The 'ARN spotlight on' series explores partners operating in the local channel landscape right around the country, from Cape York to Hobart, Byron Bay to Fremantle and beyond. In this edition, we focus on Western Australia and Perth-based advisory firm and managed service provider (MSP) Software Optimisation Services.
Whether it’s in business or in society, empowerment is important, and both the story of Software Optimisation Services and its CEO and founder Filipa Preston have it in spades.
Finding a home base
Software Optimisation Services’ history started with Preston moving to Australia in 1994 from South Africa, working for a local distributor selling Microsoft software with Microsoft Product Manager. She then stuck with a systems integrator for eight years and survived five acquisitions in her time there.
Then in 2011, she saw a gap in the market for an independent advisory firm, as well as a coach and a trusted source for organisations to work with.
Today, the Perth-headquartered business has eight employees on what Preston calls her 'A bench', with her 'B bench' populated by specialist experts that come in when required.
Preston does see business opportunities in Perth but is frustrated about the attention east coast businesses get, despite having an office in Sydney, as well as a presence in New Zealand.
“We don't have some of the access that our partners on the east coast have, and yet I can get on a plane, it's not a problem. We've got teams and you've got video, so, why not? Why do we have to be on the east coast?” she said.
The ups and downs
Microsoft has been an important partner for Software Optimisation Services, achieving gold partner status for competency in software asset management in 2013.
Other businesses Software Optimisation Services works with, to which Preston referred to as her tier two software vendors, include Movere, Snow and Licence Dashboard, while other vendors the business has rubbed elbows with, but hasn’t been a part of in terms of formal partner programs, include IBM, Adobe, Oracle and SAP.
Empowerment is a big theme for Preston, and it’s no surprise to see that some of Software Optimisation Solution’s biggest achievements have also been empowering for the business and the CEO.
The first success for Preston was being published by research firm Gartner in its first and second market guides, which have been career highlights for the CEO.
“It was Australia Day 2018 and I saw this message come through. I almost deleted it because I thought it was spam. It was about 10:30 at night, and then something made me look at it,” Preston recounted.
“It was from one of the Gartner analysts to say that I've been chosen to be represented in their first ever market guide. I literally jumped out of bed!”
The second highlight was the business’s win for Microsoft's worldwide Partner of the Year in software asset management, which Preston claims Software Optimisation Solutions was the first business to do in Australia as well as the Asia Pacific region.
Off the back of the win, Preston was nominated to Microsoft’s Partner Advisory Council and Software Asset Management Partner Advisory Council – she was the only Australian to receive the honour in the former council for her three year tenure, as well as the latter council for a four year period.
However, businesses can't always be successful. For Software Optimisation Services, one of the biggest challenges has been securing external funding.
“I'm the funder and the founder, and in true transparency, I didn't have a massive trust fund that I could just tap into,” Preston said.
“We're not a tool vendor, we haven't developed an application, but we've got IP, we've got an approach and we deliver immediate savings to organisations, from the banks to big global organisations and we've never not had a project where we haven't delivered savings. “
To prove her point, Preston cited working with a blue chip organisation for 200 Office 365 licences, where the business was able to find $110,000 in savings over a 24-hour period.
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