SaaS providers, from well-known platforms to niche players, are calling on consulting and integration partners to develop and market their industry clouds.
The activity underscores a general verticalization trend among cloud ecosystems. The driving principle: The vertical cloud must meet the customer's particular industry requirements for supporting digital transformation.
"Industry clouds are the enabler for transformation and automation in industry-specific business processes," said Chris Thomas, principal of cloud technology at Deloitte, which partners with cloud providers. Thomas noted that 74% of executives identified as cloud leaders in a 2022 Deloitte survey cited industry clouds as the catalyst for transformation.
The following cloud alliances illustrate the pattern:
- Workday, which offers cloud-based enterprise application in human capital management and finance, last week launched an Industry Accelerator initiative. It will initially partner with Accenture, Deloitte, KPMG, and PwC.
- Slack, a Salesforce company that offers a cloud-based business messaging application, last week said it is joining forces with Salesforce consulting partners to deliver industry-specific Slack offerings. The first wave of Slack Partner Industry Solutions will address verticals, including financial services, manufacturing, communications, retail, media and technology.
- Cropin, an AgTech specialist backed by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, earlier this month launched an industry cloud for agriculture and plans to expand its work with systems integrators and other partners.
- Some partners, conversely, are enlisting cloud providers. Tata Consultancy Services (TCS), an IT services company based in Mumbai, is teaming with Salesforce on an automotive industry cloud. TCS has been promoting its cloud offering at the North American International Auto Show in Detroit, which wraps up this week.
Partners central to Workday accelerators
The industry cloud push plays to the strengths of consulting and IT services providers that have historically maintained industry expertise, often organizing practices along vertical market lines. For cloud providers, such partners provide the skills and digital transformation experience to bolster their industry strategies.
Workday's Industry Accelerators, which debuted at the company's Workday Rising event, draw upon partners to address the demand for digital transformation, especially in the finance and operations areas.
"Digital transformation for the office of the CFO is a big topic right now," said Pete Schlampp, chief strategy officer at Workday. "What we are trying to do with industry accelerators is say, 'We've got an onramp for you in your industry.'"
The Workday ecosystem currently offers accelerators for the banking/capital markets, healthcare, insurance and technology sectors. Partners contribute accelerators in a couple of ways. For one, they create pre-defined configurations geared toward a specific industry. Workday's business process framework lets partners ply their industry knowledge to configure the company's SaaS applications.
This differs from customizing software to meet industry needs, which is an approach some industry clouds take, Schlampp noted. Workday keeps all its customers on the same code base, which he said provides for a common data model that enables machine learning, better automation and improved personalization.
A second type of accelerator is a connector that integrates Workday with an industry-oriented, third-party application.
Lastly, Workday and its partners will co-innovate on what Schlampp described as "packaged offerings" residing on Workday's cloud. The company, working with partners, plans to publish 25 such offerings this year, many of which will be industry specific. Co-innovation relationships have become increasingly important in the building of industry clouds.
Slack taps partners for industry offerings
Slack's interest in IT service providers is also linked to digital transformation, which the company said requires technology integration, change management and organizational redesign -- services partners provide. Slack's roster of certified consulting partners includes Accenture, Atrium, Capgemini, Deloitte, Globant, IBM, KPMG, NeuraFlash, PwC, Silverline and Slalom.
Those companies' cloud offerings consist of industry-specific use cases, which stem from partners' previous experience with Slack and various clouds within the Salesforce portfolio, said Richard Hasslacher, vice president of global alliances and channels at Slack.
Participants in the Slack Partner Industry Solutions program also advise customers on challenges knowledge workers face. Among those, Hasslacher said, is "context switching" -- a productivity drain that arises when users juggle multiple applications to complete tasks. Partners, he said, can help advance Slack as an app coordination layer as opposed to an ancillary communications service.
Partners and their industry use cases "are helping to paint the art of the possible for thinking about Slack as an aggregation and orchestration platform," Hasslacher said. "The big benefit is being able to understand how to leverage Slack more as an agent of change than a chat platform."
As for next steps, Hasslacher said Slack plans to increase the number of industry offerings and the number of partners providing them. "We are looking to expand this rapidly over the coming quarter," he noted. "There is real demand from our customers for use cases that specifically address their industry needs."
Partner recruitment on tap for Cropin
Cropin, with headquarters in Bangalore, India, is cultivating partners for its newly launched agriculture cloud. Cropin Cloud aims to provide a platform through which agri-businesses, development agencies and governments can accelerate digital transformation in the food value chain.
Richard HasslacherVice president of global alliances and channels at Slack
Krishna Kumar, CEO and co-founder of Cropin, said the company's cloud "will immensely benefit from a strong ecosystem play."
AWS is already a strategic technology and go-to-market partner for Cropin Cloud. The ecosystem also includes regional partners such as PSW Digital, a consulting firm in the Latin American market, and True Digital Group, a digital transformation provider in Thailand and Southeast Asia.
"We continue to scout and build new partnerships with global system integrators and regional system integrators," Kumar said.
ISVs and local resellers are also part of Cropin's ecosystem strategy. Partners will help scale the reach and deployment of the company's agriculture industry cloud, Kumar added.
TCS revs automotive clouds
Targeting the automotive industry, TCS Mobility Cloud Suite encompasses use cases and accelerators. The accelerators include business processes and software code to shorten customers' development cycles, said Partha Reddy, head of manufacturing, energy and resources at TCS Americas.
TCS Mobility Cloud Suite is designed to work with public clouds, SaaS platforms like Salesforce and ServiceNow, TCS' private cloud, and customers' private clouds. "The architecture is agnostic," Reddy said.
In addition, TCS has partnered with Salesforce to create an automotive cloud, which also uses the accelerator approach. That offering's Detroit auto show debut seems to point at a single-industry focus. But Frank Diana, futurist and managing partner at TCS, said cloud ecosystems are now moving into cross-industry territory. Auto manufacturers, for example, are partnering with energy companies and insurance firms.
"That phenomenon requires speed and scale in the context of innovation," he said.