NetSuite’s ERP solution has grown rapidly in popularity across middle to large-size corporations since it was founded 20 years ago by the then-Chairman and CTO of Oracle. It is widely viewed as the first cloud software ERP, and as opposed to many cloud solutions today, NetSuite has always been offered on a SaaS-basis. Today, NetSuite counts over 15,000 customers globally across multiple industries from retail and manufacturing, through advertising and media, to technology and professional services.
When considering financial systems, and especially cloud-based ERP systems, there are several solutions to chose from. Even Quickbooks has a basic online accounting solution to get start-ups and small family business up and running quickly. However, as companies grow and the business requirement become more complex, executives should consider systems that either have all the functionality they need or integrate well other systems used across the organization. NetSuite is highly reviewed and an excellent option for most midsized and growing companies as it is an all-encompassing ERP system with an integrated suite of applications to manage financials, orders, production, supply chain, warehouse, fulfillment, and procurement.
NetSuite Strengths and Features
In addition to being fully cloud-based, NetSuite has a few key strengths and features, including:
A Complete Solution
NetSuite offers a complete end-to-end solution to the middle market packed with lots of features, including financial modules, order management, supply chain management, demand planning, procurement, inventory management, human resource management, CRM, and commerce. This allows midmarket organizations to use just one solution provider to complete their needs rather than trying to connect multiple disparate systems or enter data manually from one system to another which can create massive bottle necks and hurt the customer experience.
Any company that wants to grow its business needs to consider ERP solutions that can scale with future growth without multiple upgrades and implementations. Given that NetSuite is a cloud-based system with many modules, companies can add new modules as needed. For example, a company switching to NetSuite might begin with a relatively basic solution, using only the accounting/financials package, and then tack on modules like Advanced Inventories or Work Orders as needed. The company might upgrade later to more enhanced packages to have all the features they need.
Customization and Extensions
While built to scale, NetSuite also offers an endless amount of customization and configuration options to fit specific workflow requirements. Approval processes and automation of jobs can be configured, so NetSuite can suit any situation. For example, a large wholesaler may want sales orders to have multiple approval steps before shipping the product and manual handling of invoices and payments. An online retailer that takes credit card payments up front might prefer sales orders to be expeditiously pushed to the warehouse and its payments to automatically apply to their invoices with no manual steps.
In addition, the Company’s SuiteCloud Platform enables customers and partners to create extensions and integrations, so the end user has additional control over the final shape of the ERP system. While NetSuite does a lot really well, some features or business processes may be better kept in other platforms. The SuiteCloud feature is particularly attractive to companies within specialized verticals/niches with industry-specific regulations or companies with unique business models. As NetSuite has open APIs and a lot of users, a vast community of developers can either help build APIs or develop/sell connectors to NetSuite to other systems, such as e-commerce front ends and marketplaces (e.g., Magento, Shopify, Amazon, and Ebay), expense management systems (e.g., Expensify or Concur), or CRM systems (e.g., SalesForce).
NetSuite can handle multiple companies (and their intercompany transactions), multiple locations, multiple languages, multiple currencies, and multiple tax and regulatory environments. NetSuite supports 20 UI languages, over 190 currencies, and tax calculations and reporting in 100 countries. Any company thinking of international expansion needs to take this aspect into consideration when selecting an ERP solution.
While this isn’t always highlighted to business users, it is an important advantage of NetSuite. Too often, technology processes fail when the databases don’t get updated correctly or in a timely manner, which can cause data delay and frustration with employees. However, as NetSuite draws from one single database and one code base, it ensures quicker access to data and avoids managing and synchronizing data between different databases. In addition, it helps facilitate the company’s regular updates to be more seamless. Customers don’t have to worry about testing across multiple systems and databases. (Although there is still a need to test customizations and integrations that may have been deployed.) All of this helps accelerate closings, ensure compliance and provide real-time analysis.
Reporting and Dashboards
Another benefit of having multiple processes and workflows in one system is that all the data is in one place and updated in real time. No need to merge data from multiple systems or worry about any timing issues if the data doesn’t match. The finance and accounting team gets more automated and accurate financial statements. The entire organization benefits from a modern financial reporting experience that delivers real-time financial and operational analysis that can be set up to track your specific KPIs and business dimensions.
NetSuite also offers a vast number of customizable graphic dashboards, reminders & notifications, warnings & alerts as well as an easy to use interface to view and download custom data reports specifying criteria, calculations and results (what they refer to as Saved Reports and Saved Searches). As it is cloud based, much of this can be accessed anywhere, including through mobile applications. All this information can be obtained by business users without requiring deep technology understanding or dedicated IT staff. The built-in business intelligence with real-time reporting and analytics equips your organization with a single version of the truth and ignites better, faster decision making.
Tips for Implementing NetSuite
The above are powerful features that most mid to large size companies would be asking for in a new, robust ERP system. However, some companies may see the system as too big or overwhelming because of the many features that are included. Potential NetSuite end users in the lower midmarket often must buy more functionality than they need and that can add confusion or difficulty in use initially. However, if leadership expects to grow the business in the mid to long term, they should consider all those added features for future use.
Meaningful training is also recommended to get team members up and running, which adds costs and time to the implementation phase. Implementation can be difficult, and success varies with the amount of customization you may need. However, once you get the software up and running, it is very easy to maintain.
Pricing may also be prohibitive, as NetSuite certainly isn’t the cheapest solution out there. It is typically priced based on the functions and features the customer wants and the numbers of users. The latter can be a concern for small companies, where only a small number of employees will use NetSuite for very specific tasks. In such a case, paying for each user would get expensive quickly.
At the other end of the spectrum, if a company has very specific workflows or business needs that require extensive customization, that can also add significant upfront cost. (We’ve covered tips for automating financial processes with NetSuite before.) Companies with higher customization needs should consider using additional systems for some parts of the business that require these specialty features. As companies grow very large, being on a shared cloud-based system may also not be ideal as there inevitably will be limitations to the amount of customization and configuration that can be done.
On a few occasions, there can also be concerns and issues with the speed to which financial and operational transactions are processed. NetSuite has a 99.98% uptime and it is rarely down for more than 45 minutes to an hour at a time. But even that may not work for large companies that require either back-up instances.
Deciding on and implementing a new ERP system is no small task and can have consequences for years. Success requires a clear understanding of current and future business needs as well as the right support from all stakeholders. NetSuite is a suitable solution for many companies that are looking for an upgrade, but requires deep understanding of its capabilities. You can contact us for assistance, and we’d be happy to help.
About the Author
Leo has over 20 years of diverse financial and operational leadership experience across multiple industries including technology, telecom and retail/eCommerce. Prior to joining 8020, Leo performed system implementations, business process re-engineering, created forecasting and budgeting models, and managed internal and external financial reporting as head of finance, accounting and operations at India Hicks, Sonic Electronix and CPO Commerce. Previously, he was an investment banker at Houlihan Lokey, Friedman Billings Ramsey and Robertson Stephens where he provided M&A, capital raise and valuation advise. Leo holds an MBA from UCLA Anderson and a Bachelor of Science in Economics form University College London.