Posted on March 20, 2016

Brad Rappell was so impressed with Microsoft’s quick move to mobile-first, cloud-first and the release of the Cloud Solution Provider (CSP) Program that he changed the name of his company. Last year, the Brisbane-based organisation that started life just over four years ago as Inverse Curve was reborn as CloudFirst, one of seven Australian partners making up the first wave of Microsoft CSP partners.

The CSP partners drive uptake of Microsoft’s cloud platforms by layering their own innovation on top of Office 365, as well as providing billing and 24/7 support for customers.

“At the time I started the business I had a conversation with Microsoft about what a partner of the future looked like. They mentioned this term called a ‘born in the cloud partner’. At the time we were called Inverse Curve, but recently we felt that CloudFirst represented who we were and what we believed in the most, so we’ve just changed our name.”

For CloudFirst, innovation has come from the development of Franchise First.

“The Cloud Solution Provider Program allows Microsoft partners, such as ourselves, to build a solution that’s customised for a vertical,” Mr Rappell said. “What we decided to do was to create a platform for franchising, but powered by Microsoft’s enormous cloud, which includes productivity and management services. What we can do today is actually build a service that’s specifically for that vertical, it speaks directly to them.”

“Franchise First allows us to deliver a cloud platform for franchises so they can take their brand, pretty much without limitations anywhere in the world.”

“Franchise First allows us to deliver a cloud platform for franchises so they can take their brand, pretty much without limitations, anywhere in the world. We’ve added our own intellectual property to Microsoft’s cloud services and under the Cloud Solution Provider Program we’ve put all of those elements together in a really simple, easy way.

“In the last few months we’ve had tremendous success in taking that sort of package solution to franchises in Australia, who have responded. Our first customers was Harcourts International, who have agreed to go forward, taking them from 100 users to nearly 2,500 users in really one go.

James Stewart, Cloud First’s Sales Director, said it was difficult to build such services internally. “You had to have a big IT team. You had to have big investment. Today, it gives franchisors the ability to look at spreading their brand across Australia and the world with limited outlay.

“Traditionally, if you wanted to get your product out anywhere in the world, you’d have to go away and build levels of infrastructures necessary to provide that to be a global service. You can now piggyback off Microsoft’s Online Services platform, which offers 24/7 access, 99.9% up time guarantees and it enables you to build your solution on top of the platform and then scale with the customers that want to buy it.”

Mr Stewart said Franchise First was built specifically for Australian franchisees, to Australian standards and around Australian legislation – “and by choosing Microsoft, we’ve chosen a partner that spends $10 billion a year on research and development. That means I’ve got a team of people that sit there thinking about how to make my customers more productive, and for us as an organisation, they’re the best partner to deal with.”

“At CloudFirst we like to think of ourselves as the example of where we’re trying to take our customers. We don’t own a server. We have no physical tin in our business. We consume Microsoft cloud services and we get the benefits of the productivity that Microsoft provides as part of its Office 365 platform.”

Mr Rappell said Microsoft’s launch of the Australian data centres for Azure, Office 365 and CRM Online were exciting for CloudFirst and many of its customers.

The company had been working previously through cloud solutions held outside Australia “and although the solutions are very robust, there’s always been some level of concern from some Australian customers about ‘where does my data reside?’”

“Those questions now are pretty much taken out. The customers can see that their data is not only held, but also backed up in Australia. “

“At CloudFirst we like to think of ourselves as the example of where we’re trying to take our customers today. We don’t own a server. We have no physical tin in our business. We consume Microsoft cloud services and we get the benefits of the productivity that Microsoft provides as part of its Office 365 platform. “

“Our customers look to us to see into the future and I think we do a pretty good job of being that example for them,” Mr Rappell said.

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