The aim

The upgrade is a core part of a wider transformation programme the AFL initiated late last year centred on rebuilding the financial strength of the industry, ensuring fan first experiences, continued investment in community football, and investing in technology.

Deploying Microsoft Dynamics 365 will underpin the AFL's aim to increase productivity and efficiency both within the sporting body itself, as well as the 12 clubs it provides shared services to.

"While this is an AFL project, we're excited to also have 12 of our clubs on board. It was important for us to find a solution to best support our industry, and we will look to eventually bring all of our clubs into this system," says Melissa Azzopardi, General Manager of Finance at the AFL.

"Having one solution to enable greater collaboration and unified processes across the AFL and our clubs - and to achieve economies of scale from an investment perspective, was really important to us."

Supporting growth

The new technology will allow the AFL to focus more on reporting and analytics rather than managing backend processes.

"Having the right systems and investment in our platforms are vital to supporting the ongoing growth of our business, as well as our industry," says Azzopardi. "Businesses grow based on having the right data. Having a tool that allows us to focus on data and insights is one of the key elements for us."

Dynamics 365 will also better support the evolving business models of the AFL and its clubs.

"We have a more complex business now with different compliance requirements - as do our clubs. The AFL owns its own stadium (Marvel Stadium in Melbourne), so it's important for us and our clubs to have the tools to support our changing operating environments," says Azzopardi.

Future proof

The move to Dynamics 365 will bring the AFL and its clubs into the future enabling them to take advantage of all the benefits a cloud platform offers, such as regular upgrade cycles and improved cybersecurity.

"One of the drivers of the upgrade was our decision to adopt a cloud-based technology strategy," says AFL Head of Technology Planning and Delivery, Simon Wirth.

"By moving to cloud-based infrastructure we can keep up-to-date with patching and the support is centralised, which will reduce our cybersecurity risk."

Flexible working

As a cloud-based platform, Dynamics 365 will enable flexible working, especially as the AFL and clubs adapt to operating with fewer resources following the COVID-19 pandemic.

"Our business is a national game - everyone is working from everywhere. Having the tools that enable flexible working was key in deciding what solution to choose," says Azzopardi.

“The Covid pandemic has meant, like many businesses, we are running our business on a leaner model. Having the right tools to help our teams do their job easier and manage financials in real time is vital.”

The new solution replaces an ageing Great Plains ERP system, which was reaching the end of its life with support ending later this year.

However, even though the AFL was already running on Microsoft technology, it was not a forgone conclusion that the replacement would also be Microsoft-based.

"This is a big change programme and having the right solution is key, so we went through an extensive review process before deciding Microsoft Dynamics 365 was the right fit for our business," says Wirth.

AFL players in action. AFL players in action.

"Fusion5 is a trusted partner with deep experience and a demonstrated commitment to always going the extra mile to ensure customer needs are not just met, but exceeded."

Phil Barlow, Director Partner Technology, Microsoft ANZ

Fusion5 expertise impresses

The AFL chose to partner with Fusion5 to implement the system, after a comprehensive selection process, which included an in-depth discovery phase. It was here where Fusion5 proved its mettle, says Wirth.

"The subject matter expertise Fusion5 brought to the table during the discovery process convinced us they would be able to do the implementation well for us. "Fusion5 were able to show us live demos of how our environment would look on the new platform, so we were able to engage with the system and our people were able to see how it would work for them. That was certainly helpful for us."

AFL Head of Technology Planning and Delivery, Simon Wirth

Azzopardi agrees: "Having the live demos was important. We held around 40 workshops during the discovery phase to touch on all the ways we work. That really helped us have the confidence to move forward with Dynamics 365 and Fusion5 supporting us with the implementation."

Being recommended by Microsoft was another important factor in Fusion5's selection.

"We certainly did our due diligence before selecting Fusion5, but having Microsoft endorse them as one of their top implementers was a very important factor in that decision," says Wirth.

Phil Barlow, Director Partner Technology, Microsoft ANZ says: “Fusion5 is a trusted partner with deep experience and a demonstrated commitment to always going the extra mile to ensure customer needs are not just met, but exceeded.

“By leveraging Microsoft’s trusted technology platforms this project will deliver enhanced access to data and analytics, promising efficiencies, and greater organisational transparency, but also acting as the foundation for improved customer – or on this case, fan – experiences. Combining the very best Microsoft technology, the commitment of Fusion5 and the vision of the AFL make this a project to watch.”

For Fusion5, the discovery phase of the selection process presented an opportunity to demonstrate its proposal in a unique way.

"It allowed us to build a version of the solution and show the AFL and its users what their systems would look like in the new world. That enabled them to make decisions based on what they could see, touch and use in a simulation of their environment," says Fusion5's Asj Smith.

The AFL aims to go live with the new Dynamics 365 platform in November to coincide with the start of its new financial year with the migration kicking off in June.


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