This is the story of ISR’s journey with SoftBank to accelerate expansion of the G Suite ecosystem in Japan
SoftBank and ISR have been active within the G Suite ecosystem since 2011. This interview is about how ISR was able to gain SoftBank’s trust as a partner.
Director, Cloud Business Planning, Strategy Business Division
Manager Planning Section Cloud Business Promotion Department Strategy Business Division
The role of SoftBank as a Google reseller and its approach to being a Google partner in Japan
–First of all, please tell us about SoftBank’s role as a G Suite reseller.
Fujita: We started in 2011 and are in our 7th year of selling G Suite.
When we started G Suite sales, there was a small number of users for G Suite. Currently, it has been adopted by more than 1 million users.
These results indicate that, as a G Suite reseller, we have led the market and customers have appreciated our efforts.
Our role has been to, obviously, expand the market and in order to do that, we have tried to get Japan’s G Suite and the cloud market to grow. This has been our main role as a reseller.
–Please share with us how SoftBank achieved its proven track record as an enterprise reseller for G Suite in Japan.
Taniguchi: Very important factors are the fact that G Suite has a very easy to understand pricing model as well as that SoftBank itself was able to communicate its experience as a G Suite user to our customers.
Fujita: Yes, that is right. Pricing is a very important factor of G Suite.
SoftBank had been expanding sales of iPhone and iPad, and as an application that runs on these devices, there was a lot of synergy with G Suite.
I believe that G Suite helped increase sales of these mobile devices and they enabled a new, convenient way to approach customers.
I think that because of our sales and marketing efforts, our customers thought that “If it is SoftBank, then it is all right.”
-Could you tell us about your experience, at the launch of sales, battling the then dominant (monopoly) solution in the market?
Taniguchi: Yes. Certainly at that time there was, for lack of a better word, a de facto standard. Most customers compared G Suite with the dominant (monopoly) solution and then made a decision.
However, the G Suite approach was different from that of the dominant (monopoly) solution, emphasizing collaboration. I think many customers understood Google’s superiority, without having to compare feature by feature, and chose G Suite.
Building trust with ISR, the road to our partnership
-What was the driving factor that lead to the selection of CloudGate?
Taniguchi: In order to use G Suite, enterprises felt that they needed an SSO solution. At that time, CloudGate was the most well-known service that developed and operated for enterprise customers. That was the main factor driving of our selection of CloudGate as our SSO solution.
Fujita: That is right. At the very beginning, we offered CloudGate as our G Suite SSO option and thereby were to achieve an increase in the number of sales.
-When compared to other vendors how is CloudGate different?
Taniguchi: My impression is that, among SSO vendors of G Suite, from the start till now, ISR has been a model of security and trust. Especially with the first customers, they basically understood the concept of cloud services but many did not fully understand about the Google Cloud. ISR had a dedicated support organization that has handled large customers’ special requirements and this somehow resulted in their feeling of trust and confidence in ISR. Additionally, ISR has accumulated an impressive collection of customers and user accounts.
Fujita: Definitely, ISR generates a feeling of confidence. Compared with other vendors, from the viewpoint of stability and its support organization, I feel that ISR can be trusted more.
Also, ISR has another advantage compared with other vendors. CloudGate service has a pricing menu that includes options in great detail. When we get a customer’s detailed request for a quote, we can easily make a proposal that includes, for example, the device-based access restriction and Active Directory integration. Since there are many vendors that do not prepare such easy to modify menus, this flexibility gives ISR an edge in being able to make easy quotes and proposals.
-Can you tell us some episodes about how the partnership between ISR and SoftBank was forged?
Taniguchi: At the beginning, as ISR was an OEM vendor and CloudGate was offered as a service of SoftBank, we had asked a lot of requests based on our own standards. I think that it was a period for ISR to understand our thoughts or process. Within SoftBank’s building, there was an office specially dedicated to the G Suite business team. ISR’s team was always there to help with issues as these came up.
Fujita: Yes. That’s how it was. From the beginning, that is how ISR and SoftBank working together handled very large customers and many difficult deployments.
For example, in the case of one customer, a Japan top share heavy-equipment manufacturer (22,000 users), after deployment of G Suite, they found that some parts of the authentication specification at that time could not satisfy the customer’s requirement. We continued talking with the customer and ISR started trying to modify the specs to meet the customer’s requirements. We continued to report the progress to the customer for over half a year and as a result, the company became satisfied with our service along CloudGate.
In the case of authentication service, there is absolutely a need to stay in touch and continuously follow up after deployment. It was because ISR was able to handle these difficult cases and at the same time, continue to move forward the overall business that we were able to develop our partnership. I think that it is because of this belief that ISR can handle the most complicated customization requirements as well as handle problems when they comes up that we developed trust in ISR.
Taniguchi: That is right. I share the same trust in ISR. Since technology evolves day by day, to me, feature comparison (between competitors) is not important, even if one is ahead today, the other may leap ahead tomorrow.
Meanwhile, at that time, I had a half day meeting with ISR every month. ISR presented their roadmap, we shared our requests and sometimes the plan was modified. We discussed whether the plan of action from the previous month was executed or not. If not, we discussed why it could not be done and decided on the next plane of action. This type of frank exchange of views continued for two years or so and because of that we got to know ISR quite well.
Fujita: Because of this relationship with ISR, within our 1.2 million users, 400,000 users are using ISR’s CloudGate. I think, the fact that one third of our customers is using ISR is really outstanding!
Future Business Strategy: We want ISR to continue to be Our Closest Partner
-Going forward, please tell us about your strategy as a Google reseller.
Fujita: We have been a G Suite reseller for 7 years and this year, we started sales for Google Cloud Platform.
Our goal is to expand the G Suite customer base by having these customers use other Google services that have close synergy with G Suite. I believe that our mission is to expand into service offerings that further enhance the value add that we provide to our customers.
In particular, the Google Cloud Platform is representative of our strategy. We want to be the first in Japan to offer services that are gaining traction in the overseas market. Our customers have high expectations that SoftBank will provide them the newest services in the market and therefore, we cannot restrict ourselves to services that are offered only within Japan. We must also be the first to offer new services from overseas. SoftBank is in the business of providing Japanese customers high value-add overseas services.
− Please tell us about your views on the role of the cloud in Japan’s enterprise as well as role of authentication within the enterprise.
Taniguchi: While it is said that Japanese companies are conservative, they realize that change cannot be avoided. All companies want to improve the way they work; not only when within the company but also when outside, companies must respond to employees requests to provide an environment to access company systems from their homes. The shift from on premise to the cloud is something that many enterprises believe is important but something that they cannot realize right away.
Security is one of the most important factors.
I think that security is one of the most important elements for a company to shift to the cloud.
– Please tell us about your hopes or expectations for ISR within the G Suite ecosystem.
Taniguchi: We want ISR to continue to provide leading edge technologies such as FIDO Alliance and also to continue to satisfy customer needs by enabling customer productivity as well as contributing to improving customers work style by introducing new features and services.
Fujita: Obviously, we want ISR to continue to offer CloudGate as a very stable service. As we expand our business to the Google Cloud Platform and to other new businesses, the role of the partner is extremely important, we want ISR to continue to be our closest partner.
Lastly, from here on as the number of cloud services increase, we hope that ISR provides authentication for these services and that ISR also provides new services that customers require and that in that way, we can, together, continue to expand our business.