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With his first re:Invent looming, what will AWS's new boss bring to the table?

·4-min read

It's that magical time of year. No, I'm not talking about the upcoming holiday season. Instead, it's time for AWS's annual customer extravaganza re:Invent, which starts next week. The conference is always a newsy event with tons of new features and products being announced. It's also a time for AWS to pull together the press, customers, partners and other interested parties to party in Vegas. This year it has a new twist.

Besides the gathering returning to Vegas after a year as a virtual event due to the pandemic, this year's event will mark the first re:Invent with new CEO Adam Selipsky at the helm.

Selipsky came over from Tableau earlier this year after Jeff Bezos announced he was moving into the executive chairman role, and former AWS CEO Andy Jassy moved up to replace Bezos as Amazon CEO.

With the executive musical chairs shuffle settled, Selipsky will deliver the main keynote, and he'll have big shoes to fill. Jassy had an uncanny ability to keep his company's vast product catalogue inside his head and talk about how all of the pieces connected to one another seemingly extemporaneously. Pulling off a similar feat will not be easy.

But Selipsky brings his own personal strengths to the table, as Jassy pointed out in the email he sent to employees announcing that the former Tableau exec would be his successor:

"Adam brings strong judgment, customer obsession, team building, demand generation, and CEO experience to an already very strong AWS leadership team. And, having been in such a senior role at AWS for 11 years, he knows our culture and business well."

That is all true, and the division he is now running remains firmly in command of the market, but there have been signals that, in spite of that success, Selipsky could be ready to put his own stamp on AWS and maybe begin to tweak how they do business.

For example, Bloomberg reported last week that he intends to take a page from Microsoft and Google's cloud playbook and concentrate more on industry-specific solutions. Under Jassy's rule, they avoided this strategy, preferring a more generalized approach, letting partners deal with the specifics.

Perhaps his short time as part of Salesforce when Tableau was acquired, which likes the industry-driven solutions approach, convinced Selipsky that this would be a good way for AWS to go as well. But beyond that, he has not revealed if he intends to change things under his command. Maybe he will next week, or perhaps he sees something that isn't broken and doesn't need fixing.

When asked what advice they would give to Selipsky, a couple of industry watchers had quick responses.

Holger Mueller, an analyst at Constellation Research, says the first thing he would advise Selipsky to do is reduce the growing set of products into a simpler, less comprehensive catalogue. "CTOs avoid [solutions that have] to rely on the ingenuity of developers instead of a platform offering with version numbers and road maps from AWS connecting the dots for them," he said.

Secondly he would suggest taking a more enterprise-friendly approach to cloud sales, something more like Google and Microsoft (or even IBM and Oracle). He would suggest possibly hiring experienced enterprise executives as Google has done, particularly with CEO Thomas Kurian, who came from Oracle in 2018, or Robert Enslin, who came on board from SAP in 2019 as president of global cloud operations.

Patrick Moorhead, founder and principal analyst at Moor Insights & Strategy, has a couple of different recommendations, proposing they move up the stack and start developing more SaaS applications to compete with Google, Microsoft and Adobe, among others. Further, he wants to see them move into hybrid more, where their competitors are trying to take the lead.

All that said, the division is immensely successful. In the most recent quarterly report, the company reported $16.1 billion in revenue, but Selipsky himself told Bloomberg's Emily Chang in an interview last week that he knows he can not simply rest on his laurels and count on that success continuing with such formidable competitors chasing his company.

"It's really important to continue to act as if we're insurgents and not to start to act like incumbents," Selipsky told Chang.

Regardless, at re:Invent, he will have his first turn as the face of AWS, delivering the main keynote, and while he is reporting to Jassy, he is his own person and will emphasize what he sees as important to continue growing the lucrative division. We will see next week if that involves any significant changes or not.

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