Rebecca Tohill, Fusion5 Chief Executive, and her partners started Fusion5 with a clear vision; To understand what solutions their customers needed for their businesses to succeed, and to partner with the vendors who had the right products to drive and support that success.
It's an enduring vision that's echoed today with Fusion5's rather more succinct statement of #makingpotentialreality.
A strategy of choice
But while being a multi-vendor solution provider sounds great on paper, and has reaped measurable business benefits for Fusion5 customers, it's a strategy that courts both triumphs and challenges. (Luckily, more of the former than the latter). Tohill says it takes a fine balancing act to maintain equally strong relationships with each of the company's often competing technology vendors. And that becoming a successful partner is not just a matter of signing the dotted line and pressing 'go'.
Case in point was the 9 July 2021 announcement that Fusion5 had won the coveted 2021 Microsoft New Zealand Partner of the Year award.
"While it's easy in hindsight to play down how well we've done as a Microsoft partner," says Tohill, "it took several false starts to establish a winning practice – and a reminder that aligning timing, readiness, opportunity, and capability is critical."
A fledgling attempt in the early 2000s to move into the Microsoft solution space was undermined by a lack of available resources, and the acquisition of a small Microsoft practice a few years later similarly struggled to gain traction. "We knew we were missing out on a golden opportunity by not having a market-leading CRM as one of our solution offerings," says Tohill. "We considered and agreed that Microsoft was the right fit for the business and our customers. Within weeks, we entered into negotiations with Koorb Consulting to buy their mature and highly regarded Microsoft Dynamics CRM and SharePoint practice."
Tohill says the purchase was a turning point. "By early 2016, we had a new Microsoft practice complete with a well-resourced and experienced team, as well as an impressive pipeline which subsequently converted to a raft of new customers."
Cultural alignment was key – this practice was as passionate about taking care of people and customers at its core which meant a seamless transition, and a platform for Fusion5 to catapult its Microsoft growth.
This rapid success gave the organisation the confidence to rapidly extend its Microsoft offerings, adding other industry-leading Microsoft technologies, including Dynamics 365 Finance and Operations (ERP), Power Platform/ BI, Azure and more recently Business Central, to its product portfolio. The Microsoft part of the business now represents half of Fusion5’s headcount, with specialists in its nine offices across New Zealand and Australia.
Best-practice makes perfect
Within months of establishing its Microsoft CRM practice, Fusion5 won the 2016 Microsoft New Zealand CRM Partner of the Year award. 2017 was similarly impressive, as Fusion5 added the award for 2016/2017 Microsoft Dynamics Services Partner of the Year for Asia Pacific to its credentials.
In 2018 Fusion5 was a finalist in the Microsoft New Zealand Partner Awards, and awarded Runner-Up in the global 2018 Microsoft Dynamics Customer Service Partner of the Year Category. The 2020 Microsoft NZ Partner Awards saw a double whammy with Fusion5 winning both the Business Applications and Transforming Products awards categories.
While this was all happening, Fusion5 was also named – for four years running - to the prestigious Inner Circle for Microsoft Dynamics (which places it in the top 1% globally of all Microsoft partners).
This excellence is mirrored across the Tasman. Tohill says that Fusion5's Microsoft practice in Australia is similarly booming. "We have an incredibly strong relationship with Microsoft Australia, and an impressive leadership, sales and delivery team who are making significant inroads into the market."
A proactive approach to people
Like most technology businesses, Fusion5 is constantly looking for new resources to match its growth trajectory. However, with so many borders closed, the company is taking a more 'inward' view.
"We always need more exceptional people," says Tohill. "While we run an always-on recruitment programme locally and internationally, we also plan on taking on 20 university graduates next year. In addition, we’ve set up our own Microsoft Academy to retrain skilled consultants keen to join our Microsoft practice. We anticipate that for at least the next 18 months, we'll need to take a lateral approach to find the resources we need across New Zealand and Australia.”
What do the next five years hold?
Tohill says the business is (as ever) aiming high. "We plan to double the size of our Microsoft presence, so will need a team of around 500 people dedicated to Microsoft solutions. We're also determined to continue to offer our customers the best possible experience through outstanding support and a commitment to continuous improvement. Our customers have already provided incredibly positive feedback about their migration to Dynamics 365 or Azure, and we expect to see more of them embracing all or part of the Microsoft technology stack to enrich their other solutions."
"We've proven that you can be a successful yet diverse technology partner," says Tohill. "What's been most important to the business is making a strategic decision to invest in genuinely talented and driven people to deliver innovative solutions, earn the trust of our customers with consistently amazing outcomes, and develop and maintain tight relationships with our vendors.”
The 2021 Microsoft New Zealand Partner of the Year award, along with being named in the Microsoft Inner Circle for the 5th year running, is the hard-won icing on the cake, says Tohill. "We made the right choice of partner. And it seems that Microsoft feels the same way.”