Frost & Sullivan’s Movers & Shakers program is a unique platform in which expert industry analysts recognize and shine the spotlight on exceptional executive talent and leadership that drive a company and industry forward.
The Latin America (LATAM) Movers & Shakers series features interviews with leaders and visionaries accelerating growth and digital transformation in LATAM in a report-style interview format. Publication date will be confirmed based on availability. This is a complimentary, by-invitation-only service.
Movers & Shakers Interview with Marcos Grilanda, Head of Multi-country Organization for Commercial Sales, Amazon Web Services
Q: Marcos Grilanda, can you please describe your role to our readers?
I am the MCO region leader for Commercial Sales, which comprises all of the countries in Latin America except for Brazil and Mexico, specifically focused on the private sector. My key role is to orchestrate all of the resources across that region and to lead AWS’s geographic expansion, which we have been doing since January 2017, when we initiated the MCO operations. Since then, we created regional structures that could provide local support to our customers; we opened offices in Colombia (Bogota), followed by Chile (Santiago). In 2018, we opened the Argentina office (Buenos Aires) and we created operations dedicated to Peru, Central America and the Caribbean. In fact, our key goal with the MCO operation is to be closer to our customers and partners.
Q: Do you expect to have new offices in other countries in the near future?
We are going to keep expanding. In the case of part of South America, Central America and the Caribbean, we have a dedicated leader based in Miami; Chile and Peru are covered by the Chilean organization. We took an important step in 2018 to have teams dedicated to these countries, even though we don’t have an office for each one of them. Additionally, our partners have a fundamental role in all of the MCO countries in order to support AWS’s coverage in the region. MCO clearly comprises a large geographic coverage in which all customers want to stay close and to rely on migration, support and training services. As a result, our partners are a critical factor for our success in the MCO region.
Q: You became head of MCO with AWS almost two years ago, after working in Brazil for some time. How do you compare Brazil, the MCO region and the USA in terms of market maturity and opportunity for cloud computing? Have you seen any changes in the MCO region since?
Although I have been head of MCO for two years, I have been with the company for four-and-ahalf years, moving across different positions. Additionally, I’ve been working in the information technology (IT) and telecommunications sectors for 19 years.
From my experience, the differences have more to do with industries than countries. Industries can be more or less advanced, independent of where they are based, whether that is Brazil, Argentina, Chile or Colombia.
There are incredible business cases happeningin Brazil, from startups—like Nubank and 99 Taxis—to large enterprises such as Gerdau and Globo. The same goes for other countries in the region. In Argentina, a very important operation for us, the financial market—as the result of a new regulation—has quickly adopted AWS. We also see ERP migrations like SAP being executed at an accelerated pace, such as the case of Pampa Energía. In Chile, we have interesting business cases in retail such as Cencosud, a company that uses AWS to gain competitiveness and provide better services to its customers. In the financial services segment in the country, BCI is a benchmark for us. They created a digital credit card called “Mach” and already have more than a million customers using it. This is a very interesting case because they had to be compliant with the Central Bank’s regulation, which was very important for us and for the industry. In Colombia, we have important startups like Rappi, for instance, which became a benchmark in Latin America. We are very proud of this case because we have supported Rappi on its journey since the beginning, when it was a small startup in Colombia going through its expansion phase. We also have Sura and Bancolombia in the country, which are key clients for the company.
In a nutshell, I don’t see countries that are later adopters than others. There are obvious challenges, but, in general, we have helped by bringing more knowledge to regulatory agencies and showing them the possibilities of using the public cloud.
Q: What do you want to accomplish in the next couple of years?
We have a saying inside Amazon that it is “Always Day One,” and it really is. It is even more so within MCO, where we can help our customers and business partners even further. Even with all the success we have achieved, what continues to be most important is that customers are satisfied and using technology to gain competitiveness and innovate. Our goal as a team is to continue the geographic expansion and the proximity with our customers in all segments. Additionally, supporting our business partners will continue to be a fundamental part of our strategy, so that they’re ready to help us in our market coverage and inside large customers to understand their specific needs.
Q: There are two sides to a company’s growth: acquiring new customers or penetrating existing ones with more services from the portfolio. Which of these relates to AWS in the MCO region?
Our key goal is always what the client needs and what we can do so that it can be adequately supported and delivered. As a result, we are more worried about delivering to customers what they really need than anything else. We are proud to have so many business cases because they relate to customers that are satisfied and proud to show what they are building through and with AWS.
Q: How would you describe AWS’s mission? How is the innovation process conducted inside the company?
Our mission is to support our customers and partners in the cloud adoption journey through technical and commercial support, training and service delivery. We are close to our partners both in terms of commercial and technical monitoring to help them serve our customers best. This is the key to our mission.
What is AWS’s innovation strategy? Amazon has a very strong innovation culture. For example, we write a press release and a FAQ (Frequently Asked Questions) before we launch each product. This way, we seek to understand and explain in detail how this new product will reach the market and how the market will perceive it, before actually launching it.
We also have something we call the “two-pizza team,” which refers to a team that is small and fast enough to develop and deliver a product or service very quickly. In 2018, we delivered 1,957 new launches to the market.
Our customers let us know what they need, we listen, understand how a new product can help solve that business problem and launch it. About 90% of every product launch is based on customer feedback.
