This case study was originally published by Microsoft New Zealand News Centre on November 10, 2021.

With seven deep sea fishing vessels plying New Zealand’s waters, processing facilities in Nelson and corporate offices in Auckland and Australia, Sealord is a business that straddles land and sea. From tins of Sealord tuna to frozen hoki fillets and family favourite fish fingers, its products can be found in freezers and eateries around the world.

Despite bringing people together at the dinner table, however, Sealord was finding it a challenge to connect everyone across its own business.

“Our executive team had a strong view that collaboration across the business was key to our success. But our intranet was letting us down. It had an outdated look and feel, and the content was equally out of date, meaning many people had given up using it. It was only used by around 300 people in our office, not the whole team of 1,000, so people outside the office were digitally disconnected. We wanted to bring everyone into the whānau (family).”

Matthew Dodd | Group Manager Information Technology, Sealord

Not only was collaboration difficult, requiring a hugely manual process and the risk of multiple versions of the same document, using 10-year-old technology meant Sealord was also exposed to higher security risk. Its on-premises servers were well past their sell-by date, making them easy prey for the rising population of cyber sharks.

A switch to Microsoft 365 was the answer.

So, Sealord cast its net wide for the perfect cloud solutions provider to bring everyone into the waka (canoe), scale up collaboration and hook into automated security.

Introducing Kaharoa: a digital net for the whole community

With its experience, innovative ideas and passionate people, Fusion5 was the standout choice to provide the Microsoft 365 system Sealord wanted. One of the strengths of Fusion5’s approach is its focus on culture first.

Unlike its office-based support teams, many of Sealord’s fishing and factory crews had had no exposure to the digital world before. That meant simply creating and launching a new system wasn’t enough to drive engagement.

“We have a real emphasis on organisational change management, not just IT solutions. From the beginning, we had a training plan that identified champions from different business units and upskilled them via targeted sessions to help bring others on board, and we also ran drop-in info sessions for people so they could understand what we were working to achieve and provide feedback,” says Nathan Mossman, Practice Manager, Modern Work at Fusion5.

Nathan Mossman | Practice Manager - Modern Work, Fusion5

Getting people to list what they wanted the new cloud-based system to include was the first step — as well as giving it a name.

“We wanted to create a feeling of everyone making the new digital space together, so we ran a competition internally and that was hugely successful. Someone suggested ‘Kaharoa’, which is a very large net historically made by a whole community, up to 1km long. That was perfect for what we were doing, and aligned with our values as a company,” says

Matt Trigg | IT Operations Manager, Sealord

Moving the whole platform into Azure cloud was also key, to provide best-in-class, automated security updates, as well as enable more processes to be automated. It wasn’t always straightforward.

“With crews out on vessels for days and weeks on end, they had limited bandwidth and connectivity. So we designed a system that synchronised info via personal devices on each ship with the “mothership” on shore. As soon as people arrived on shore or reached an area with signal, the info would automatically download to their device. That wouldn’t have been possible previously,” says Nathan.

To avoid using up masses of bandwidth transmitting videos, Fusion5 also set up a system that automatically sent low-res copies whenever the ship’s signal allowed, storing the high-res versions in the cloud for later and slashing costs at the same time.

After a nine-month transformation, Kaharoa went live in June 2021.

Sealord fishing boat

Catching the freshest information

Sealord has now tripled the size of its digital footprint with three times as many people now able to connect, collaborate and share online using the latest SharePoint platform, part of Microsoft 365. As well as using Microsoft Teams to communicate, people can work on the same file together in real time, with versions automatically saved to preserve all the previous changes (making version control a much easier process). With the whole platform now in the cloud rather than on-premises, Sealord also benefits from automated security updates.

This modern workplace transformation stood Sealord in very good stead an as essential business during lockdown, equipping its people to communicate remotely and securely, but the new modern environment goes far beyond that. The old favourite, bi-monthly printed newsletters have been replaced with more regular online versions.

“We have competitions to drive engagement and our Chief Executive shares regular videos, which we’ve never been able to do before,” says Matt Trigg. “It’s a great way to keep people interested and the information fresh.”

Now everyone, no matter their role, can feel part of the organisation, share pictures of the sunrise or their catch on SharePoint via Teams, and be involved in important moments. Microsoft Forms is also being used to capture key feedback via surveys and polls, engaging people in factories and on vessels as never before and driving better insights to improve the business.

“For us, the Fusion5 partnership has been more than just a commercial arrangement. They really invested in finding out exactly what it was we needed and delivering the best possible solution."

Matthew Dodd | Group Manager Information Technology, Sealord

Sailing off into the digital horizon

“While COVID-19 has accelerated adoption of platforms like Teams and Microsoft 365 to communicate during lockdown, we’ve found the businesses that keep exploring and innovating with these tools to drive even more value and insights are the ones who enjoy the greatest success long-term. At a time when every business is now a tech business, the challenge is once more to differentiate yourself from the competition — and that comes from culture. One of the things I love about this story is that Fusion5 and Sealord are committed to ongoing transformation and empowering everyone in the organisation to be part of that change and create it for themselves.”

Matt Bostwick | Partner Director, Microsoft New Zealand

The next mission for Sealord is to sail into even more data-rich waters. PowerApps and PowerAutomate solutions are already underway to streamline workflows. Matthew hopes to migrate more operations to the cloud to drive further data insights, digitise paper-based operations and automate additional processes. With Fusion5, his team has created a roadmap to make improvements to business processes across the whole organisation, from product development to asset disposal and purchase approvals.

“I’d love to see even more people suggesting their own improvements,” Matthew says. “We’re still going through the culture change process, but it’s really exciting to see that sense of belonging, of feeling like one whole, already happening. That’s what this project has been all about.”

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