AWS channel chief Doug Yeum looks to replicate Amazon innovation within partner network

Doug Yeum, who is at his first Re:invent as global channel chief talked with ChannelBuzz about his objectives in his new role, which reflect the fact he is not from a traditional channel background.

Doug Yeum, AWS head of worldwide channels and alliances

Doug Yeum, who took over as the head of worldwide channels and alliances at AWS in July, has an unusual background for a channel leader. He spent most of the previous two years as CEO Andy Jassy’s Chief of Staff. Before that, however, he was the South Korean country manager for almost four years. And before that, he had the same job in Korea – but with Google. A country manager job has a somewhat different perspective than a typical channel sales role, being more holistic in nature, and with a focus on replicating the strengths of the parent organization in the local market, while making provision for local differences. Unsurprisingly, Yeum brings a different perspective to his new role, which begins with looking for a way to replicate AWS’s traditional strengths within the APN [Amazon Partner Network].

“There is a very rigorous approach from the product development side that I want to bring,” Yeum told ChannelBuzz. “The APN has gotten so big and diverse. It’s time to take a step back, and look at all the different types of partners we have, look at their needs and whether we have the right programs for them to be successful. It’s taking the broader concept we stress at AWS of working back from the customer, and applying it to the partner network.”

To that end, Yeum looks on APN like an AWS platform, and the different programs within APN as akin to services within the platform.

“The important thing is find the best ways to innovate,” he emphasized. “I don’t want to develop products for the sake of developing them. They are only useful if they get used. Just launching a program itself isn’t a success. It has to get used. It has to deliver value.”

Yeum indicated that CEO Andy Jassy shares these ideas.

“When I was Chief of Staff and thinking about what I wanted to do next, we talked about strategic areas of the business where we needed to invest more and get better,” he said. “He is passionate about working closely with the partners, and he felt that I could go in with a new set of eyes, and that I could bring a new perspective to APN.”

Yeum said that traditional approaches to managing partners don’t necessarily have this focus.

“You can fall into a trap, especially if you have been in the industry for a long time,” he said. “Channel people try to reapply their knowledge but I don’t think you bring innovation that way. I look on APN as a product, and our partners as our customers. Is our product innovative for our customers? That’s why we aren’t trying to copy other programs in the market.”

One objective is to find a more consistent method of management.

“The hard part with any enablement bucket is the execution, to best help a partner,” Yeum said. “Is there a different way of delivering it consistently? If I want to get a ML practice set up, the quality of delivery should be consistent. How do we remove that variability to get consistency? Ive been thinking about different ways to do it. In services, we provide APIs which give the same result to all. Can I come up with something similar for say, the ML practice, which would be the equivalent of being API-consistent, and would improve the overall experience for our partners.”

Another goal is to find a way of bringing this consistency to an APN which has both a huge number of partners on both the ISV and solution provider sides, and a very divergent range of partners, from small AWS-focused consultants to large global systems integrators.

“That is one of the key challenges we have – the very different composition of partners in our network.” Yeum said. “We need more tailored ways of providing them support. Sometimes you have to standardize at a certain level, but standardization is not always best. I don’t have a sold answer right now.”

Improvements do need to be made to partner-led sales motions.

“We have both partner-supported sales motions and partner-led sales motions,” Yeum said. “We are very good on the partner-supported motion, and getting better. With partner-led, we have to work closely with partners to see how we can get that better. If we can get those two fly-wheels spinning together, we will have a multiplier effect”

Yeum said that many partners come to them and say they also need to transform and innovate, and would love to get more support from AWS, and that he is encouraging that kind of strategic transformation.

“We know that with some of the larger partners, they won’t be all-in on AWS, but they may well be for particular solutions,” he said. “Deloitte for example has their converged health platform on AWS. That kind of thing we will see. I’m happy to carve up things like that. With the GSIs, we have to be flexible enough to operate that way.”

Yeum stated that ultimately, he wants the APN to replicate AWS and Amazon more closely.

“I would love for the APN to be a multiplier for business,” he said. “Customers want to move fast. If partners can help them move faster, that’s wonderful. Speed matters to all companies. We truly believe speed is the most important thing right now.

“AWS and Amazon are also somewhat unique, because we are unusually customer obsessed,” he added. “We like to build things, and we are unusually long-term oriented. I would love to work with partners who see those things as well.”

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