One of the biggest business cases we are proud to mention is the database one. Customers wanted a database that was more affordable than a proprietary database, while also not having licensing issues. However, they also wanted a database that had higher performance levels than open-source, free databases. So we created Amazon Aurora, which costs one-tenth the price of a proprietary database and performs five times higher than an open-source database.
In fact, this is the product with the highest growth in our history and a great example of how we listen to what our customers want. It is really gratifying to see how, for instance, customers will thank us during an event for features and product launches that they were wanting from us.
One of the most recent launches was S3 Glacier Deep Archive, which will replace tape archives and costs US$1 per terabyte, per month. This solves a big problem for large enterprises that have massive tapes archived.
Q: What are the biggest challenges for companies in the MCO region that want to transform themselves? What strategy does AWS have in place to help those companies embrace digital transformation? What is unique about AWS with regard to offering the best and most differentiated service experience to customers?
First of all, knowledge is the biggest challenge. We make and develop products so that both companies and professionals can build. We are builders. Digital transformation and innovation are a direct result of building. I usually say that there isn’t a pre-packaged digital transformation or innovation bundle. The biggest digital transformation and innovation success cases are the result of building. In order for our customers to understand their challenges and use AWS as a mechanism to innovate and create new solutions, they need knowledge. As a result, the biggest challenge companies have in that regard is to instruct and train their teams, as well as understand what can be done on top of AWS’s solutions. With that in mind, we offer several events throughout Latin America to deliver content. We have a broad training program—part of it online, part of it face to face—through which both customers and business partners can learn. The partner training enables the latter to conduct workshops and deliver information and knowledge to our customers.
To your last point, companies have access to a lot of differentiators when using AWS. The first one is experience. We have been doing this for almost 13 years, and we were pioneers in this market. We have been through a lot—challenges that competitors have yet to face or are facing right now. Managing high-capacity data centers is no easy task, neither is creating the amount of functionality that we do. The second differentiator is the number of solutions we provide. We are talking about more than 100 families of products and tools that are specifically chosen and delivered for each project. It is not just about having a cloud database but having different databases, each specific for each challenge; it is also not just about having servers in the cloud but having different instance types that fit each
The third, and last, is the quantity of customers and partners we have. We have business cases in all segments and all company sizes. We love to have our customers engage with each other because it is good for them and for us. Also, our business partners are experienced and want to effectively show the customer how it can advance in its cloud journey. They are not just reseller partners; on the contrary, they provide high added value, and this is unique to AWS.
Q: Do you believe that the level and quality of infrastructure and connectivity in our region present a challenge that impacts digital transformation and cloud adoption negatively? Or do you see other, more important challenges?
Our customers can choose which region they want to place their applications in, based on their specific needs, be it latency or regulation. We have a lot of business cases today in which customers make use of Availability Zones in the United States or customers like Netflix, which use different regions across the globe. Also, there are several ERP, e-commerce, banks and insurance companies that run their workloads in the United States. Therefore, the matter of latency and connectivity really depends on the type of application the company will be placing in the cloud and to what end. What we have seen in the market though is that the biggest challenge is regarding knowledge, as noted. If there is a case where latency is a critical factor, we suggest that the customer goes through a proof of concept (POC) to see what is possible and what isn’t. In fact, we encourage our customers to go through the POCs to test the technology. Cloud adoption doesn’t have to be high risk, precisely because the customer can look and experiment with it.
On the other hand, there is still lack of knowledge and unfamiliarity with regards to the technology in the region, but once that barrier is taken down, then the tide changes its course. In fact, the resistance with regard to the cloud has been diminishing. One of the things that used to happen—but doesn’t happen anymore—is the question regarding security. It has become clear to the market that being in AWS’s cloud is safer than being in their own data center. In the past, this was a restraint to adoption, but today it is a certification or even an assurance that going to the cloud is safe.
Q: What do you think the future holds for the Information and Communication Technologies (ICT) market in the MCO region?
AWS believes that in the long run, very few companies will still be in their own data center. The vast majority of companies will either be in the cloud or in hybrid architecture on their way to the cloud. Our goal is to support companies in that journey. Migrating to the cloud is not a matter of choosing yes or no, but how and how quickly can a company do it.
Q: Transformation is impacting several industries in the MCO region nowadays. How are these changes impacting AWS?
We adapt to the way our customers want to do business with us. If in a certain country we notice that there is greater demand for professional services, for instance—which is one of our consultancy areas to support customers—than we invest more in that aspect of the business. We are always looking at and analyzing each vertical and each customer request. In the startup universe, for example, we have a global program—AWS Activate—which gives up to US$100,000 investment credits. If we notice a greater demand for ERP migrations, for instance SAP migrations, we focus on developing SAP partners for that specific vertical inside that specific country.
Q. Grilanda, I want to close this conversation with a personal question. How would you define success for your role and what are you passionate about?
The definition of success within my professional field means being satisfied both internally and externally. It is the development of a team that you built and their recognition for what you are able to do for them. So when I go to a meeting with a customer that says, “My business wouldn’t exist if it weren’t for your technology,” or when a team expresses satisfaction for being a part of that history, that is, to me, an example of success.
As a hobby, I like to read biographies. I like to know what other great professionals have already done and inspire myself by it. Also, even with the heavy traveling, having time with the family.