Even if you’ve done your shopping and selected NetSuite as your preferred Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) platform, it’s likely you still have concerns about migrating your data from your current systems into the cloud. We’ve worked with a lot of companies through the migration process, and we want to share some best practices we’ve picked up along the way. Let’s cover what you should consider when switching to NetSuite.
Upfront data planning goes a long way to save time later.
When we meet with clients to start planning their financial systems implementation, we typically start with reporting requirements and work backwards to system configuration. This allows us to determine what level of historic data is needed, if data structures need to be changed, what information is needed by users, and any specific IT requirements. Here’s a list of items you should know before implementation:
1. Determine what level of detail you want to put into the new system.
Comparative financials are usually a big concern, so you want to make this decision early. For example, are you okay with summary account balances or will you need detailed transactions?
If you want to be able to go back to day one, you’ll deal with a lot of layered processes and process changes. Transactional detail becomes more difficult the further you go back, as data structures might have changed. For example, I had a client that initially didn’t track expenses by departments, so my NetSuite import files did not have a department field. When I started to prepare year-three data, I noticed transactions had departments assigned to them. I had to modify my import file and process to accommodate the additional field, resulting in additional time to import the remaining data.
Some clients decide to use a hybrid approach. They’ll import summary/monthly trial balances for earlier years and detailed transactional data for the previous year (or for the current year if the conversion started partway into the current year). This allows the company to have good detailed comparative financial statements for the past two years.
2. Determine if data structures are changing.
Is the chart of account going from 4-digit to 5-digit account numbers? Are you adding or changing department structures? Do you plan on changing customer or vendor numbers? Make sure to focus intensively on data structures before implementation, as these types of changes impact the data mapping used to upload information.
3. Involve users from all departments.
By including users from all departments, you’ll ensure NetSuite can meet their data and reporting needs. This will go a long way in making sure you have a successful ERP implementation.
When I sit with an end user, they can tell me what fields are most important for them to see and in what order. You can learn a lot by asking them about their use cases.
Additionally, IT needs to be involved. Just because you are using cloud-based software doesn’t mean you should operate independently of the IT department. IT needs to be included in the planning process to make sure user administration and access is consistent with company policies (e.g., is single sign-on being used, or are IP restrictions required?).
Use a few key best practices for converting data in NetSuite.
Extracting, mapping, and uploading detail transaction data from legacy systems can be a frustrating and time-consuming process. Based on my experience converting data and automating financial processes with NetSuite, the following best practices should be followed:
1. Determine if new information needs to be captured on an entity (e.g., customer, vendor, subsidiary) or at a transaction level.
NetSuite has a lot of flexibility for creating custom fields, records, segments, and forms, so understanding the purpose of new data elements will help you determine the best way to configure NetSuite. Custom field options include free-form text; sourcing information from custom drop-down list or from other NetSuite data fields; and the inclusion of simple or complex formulas (e.g., if/then statements similar to Excel).
Tip: Limit the use of free-form text fields. The downside to using free-form text is that people can word things differently to mean the same thing. For example, a region free-form text field can be populated as “SoCal,” “S. Cal,” “Southern Cal,” or “Southern California.” In this case, it would make sense to create a region list that the region custom field would use as its source (i.e., in a drop-down list). You can restrict who can update the list to allow for consistency in data and reports.
2. Reference a “dummy” customer or vendor when uploading summary/monthly trial balances.
By using something like “ZZ – TB Vendor” or “ZZ – TB Customer,” you can reconcile and clear Accounts Payable & Accounts Receivables transactions. That will prevent them from appearing on aging reports as Journal Entries with No Name Vendor or Customer.
Tip: To clear offsetting transactions for accounts receivable, Make a Customer Payment > Select the offsetting transactions > Make sure the transaction total equals zero. For accounts payable, make a Vendor Bill Payment and do the same.
3. Reconcile sub-ledger balances for imported open customer and vendor transactions.
Make sure if the net trial activity imported into Accounts Receivable is $1,000,000, make sure you uploaded a total of $1,000,000 in customer invoices.
4. Compare legacy system reports to NetSuite reports.
Make sure to reconcile each month’s trial balance in the new system to the old system report to ensure all data got imported. I have experienced times when the import status shows all records had been imported, when in fact they had not.
5. Convert legacy Excel schedules.
When new system processes are being implemented (e.g., Fixed Assets; Prepaid Expense Amortization and Revenue Recognition), you should format and upload manual Excel schedules into the system. This helps you take advantage of the new system’s functionality for automating monthly journal entries and reporting, so you can avoid having to maintain legacy manual schedules and making journal entries.
6. Use data references.
When preparing uploads, use NetSuite’s external ID as a reference to the legacy system transaction number or to reference to your Excel workpaper. For example, you might use an old journal entry, invoice number or row number from an Excel workpaper for the imported transaction external ID.
Build in time for training end users on how to use the new system.
Companies often set tight deadlines for implementation and then stick with them. So they skip end user training and post go-live support. Taking the time to train users on NetSuite and support users through launch goes a long way to ensuring a successful transition. It also encourages user dialog that can help you improve the system and their usage over time.
Review custom reporting and processes you expect users to employ.
All end users should be trained on how to create:
- Saved Searches: These are reusable search definitions that can have many advanced search filters and results-display options. Saved search results provide reporting and tracking and can serve as the basis for business analysis and strategic decision-making.
- Reports: NetSuite provides a Report Builder and Financial Report Builder to customize most standard and ad hoc reports. You can modify the look of a report, and the information it presents, to meet your specific needs. You then can run the saved report at any time to quickly access the information you need in the format that is most useful to you.
They should also be trained on processes that are specific to their roles and functions. Additionally, when new processes are added (e.g., revenue recognition), make sure to document and train users on how the process works on daily transactions and month-end processes.
Go over User Support features.
Users should be aware that NetSuite provides several ways for them to get help:
- Help Button: They can click the Help button on the top of any page.
- SuiteAnswers: Under the Support tab is a link to SuiteAnswers, which provides additional help, support articles and examples.
- Field Help: Users can click on any field name to get information about the field, as long as it was entered when the field was created, along with the field’s internal ID. NetSuite maintains a separate reference number for all records created in the system. This Internal ID is useful when importing or updating records through CSV imports.
Tip: To display the internal ID, go to Home > Set Preferences > General, then under Defaults, click Show Internal IDS.
Get support to help you through the process of switching to NetSuite.
Making the move to NetSuite can be difficult for any enterprise, but if bandwidth is the primary reason preventing ERP selection and implementation, consider bringing in outside assistance. If your staff is overburdened with work, it’s highly unlikely they’ll be able to add NetSuite implementation to their to-do list.
Firms like 8020 Consulting work with a lot of companies to incorporate and launch financial systems into their operations. We can bring outside perspective and the experience that comes with many successful ERP launches. If you’d like to learn more about how we can help, you can click the button below to visit our financial systems consulting services page.
About the Author
Adam Fox has over 30 years of finance, accounting and operations experience primarily in start-up and middle-market entertainment, media and online companies. Adam started his career at Ernst & Young in New York City before moving to California. Prior to joining 8020 Consulting, he worked as Controller at Fox Family Channel; ArtistDirect, a company he assisted taking public; Controller then interim CFO at Fandango and finally CFO at mOcean. As a consultant, he has gained extensive NetSuite implementation and process improvement experience assisting clients including EdgeCast/VDMS, Certent, Magento & Fair. He holds a Bachelor of Science in Business Administration from The American University in Washington DC and is an active CPA in California. Adam lives in Studio City with his wife Lesley, children Jakob and Lilly and dog Pi.
Categorized in: Financial Systems