March 26, 2021
The reins of AWS will rest in the familiar hands of Adam Selipsky, who will return to the web services provider as Andy Jassy becomes CEO of parent Amazon. The news was a bit of surprise to at least one Gartner analyst who expected AWS to promote from within its current ranks.
Jassy sent an email to the AWS staff naming Selipsky, currently CEO of Tableau Software, as his heir apparent. The news follows the February announcement of Jassy succeeding Jeff Bezos, who plans to hand over the CEO spot to become Amazon’s executive chairman.
For Selipsky, it is a bit of a homecoming. According to his bio, he worked for AWS for more than 10 years and rose to the position of vice president of marketing before moving on in 2016 to become CEO at Tableau. That same year, Jassy became CEO of AWS.
Selipsky’s tenure with Tableau includes overseeing its acquisition in 2019 by Salesforce. He is set to return to AWS as CEO in May.
Though he was initially caught off guard by the announcement of Selipsky being chosen to lead AWS, Ed Anderson, distinguished research vice president with Gartner Research, says the decision quickly made sense to him. “The more I think about it, the more obvious it seems to me,” Anderson says.
Finding a chief executive who is well immersed in the Amazon culture may have been an important factor, he says. While Anderson previously expected a current AWS insider to rise from the ranks to the CEO spot, the return of Selipsky can bring a new outside perspective to the company. “That perspective is one of applications and solutions related to cloud, not just infrastructure,” he says. “That’s the challenge and opportunity now. Where does AWS go next?”
Anderson says this brings up the possibility of AWS moving into new market areas such as business applications under Selipsky.
Jassy and Selipsky have both served as CEO for about the same length of time at their current respective organizations and their individual experiences may speak to the path forward for AWS. “There are a lot of similarities Andy Jassy has had and Adam Selipsky has had in terms of leading big technology companies,” Anderson says. “The most consequential difference, though, by and large Adam has been engaging with a different customer on a different value proposition.” That includes within the Salesforce organization and Tableau specifically, he says.
Selipsky had achieved a milestone at Tableau in terms of streamlining the organization for efficiency in preparation of its sale to Salesforce, Anderson says. “Adam’s track record at Tableau was one of efficient operations, streamlining, and optimizing. Certainly, AWS can benefit from that, but I don’t think that’s going to be sufficient,” he says. “The things to watch for now are how does Adam start thinking about his AWS leadership team. Does he stick with the people who are already there -- certainly a strong leadership team already -- or does he bring outside talent?”
Anderson says he is watching for signs that AWS might push into new market segments or solidifying its position in current markets as Microsoft, Alibaba, and Google gain ground. “AWS is at a point where its competitors are starting to strengthen in the traditional markets where they’ve been competing,” he says. “Where does AWS go for that next wave of growth?”
Amazon’s historical approach has been to push into new markets, Anderson says. He plans to watch to see if that strategy continues with Selipsky’s leadership at AWS.
Some of the insiders Anderson says he thought might have been in the running for the CEO position at AWS include Matt Garman, vice president of sales at marketing, and Peter DeSantis, senior vice president of AWS Global Infrastructure and Customer Support. “He was a longtime lieutenant of Jeff Bezos but also part of the AWS inner circle as well,” Anderson says. Either would have been great candidates, he says, but in hindsight the choice of Selipsky “seems more obvious.”
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