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Fusion5 clients win speed, security and scale benefits from shift to Azure

A performance boost and enhanced security was always expected from the planned lift and shift migration of a people management solution to the Microsoft Azure cloud; but it was still remarkable to learn that one organisation, employing 5,000 people, almost halved the time to complete payroll following the move.

EmpowerHR, a Fusion5 company, has recently completed the migration of its hosted platform off NTT and into Microsoft Azure, the successful migration was delivered by Fusion5’s Managed Services team. EmpowerHR provides the foundation for SaaS payroll and HR systems developed by and for its customers.

What made the project especially remarkable was that 95+ customers which rely on EmpowerHR solutions to run their businesses, were being transitioned to Azure with all the complications associated with maintaining each customer’s unique integrations to their other software, two factor authentication, time and attendance systems and employee self-service portals.

As an Information Security ISO 27001 certified platform, EmpowerHR also has to meet the Australian Tax Office DSP operational requirements for Single Touch Payroll (STP) processing.

Meticulous planning was the key to a low-risk migration for everyone using the platform, with the project taking around six months to plan and execute. The move has paid off handsomely for customers – for the Western Australia Department of Communities, the usual three-hour window to complete payroll processing has been halved.

According to Rif Pezaj, Manager Corporate Systems – Human Resources/Information Services/Governance, Integrity and Reform at the Department of Communities: “Since moving from NTT to Azure the performance of EmpowerHR has improved dramatically. Our payroll process that used to take over 3 hours has reduced to 1.45 hours.”

“These types of improvements make a huge difference that cannot be overstated. The lift and shift migration approach was simple and the Fusion5 team communicated with us throughout the project on what we needed to know and the status of the project.”

Fusion5 also perform outsourced payroll for a number of customers on this platform and their Payroll Services Manager, Grace Peng has also noted the following feedback for one of the customers paying in excess of 3000 employees:

“The payroll processing used to take 1.5 hours due to the size of the payroll, and now it has reduced to only 30 minutes. This has made a huge difference in payroll processing, especially it allows us to do any last minute changes on a pay day without the risks of missing any cut offs.”

Anti risk, pro performance

Chris Radley, Executive Director of Fusion5, explains that throughout the process the organisation took a particularly risk averse approach, mindful of the integrations that existing customers had in place. “Obviously some of them are very critical business processes. So it did take a number of months to get through that process and to do testing and all of the assurances.”

“We leveraged the Azure Migration Program (AMP) and the Microsoft FastTrack team, so we had regular cadence there with them through the course of it, through the initial design phase, all the way to typical troubleshooting and escalation.”

It was an approach that proved to be an “Outstanding success” says Kris Jackson, General Manager of Managed Services at Fusion5. “Having recently achieved Advanced Specialisation in Windows Server and SQL Server Migrations to Azure, we perform our migrations with a proven methodology that is aligned to Microsoft’s Cloud Adoption Framework for Azure,

Our strong partnership with Microsoft has again enabled extensive migration support with the AMP program which includes collaboration with the fantastic FastTrack for Azure team.

FastTrack for Azure Engineer Johan Vosloo adds; “Engagement with Fusion5 from the start was very effective and efficient. Technical sessions was always productive and communication from the project manager was very clear, effective and transparent.”

FastTrack for Azure Program Manager adds; “Collaboration with the Fusion5 team was very open and transparent right from the start. The project was delivered on time and in a very professional manner. I am looking forward to engaging with the Fusion5 team on future projects.”

Vickie McGregor, General Manager of HCM systems at Fusion5 adds; “It was just amazing come the Monday morning when we had gone live – sort of waiting to hear all the phones ringing about the little issues people have, and there’s just been silence. It’s been really, really refreshing. And I do think that’s down to the team, the planning.

“We went through a couple of failovers just to make sure that we ironed out the issues as we went, and we were really, really confident to push go when we did push go.”

Radley says that unlike other migrations, which might have been tackled customer by customer, Fusion5 instead took all the configuration, storage and data that had been running on NTT’s systems and replicated that onto Azure.  “Which has different challenges because it is scary to push the button because then you’re dealing with 50 odd servers that you have to go through runbooks and testing rather than just one customer, but it’s been fantastic to see it come to fruition,” he notes.

According to Jackson, EmpowerHR products are relatively mature and were not expressly designed to be cloud based, nevertheless the transition to Azure has proven a clear success, he says.

“The biggest feedback is when we get unsolicited emails from customers with, ‘Wow’.” Some larger payrolls take an hour instead of four according to Fusion5.

You’re actually talking about some really tangible time back in their day, in their staff’s day, in the business’s day. And they’re able to then fine tune their processes and do things quicker, more effectively, and utilise that time for other things.

And that has been achieved without compromise of functionality or security. The system continues to support multi factor authentication, and complies with the requirements to maintain Information Security ISO 27001 compliance and meet ATO requirements for straight through processing. This allows EmpowerHR customers to be single touch payroll certified.

The security posture has also been elevated says Jackson; “We’ve pretty much replaced all of the legacy security tools and systems that were in place on NTT, which includes deploying native Azure solutions like Azure Firewall, Azure Security Centre and Azure Defender as well as future plans for Azure Sentinel. Visibility across the board has significantly increased.”

Fusion5 believes the enhanced security will allay any lingering concerns about the move to cloud among on-premise clients for its software.

In short, the transition to Azure has delivered speed, security and scalability – a win, win, win.