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Microsoft Partner of the Year: Winning is just the beginning

It’s always felt like such a privilege to get an inside view of the great work our partners are doing, and the past few years, it feels like the work hasn’t stopped. But how many partners have stopped to look back on the impact they’ve made in that time?

We couldn’t be more proud of the creative thinking and “above-and-beyond” attitude of our partners across ANZ, and it’s time to reflect on the phenomenal change they’ve enabled on behalf of local organisations big and small.

Jono Green Headshot
Jono Green, Microsoft Partner Lead, DEFEND

As DEFEND’s Jono Green says: “Over the past few years, tech companies have been working hard to adapt or help their customers get through Covid and economic pressures. For me, the Microsoft Partner of the Year Awards are the perfect time to step back and take a good look at the value we’ve delivered throughout that time.”

And of course, this year’s awards give everyone the opportunity to have their innovation acknowledged on the world stage, with one entry covering the global competition, which includes the country awards, as well as the inaugural ANZ Partner Awards.

We want as many Microsoft partners as possible to receive the recognition they deserve. Writing submissions does take some effort, but they’re a great way of showing your people how much their work is valued and helping them reflect on what they’ve achieved, giving them a real sense of pride and inspiration to keep doing what they’re doing.

We spoke to a few of our previous winners to see whether there were tangible business benefits too, and the answers blew us away.

Engage Squared was Australia’s Partner of the Year in 2021, following it up with the global Employee Experience Award in 2022. Since then, both new leads and new talent have come flocking.

After winning Partner of the Year, we saw a 30 per cent increase in referrals from Microsoft, thanks to the extra visibility and credibility it gave us.

“We were suddenly top of mind because the award demonstrated our proven success and impact on customers’ businesses, and we mention it on every sales call,” says Claudia Piscitelli, Engage Squared’s Chief Experience Officer.

Customers from previously untapped markets came calling, including a financial institution in Hawaii, impressed by what the Employee Experience win said about the company’s leadership in Microsoft Viva solutions.

“That global award also gave us the gold stamp of credibility when we opened our office in Japan six months ago, because people recognised what it meant,” adds Marketing Manager, Steph Ryan. “And whether they’re a graduate out of uni or someone that’s been in the industry 20 years, that recognition helps us to recruit the best talent too. After winning Partner of the Year, even though we didn’t have any job listings, we were approached by a number of people interested in working for us.”

Portrait photo of Claudia Piscitelli
Claudia Piscitelli, Chief Experience Officer, Engage Squared
Steph Ryan headshot
Steph Ryan, Marketing Manager, Engage Squared

Kristy Brown, from New Zealand’s 2021 Country Partner of the Year, Fusion5, says she was surprised by the impact. “Winning this award removed those common obstructions you have with potential clients, and has allowed us to get a ticket to the dance. No longer do we have to explain who we are, or our brand – people know us. We were able to enter industries we’d previously struggled to get into, like the public sector, where procurement is heavily scrutinised, and as a result we now have several customers in that sector.”

It was even better to hear Kristy mention how the awards submissions process has helped Fusion5 hone its winning strategy and support its business growth:

“Microsoft is a leader in future-forward thinking, and we often find ourselves conducting a GAP analysis of our business strategy by comparing this to the awards guidelines. We’ve found this has supported business growth too. When developing practice strategies, we ask ourselves – how do we measure our work against these criteria? What do we need to do differently that will make us stand out?”

Kristy Brown, Country Manager Microsoft Solutions, Fusion 5

She also points out that an award celebrates the customer just as much as the partner, sharing their innovation and transformation with the world and helping them realise just how much their investment was worth it.

It also makes potential strategic partners sit up and take notice. DEFEND has quadrupled in size from 30 employees in March 2020 to 120 now, also attracting investment from majority stakeholder Vodafone. Jono says its three Microsoft Partner Awards wins in consecutive years played a big part.

“Winning those awards, including New Zealand Country Partner of the Year last year, really helped validate our approach. As a security partner, your value isn’t your revenue or how many licences you’ve sold, it’s about how secure your customers are and how you drive value for them, which is exactly what the awards recognise. That recognition in the market meant that rather than compete, Vodafone saw the benefit of taking a stake in our business to deliver more for our shared customers,” he says.

Partner Awards for us are not how good we are at getting to the top of the mountain, but how good we are at helping our customers navigate the path.

So, please don’t be modest – let us know how you’ve guided your customers up some pretty steep paths to the summit.

And don’t forget to look back and see how far you’ve come along the way.