n3 Buying Group
Connecting a network of over 15,000 members
"Dynamics 365 is our first cloud-based system and it’s opened up a whole new world to us"Sean Chen, IT Manager for n3
n3 is a business buying group. It connects a network of over 15,000+ members to more than 60 leading New Zealand suppliers, including Bunnings, OfficeMax, Mobil, BP, Z Energy, NZ Safety Blackwoods, Fonterra, Pit Stop, NZ Couriers, OfficeMax, and Noel Leeming.
The group helps member businesses to save money on their operational purchases. At the same time, they generate new opportunities for their extensive network of suppliers. Over the past 12 months they have facilitated over $65 million in savings for their members.
The business rebranded as n3 in 2013, however it has been operating for over two decades, starting out as a state-owned enterprise Government purchasing department (Government Stores Board) and then becoming GSB Supplycorp in the late 1980s.
Unfortunately, the new name didn’t come with a technology upgrade. While the group grew in the 2000s, it was clear that their legacy systems would eventually hold them back. Finally, the ‘where to from here?’ decision became pressing.
“We’d reached end of life with the systems we had,” says Sean Chen, IT Manager for n3. “We had to decide if we should invest in newer versions of our existing technology or start afresh. We made a strategic decision to adopt Microsoft throughout the business so we could better support and grow our customer base, supplier partnerships, and the business itself.”
n3 went to market in 2015 to choose the partner who could completely overhaul and upgrade their systems from the ground up. They decided on Fusion5 to implement a solution based off Dynamics 365 CRM, Microsoft Power Platform, ClickDimensions (integrated directly to the CRM), and to move the business to Azure.
The out with the old, in with the new project commenced in March 2016 and has been deployed in incremental phases right through late 2018.
Chen, and Jeremy Howcroft, CEO of n3, both say the move to Azure has had a significant impact on the business, and that their new Microsoft environment delivers the value they expected.
“We’re now at the stage where we’re realising a lot of the benefits from the new technology, and learning a lot too,” says Howcroft. “Our old platform didn’t have an upgrade path. By comparison, Microsoft has a constant upgrade approach, and they put changes through every day, so we’re always up to date.
n3 now use Dynamics 365 Customer Engagement to record customer information, track services used by customers, and capture details of potential new members. The n3 sales team use the CRM’s prospecting features to track and nurture leads. The marketing team utilise ClickDimensions’ email automation functionality to keep in contact with, and provide offers to, prospects and customers.
“Dynamics 365 is our first cloud-based system,” says Chen, “and it’s opened up a whole new world to us. We no longer have to host the platform or maintain the services. We can put it all into Microsoft’s hands and just focus on running the business. The challenge for us is how to adapt to the changes and make the most of the opportunities it offers us – and that’s where Fusion5 continue to add value.”
More recently, Fusion5 played a critical role in the launch of n3’s newest product – Boost, an ‘employee benefits’ programme.
Designed to create a new revenue stream for n3, Boost allows member businesses to choose a plan, and top up their employees’ remuneration by giving them access to discount purchasing. A dedicated Boost website hosts supplier offers, and employees use an app, to take advantage of the special pricing. The app sends employees special codes and vouchers that can be used in-store or online for everyday discounts, extra-special deals and limited time offers, from brands like PlaceMakers, Resene, Pit Stop, Specsavers, 1-day, The Coffee Club, and Torpedo7.
The project required Fusion5 to integrate n3’s new Boost website and app to Dynamics 365 Customer Engagement.
Boost has been a gamechanger for n3. They already have 44,000 employees eligible to enjoy discounts from 40 suppliers.
After four years of working together, n3 and Fusion5 have established a solid relationship. The n3 system is complex, and Chen says the support from Fusion5 is very responsive.
Howcroft agrees. “One of the good things about working with Fusion5 is that they have a strong relationship with Microsoft. They keep us updated on upcoming changes and updates, so we can rapidly assess how they impact our business. Another strong point in our relationship is Fusion5’s very accessible senior management.”
While the n3 team is small – with just under 30 staff – that’s no impediment to growth. And n3 has big ambitions.
Howcroft says that having a solution that scales alongside the business is important. “We selected Dynamics 365 so we can continue the growth path we’ve been on. We’ve been very successful in growing the business over the last seven years, and our Microsoft solution will support the future growth and volume that we anticipate in terms of members and supplier numbers and interactions.
“We didn’t want to make a short-term investment. We don’t want to choose and migrate to a new platform every year. Fusion5’s solution simply means we develop and fine-tune, getting more and more out of it all the time.”