Reflections on Optimation's journey

Posted by Neil Butler, Chairman and Founder on 11 October 2017

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Neil Butler Optimation 2017As Optimation celebrates 25 years in business, it has been incredibly rewarding for me to reflect back on my own experience founding the company and seeing it flourish and grow. Since we opened our doors in a tiny office on The Terrace back in 1992, the IT industry and the wider economy have seen plenty of ups and downs. Winston Peters was in the news back then, having recently been sacked by Jim Bolger. I guess some things change, others not so much! But for a tech business 25 years is an ice-age, so we are pretty proud to be here today.

Having worked for a multinational IT company, I started Optimation because I saw businesses struggling to grapple with the change and opportunities new technologies were creating. I also had an itch to be an entrepreneur and more creative in my career. Optimation’s enduring vision has been to help Kiwi businesses succeed through the smart use of technology. Beyond that, as partners we love working alongside our clients helping them to imagine what’s possible, and then make those possibilities a reality.

A true story that I still haven’t quite lived down comes from when my wonderful wife Sharon was in labour with our first child in ‘93. It was taking quite a long time so between contractions I kept ducking out to the front room to do a bit more work on a proposal that we needed to get to ASB Bank. I got some pretty direct feedback. Life coaching! Words like “priorities” and other shorter words were used, and I’ve been shamed at more than a few dinner parties ever since. But it all turned out OK. Sharon is still wonderful, our daughter is now 24, and we won that business with ASB.

Nurturing talent

One of the great pleasures for me in being involved in this business for 25 years now has been getting so many opportunities to meet and nurture emerging talent. We’ve found great Optimates through graduate and internship schemes like Summer of Tech, and become enthusiastic supporters of programmes like ShadowTech Day, aimed at unlocking the potential of young Kiwi women and getting them interested in STEM careers.

At the end of the day, it’s the people who really determine whether a company succeeds or fails. I have had the privilege of getting to know so many smart, talented, and inspiring Optimates who are truly committed to delivering for our clients. Since 1992, Optimation has provided well-rewarded, challenging and intellectually fulfilling work for over 2000 employees and contractors. Many of those individuals have gone on to create thriving businesses of their own, or to establish careers as CEOs, Vice Presidents, CIO and CTO’s both here and internationally. In other cases, they have been part of the Optimation team for the long haul, benefiting from investment in training, development, and mentoring that has helped them grow their careers and mature as professionals. Our longest-serving Optimates have been with us for over 15 years – a lifetime in this industry!

Growing a strong digital and creative economy

My focus, and that of the team’s, has been not only on building Optimation into a successful company but also on helping to foster a vibrant, sustainable IT sector. From the early days, Optimation was an active supporter of industry groups like ITANZ, NZTech, and NZRise. We’ve participated in initiatives to improve procurement practices and break down barriers to Kiwi companies participating in New Zealand business that had traditionally been the domain of the multinationals.

It’s hard to win overseas if you can’t play at home and - along with our pathways for growing skills - I firmly believe this is vital to building a strong digital and creative economy for New Zealand. In Optimation’s case, we have been able to leverage IP created in our New Zealand business and our long experience in the IT services industry to expand into Australia, the US, and other global markets.

Evolving with our customers

People often ask me, “how have you managed to stay relevant over such a long time frame?” I think there are two reasons. Firstly, Optimation is in many ways a mirror to its customers. We reflect your challenges and needs, and by making that part of our DNA we have evolved as you have. The second is that we are all about ideas and helping our customers successfully work through change. With disruptive technologies upon us ever faster, the relevance of those ideas and that help only grows.

I wouldn’t be looking back on 25 years of success and looking forward to an exciting future without the sustained support of our clients and partners. The bonds of trust we have established have been the foundation for our mutual success.