With an oversized map of Australia, key markers in place and a coherent plan of attack outlined — John Walters drew up his blueprint for success.
The time was six years ago, echoing a scene played out in many a war movie, with scores of military chiefs crowding around a table to talk tactics.
But while the world of the channel remains a far cry from the world’s front lines and battlefields, value can be found through adopting a military approach to business.
“It’s easier to build something off a clean sheet of paper,” said Walters, speaking as group CEO of NEXTGEN. “But you still require a strong strategy because even though a blank canvas is preferable, at some point you need to start scribbling on it.”
Regarded as the master principle of war, and in drawing on his military background, Walters works off one core objective — the selection and maintenance of the aim.
“You must have a strategy but when the first shot is fired in anger, that plan can crumble around you,” he said. “There is a case for making it up as you go along but if you select the aim and maintain your focus, then you will be successful.
“You see businesses that dodge and weave depending on what is being thrown at them, without maintaining focus on the aim. They will fall for anything that comes along and become distracted by the next best thing.”
In deploying a military approach to operations, Walters is aligning with business 101, establishing a pioneering IT facilitator through a core base of key principles.
Founded in 2011, the business has blossomed into a leading specialist distributor, bringing together established and emerging technologies to provide new levels of value for the channel.
During the past 12 months, NEXTGEN has recruited top personnel to its board of directors, including Frontline Systems Australia founder, Steve Murphy and former Oracle and SAP leader, Tim Ebbeck.
Both offer a wealth of experience and add weight to the theory that NEXTGEN is longer a start-up, rather a company rapidly advancing towards its next phase of growth.
And perhaps, it can no longer be branded a specialist play, in housing two IT powerhouses such as Oracle and SAP.
Signing on SAP
Having forged a reputation as a leading Oracle distributor, the business recently struck a world-first distribution deal with SAP in Australia, designed to fuel the channel’s capacity to grow in the cloud.
Terms of the deal will see the software vendor offer a two-tier channel model whereby NEXTGEN will establish a dedicated cloud channel for the SAP Cloud portfolio in Australia, including SAP Business ByDesign, SAP S/4HANA Cloud and SAP SuccessFactors.
In addition, the distributor will support existing SAP partners undergoing a transition to the cloud, focusing specifically on the small and mid-size business segments in the first two-tier channel model for the SAP Cloud portfolio globally.
“Bringing on SAP is part of a long-term plan for us and I’m very impressed with how the relationship is progressing,” Walters said.
Having first approached NEXTGEN a few years prior at a regional level, Walters initially rebuffed the approaches of the tech giant, citing immaturity on both sides as the key reasoning for delay.
“We had a very robust conversation and SAP outlined their vision for the channel,” he recalled. “We provided a list of key things that they needed to do to become a successful channel player and SAP went away and worked on them.
“SAP was quite immature in a channel sense at that stage, but so were we in terms of bringing on board another major vendor. We had a lot more work to do on our Oracle relationship at the time and both parties respected that it was a two- way street.”
Fast forward to mid-2016 and the conversation resurfaced, triggered by a matured vendor approach, and a distributor looking to expand further through the cloud.
“We’ve spent a lot of time on our messaging and ensuring we articulate the benefits of the deal to the channel, and it’s started well for us,” Walters added.
Under the model, NEXTGEN will build a dedicated practice for SAP partners, with a responsibility for driving the recruitment of new partners, managing existing relationships, defining and executing partner enablement for the cloud, nurturing leads, providing licence enablement services, and owning demand generation planning and campaigns.
“The market demand for cloud solutions is clear,” Walters added. “But with this transition comes inherent challenges for partners. The opportunity to collaborate with SAP represents a significant opportunity for NEXTGEN to support our channel partners further in their migration to cloud strategies.
“The combination of market demand and the exceptional cloud portfolio SAP brings to the table will enable us to help SAP partners develop new, thriving businesses and provide their customers with outstanding solutions.”
Servicing the channel
Members of the new model will also have access to NEXTGEN Create — NEXTGEN’s specialist digital and marketing agency set up exclusively for the Australian channel ecosystem.
And it’s such services that for Walters, provides a key point of difference for the business, which aims to provide value across the entire lifecycle of an opportunity.
According to Walters, this end- to-end service offering shapes the foundation of the NEXTGEN’s go- to-market methodology — Create, Consult, Connect, Craft and Complete.