I’m at SADA, and the rules are different.
We absolutely code, deploy, and operate for customers. We provide guidance and consultancy, but we’re also there, on-site, working together with customers to get their systems live. We drive positive change, hands-on with thousands of increasingly successful companies daily. Cloud, Maps, G Suite, Search, Data // migrations, modernization, even app dev: we’re the team solving for results.
Perhaps our mission should be to “make Google Cloud even easier,” but we have an even greater vision: we believe technology can empower people to transform the world.
In order to do this efficiently, to keep our promises to both our customers and our staff, to make this fun, fast, productive, and easier for all involved, we need to arrive on a method. The SADA way.
In one context this is pretty rote: it’s a cloud sales and delivery methodology. But we’re talking about a tech that basically all customers I speak to want to use, for which any reasonable analysis shows systematic cost savings, that helps businesses grow, build, and adapt faster than without. Are we really selling it? In most cases, competition aside, “sales” in this sort of scenario is a consultative process for understanding the shortest path to value. Most potential customers don’t push back on the utility, flexibility, performance, scale, or even security of GCP compared to other clouds anymore. The core issue remains: “how are we going to do this, and who’s going to help us?” In the recent report, “Gartner Survey Finds Talent Shortage Considered A Top Risk Among Executives,” it remains clear that an increasingly competed-for pool of qualified engineers makes it vital for companies to find help from partners like SADA.
It’s happened more than once: I’ll be describing a part of our normal pre-sales effort and a customer will ask how much that phase costs. It’s just hugely valuable to have experienced folks thinking through your systems’ challenges and the best ways for you to take it to what’s next.
Adding to this challenge is the truly staggering variety of workloads and use-cases covered by the ever-broadening Google Cloud ecosystem. And verticals. And geographies. And scales. Everything from optimizing a drone measurement system for Colorado highway engineers to helping a cutting-edge ad tech company utilize GCP machine learning for real-time processing.
Oh, don’t forget, you gotta have a good handle on not only where people are going, but on the technologies that they’re coming from, too!
Also! It turns out that try as we might, we cannot find humans who can do, or enjoy, all parts of this method equally well.
Our approach is to focus and eliminate extraneous variability by systematizing the roles and responsibilities of our folks, a bit like a cleanly architected application, composed of independent functions with explicit entry and exit criterion, covering specific objectives. Because our people and these tools and our customers are ever-changing, some of the details will shift over time, but generally, it works like this:
Marketing team members work closely with the sales organization and executive leadership team to develop thought leadership content and campaigns which drive awareness and consideration of products and solutions. From digital and social campaigns to in-person conferences and events, the Marketing team creates experiences to amplify the SADA brand, enhance and grow customer/partner connections, and provide support to the sales team by driving leads through the sales funnel to customer wins and success stories.
Inside Sales & Channel Representatives interact with potential Google Cloud customers and qualify those opportunities to validate them. Engagement is led through traditional new business acquisition practices like calling, email, educational workshops, and professional networking.
Account Representatives establish relationships (personal, contractual) with customers in order to gain a deeper understanding of their business needs and priorities. Once a thorough discovery process is completed, account reps work closely with SADA solutions architects to craft a proposal and then they lead the process of presenting that proposal to customers.
Account Representatives are responsible for all internal aspects of the pre-sales process — namely, certifying that an opportunity is closeable in the next 4 to 6 months before assigning other resources; ensuring that business and technical discovery is complete and thorough; documenting background, qualification, discovery, and meeting notes so all resources understand their role and responsibility on the opportunity. Account Reps are also the primary resource that leads communications with the client from the initial call through contract negotiation and execution. Account Reps should think of themselves as the project manager of the pre-sales process.
Solutions Architects engage customers to understand the business, technology and personnel context for the opportunity at hand, and use that information to generate a proposal for both a technology approach and a joint work effort to make it so.
On a daily basis, SADA Solution Architects (SAs) help our clients consider all of the technology options available to help them solve a particular business problem. They digest complex architecture artifacts and, leveraging their experience and expertise, recommend optimal cloud-based solutions to customer challenges.
Delivery Leads are the technical champions of their respective specialization areas, such as cloud infrastructure, containerization/k8s/Anthos, web/mobile development, data engineering and analytics, machine learning, and security. They oversee the delivery lifecycle to ensure that the ultimate approach and deliverable(s) are technically sound, and complete. During the opportunity qualification phase, they review proposals for resourcing, timing, and logistics to ensure estimates are reasonable and recommendations are justified. Then they work with their respective teams to deliver solutions that exceed our customers’ expectations.
Cloud Engineers are versatile, highly technical infrastructure specialists who develop, design and implement world-class infrastructure for our customers. They translate the proposed technology approach into a practical, executable architecture designed to meet the challenges of real-world availability, scalability, and resilience. Then they build it! Their infrastructure expertise spans hybrid-cloud solutions, experimental architectures, workload migrations, CI/CD pipelines, containers, HPC, and all points in between.
Data Engineers have an expansive role at SADA, going both deep and wide in a number of data domain areas. These include data warehouse modernization, batch/streaming pipelines, data analytics, Hadoop/Spark & Big Data, and complex backup/restore/DR solutions. Data engineers focus a large portion of their time exploring customers’ data systems in order to understand the shape and usage of their data, and then apply the best-fit architecture and tools to meet business objectives. Data engineers work closely with data scientists to provide the infrastructure necessary to enable their insights.
Project Managers own the cadence and coherence of our customer project engagements. From project kickoff to close-out, and follow-on engagements, they manage the flow of communication and the delivery of work in accordance with the schedule, budget, and assigned resources. They are assiduous data fanatics, tracking multiple project health metrics, and looking for trends and predictors of future risk. They also manage change requests when customers’ underlying requirements or business needs evolve over time.
Technical Account Managers deliver super-smart solutions and provide ongoing recommendations for process and technical improvements. SADA’s TAMs are the face of SADA to our most valuable clients. The TAM role mixes business objectives, technical know-how, and consultative skills in order to provide clients with a trusted partner who can help ensure the desired business outcomes are achieved in accordance with Google’s engineering best practices. TAMs can expect to consult with a CTO on cloud adoption strategy, help troubleshoot GKE scaling behavior, and build a BigTable for ML training demo, all in one day!
Client Partners are the glue between large enterprise customers, Google Cloud, and success. They direct the business, technical, and transformational strategy for the largest Cloud customers: making certain the full capabilities of Google Cloud are being employed everywhere there is value. Client Partners own the executive alignment at the C-suite and BOD, bringing the very best of SADA to bear.
This structure creates a balance of value for our customers, our employees, and our partners; allowing the incredible people involved to grow and do great work without feeling spread too thin or distracted by competing priorities. It’s a team structure designed to be enjoyed, at the same time as it’s delivering exceptional performance.