Started working with NEXTGEN: October 2011.
Current role: Group Chief Technology Officer since mid-2018. 

When NEXTGEN won the Oracle Excellence Award for Specialised Partner of the Year – Global in VAD Cloud at Oracle OpenWorld in October, James Cunial was credited with playing a key role. According to his colleagues, it was his “patience, clarity and logic”, along with some serious expertise around Oracle, its products and solutions, that contributed to expanding NEXTGEN’s Oracle cloud revenues by 140 percent in FY17. A down-to-earth guy who started out in technical sales support, before moving to presales and then his current role, James has been nominated several times by NEXTGEN for an ARN Award for Technical Excellence for his contribution. But he says his proudest accomplishment of all is the customer loyalty he and the team have established. 

We sat down with James to discover a bit more about the path he’s taken through the company, what inspires him about the work, what might surprise people about working at NEXTGEN, and to garner some of his thoughts on the future of the distribution business and enterprise technology.

Q. What made you interested in joining NEXTGEN?

I liked both IT and the business side of IT and studied both at university and I’ve always been interested in starting my own business one day, so being part of a start-up was appealing. It sounded like a really good opportunity to get in on the ground level from day zero of a start up and see how it all unfolds throughout the journey: the good, the bad, and the ugly. John was obviously also a very nice guy who I’d known for a while, and I respected him as a person. I knew he’d come from a great pedigree of business, so there was the opportunity to experience all of that with mentors like John and other leaders in the group. That was what really excited me about it.

Q. What do you find most engaging about the work?

A lot of people don’t see distribution as a glorified business. For me, there are a few aspects about it I really enjoy. One is your exposure to so many different projects and partners and what they’re working on all at once, so you’re working on dozens and dozens of different projects and your exposure to the market and the things customers are doing is quite broad. 

The other aspect I really like is the network and connections you can make. You’re dealing with dozens of different customers, different styles, different people. It’s also a very flexible and easy place to work for, in terms of the culture. We’re relaxed, we don’t give each other a hard time; there’s no pressure internally because we know we’re all doing as much as we can because we’re so transparent as a business. We’re all in the same boat.

Q. What’s something you think might surprise people about working at NEXTGEN?

We’re a young, vibrant, and exciting team, which is kind of rare in the distribution industry. We’re more of a born-in-the-cloud sort of team. We’re a more colourful bunch. We’ve got that Fast 100 sort of vibe about us. There’s a feeling we’re doing something here and growing very quickly, so you can be a part of a really good story. It’s more about a journey people can say they were a part of, and I don’t think a lot of people ever thought working at a distributor could be like that.

Q. What’s your most significant accomplishment at NEXTGEN?

Our customer loyalty is the one thing I’m most proud of. I’m really happy that we took a lot of market share in first couple of years and that has been sustained. I think that’s a really good thing. Once partners start working with us, they stay with us. It’s a real testament to our team and the relationships we build.

Q. You’ve been nominated quite a few times for the ARN ICT awards for excellence, most recently this year. What does that mean to you?

It’s a bit of a privilege for the leadership to say they think you’re worthy of being nominated. I never expect to get the nominations because I’m not a deeply technical person unlike those who go for them, but I certainly know how to craft and work with solutions from a technical and a commercial angle and I think the leadership team, and John, recognise that, which is nice. It’s a nice thing to know they want to put my name out there, to represent the business. I’m proud to be a part of it.

Q. What do you see as the next big trend in enterprise technology?

I think we’ll start seeing blockchain coming into the enterprise space over the next five years and that will change things big time. It’s still a bit of a dark art at the moment and I’m trying to wrap my head around it, but from the research I’ve done the blockchain revolution will be quite exciting. I also think that how much intelligence we will be getting out of data in the next five years is going to change; the ability of companies like AWS and Oracle to start to suggest to enterprises best practice based on what others in their industry, other industries, and other users of their technology are doing. They’ll be able to do that because they run it all from the cloud and they can learn the best way to do certain processes, aggregate and provide that information back to their customers so everyone can learn from each other. I think that will be a big thing and a big selling point. We’re already seeing Oracle doing this in some of the integration products; they rate your integration compared to how other companies have done it.

Q. How do you see the distribution business evolving from here?

I think the services approach is the way forward for distribution. If you’re not offering services to your partner base and you’re just trying to flog product, you’ll be pushed out pretty quick. Our business is to serve the IT market and our technology partners and find out what they don’t want to focus on because it’s not their core business. That could be digital marketing, specialty things like legal, contractual, compliance, finance. The other aspect would be offering some type of market platform, aggregation of cloud, where you can bring in multiple vendors and provide an environment with order to cash capability on multi vendor cloud purchases, provisioning and things like that. It would be a hub for tech partners to come to and buy all of the vendor cloud products they need to create a solution.

Q. Who do you find most inspiring, from a career or personal perspective, and why?

Elon Musk. The way he approaches things…I wish a lot more people approached things like that.

Q. Favourite / least favourite piece of technology you use

My phone, for sure. It’s a Samsung S8. I got it two or three days ago. My least favourite piece of technology is probably the phone as well. Sometimes it the best thing ever, sometimes it can be the worst thing ever.

Q. Sum up what NEXTGEN does in one sentence

We help our partners to be better businesses and providers to their customers.

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