World firsts in NZ tech awards

Dec 9, 2021

Reading Time: 4 minutes

A world-first operating model which radically speeds up the claims process for those affected by natural disasters is one of the big winners in the annual Microsoft New Zealand Partner Awards.

While the awards had to be held offline instead of being showcased at a big awards evening, behind the scenes are, as Vanessa Sorenson, Managing Director Microsoft New Zealand says: “some incredible stories of resilience, determination and outstanding creativity – and the work your local tech sector has been doing this year has been quietly, or in some cases loudly, transforming your life”.

PwC New Zealand was awarded the Data & AI Award for helping bring together eight major insurers with the Earthquake Commission (EQC) to share data and manage claims much more efficiently, with floods tornadoes and wildfires all striking this year.

“That work has set EQC up not simply to respond to claims, but to start using data and AI to help Kiwis understand their exposure to risk and how to minimise it, making us a much more resilient nation,” says Sorenson.

As well as disaster recovery, New Zealand’s Covid-19 response, the sustainable growth of primary industries, speeding up construction and even the APEC Summit – some of the biggest issues and headline-grabbers of the past few months are represented among the winners and finalists of this year’s awards.

“As partners of APEC 2021, Spark, PwC New Zealand and Microsoft were involved in just those conversations – talking about the opportunities for technology to support our economy, showcasing the best of Kiwi innovation and helping New Zealand successfully host a global diplomatic event in a pioneering digital format,” says Sorenson.

However, technology hasn’t just been about growing the economy in the past 12 months. Submissions to the awards showed how the most vulnerable in society are also benefiting from local tech innovation.

Cloud for Good Award winner Theta and SaaS Award winner Volpara Health are both helping combat breast cancer through clever use of cloud and AI, whether supporting the fundraising work of the Breast Cancer Foundation or developing machine learning tools to improve breast screening and detection.

Meanwhile Delta Insights helped both Autism New Zealand and Enable New Zealand deliver better services to Kiwis with different needs, taking away a highly commended award for Cloud for Good.

“We often talk about technology keeping people connected, citing the world’s collective pivot to online calls and document sharing over the last two years,” says Sorenson. “But it goes a lot further than that.

“During the Tokyo Olympics 2020, Digital & Application Innovation Award winner Aware Group helped Ryman Healthcare host its own virtual ‘Games’ events, bringing teams from retirement villages across New Zealand together to compete using HoloLens mixed reality headsets – and transtasman games are already planned.”

Above all, she says, this has been a year of transformation across New Zealand’s enterprises and public sector: “While the workplace has continued to see significant disruption from Covid, this didn’t stop Modern Work Award winner Vodafone NZ from helping Pāmu Farms rapidly adopt a modern working environment, or Surface Award winner SecureCom from helping Mercy Hospice digitally transform with Microsoft 365 and Surface devices so they could operate more flexibly.”

Winner of the Security Award, Defend worked with Foodstuffs North Island to continue to protect the food and grocery supply chain within New Zealand. CCL, the Azure Migrate Award winner, supported Dunedin City Council with a full migration to the cloud, helping modernise its entire enterprise and centralise data to deliver more value to ratepayers.

DXC Technology, winner of the Business Applications Award, helped Westpac NZ on its digital transformation journey to streamline business processes. Meanwhile Ingram Micro NZ, Channel Development Award winner, supported tech resellers to speed up cloud adoption across New Zealand, for the benefit of the industry and the broader economy.

“What we love about the Partner Awards is seeing how Kiwi tech companies have been helping other Kiwi businesses grow. LawVu won the Emerging SaaS Award for its unique legal software products helping organisations manage the increasing burden of compliance and regulation,” says Sorenson.

FlexiTime was highly commended in the same category for helping all freelancers get a fair day’s pay, not only creating a tool that removes all the complexities of holiday pay calculations from businesses, but helping freelancers manage their own tax without a big bill at the end.

“As more and more businesses leverage technology to access skilled workers around the world, FlexiTime’s scheduling, invoicing and contractor management software will enable significant growth,” she says.

“This year, we’d planned to bring all our tech partners together to celebrate the amazing transformation they’ve enabled across New Zealand and elsewhere. That wasn’t to be.

However, the impact they’ve made on our economy, our society and the opportunities available to us, still stands. The thing about all our winners is they’re not just writing the programme – they’re changing it.”

The Microsoft Partner Awards 2021 winners:

  • Data & AI Award: Winner – PwC New Zealand; Highly commended – Datacom
  • Azure Migrate Award: Winner – CCL; Highly commended – Unify Solutions
  • Business Applications Award: Winner – DXC Technology; Highly commended – Fusion5
  • Modern Work Award: Winner – Vodafone New Zealand; Highly commended – Spark Business Group
  • Security Award: Winner – Defend; Highly commended – Unify Solutions
  • Digital & Application Innovation Award: Winner – Aware Group; Highly commended – Enlighten Designs
  • Surface Award: Winner – SecureCom; Highly commended – Acquire and Mobile Mentor
  • Channel Development Award: Winner – Ingram Micro NZ
  • Cloud for Good Award: Winner – Theta; Highly commended – Delta Insights
  • SaaS Award: Winner – Volpara Health; Highly commended – Cin7
  • Emerging SaaS Award: Winner – LawVu; Highly commended – FlexiTime
  • NZ Growth Partner of the Year – Auror
  • NZ Partner of the Year – Fusion5

Originally published at the NZ Herald.

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