Top considerations for choosing NetSuite:
1. The Amazing NetSuite Capabilities
2. The NetSuite Learning Cloud
3. Flexible NetSuite Implementation
In reflecting on many of our clients’ questions regarding NetSuite implementation effort, I thought it would be helpful to outline some facts and observations on the NetSuite Platform, Learning Cloud, and Implementation. I am writing this email as both a former NetSuite customer (wholesale distribution company) and the co-owner of a NetSuite Solutions Provider and BPO Partner. At ScaleNorth, we not only implement NetSuite, we also run the accounting departments for a subset of our clients so in a manner of speaking we are still clients.
One of the key differences between NetSuite and other ERP packages is that NetSuite is a platform with amazing capabilities as opposed to a tailored solution. I sometimes use Microsoft Excel vs a calculator as a comparison. Both Excel and a calculator allow you to compute numbers, but Excel opens opportunities to leverage capabilities beyond simple calculations.
NetSuite’s kernel is integrated financials with modules to support projects, job cost, manufacturing, distribution, inventory management, customer relationship management, etc. NetSuite’s modules are coupled with web-based integration capabilities, customizable workflow engine, comprehensive scripting language, deep native business analytics, and ability to customize and create records in a relational database.
NetSuite is primarily a toolset to drive business results. Most competing products must be operated within specific parameters that are defined by the software vendor. NetSuite has taken more of a real-world perspective to allow clients to leverage standard processes but also customize processes to better serve their customers, suppliers, and employees. In almost all our implementations, our clients have customized some processes and forms to adapt to their business needs. Some of these processes include integrations with MSI, payroll services, customers, vendors, logistics providers, and others. Clients also use form customization to capture data points during execution of a process. A project form (or any form), for example, can be modified to capture specific fields to enable systematic reporting.
As many of our clients are a multi-function companies that may operate with various business lines or processes (construction, inventory, field service), NetSuite can be configured or integrated to serve all the required functions. The key to successfully leveraging NetSuite is to understand how a client’s requirements can be mapped onto the NetSuite platform in the most efficient manner possible. The inevitable outcome is that what gets configured for a client will look different than the standard NetSuite shell.
NetSuite Learning Cloud
The primary purpose of NetSuite’s Learning Cloud is to train administrators and consultants to configure, program, and support NetSuite and provide the needed training for NetSuite certifications. For most employees in operational roles, the standard NetSuite Learning Cloud training is not particularly helpful due to each client’s processes likely have been modified in NetSuite as noted above. The only exception to this is the SuiteAnalytics class which is geared to towards power reporting users (highly recommend this certification) and Financial user training for power financial users.
In most of our projects, we work with our clients to create client specific training for functional areas. Our clients have found this training more useful for the employee base than the generic training found in the Learning Cloud. For new employees it is too much of a stretch to try to go through a NetSuite generic training and then try to figure out how that maps to specific processes. Think of training someone in Excel vs training someone to use a company specific financial model built in Excel.
Our recommendation would be to license the Learning Cloud for the power users but rely on specific customized training for most operational users. One additional recommendation is to embed client specific training document links in the NetSuite records so that help is available anytime a user is on that form.
As I noted above, NetSuite is a highly customizable platform without necessarily having to create code to automate processes. Since there are so many switches than can be set when setting up NetSuite, it is highly recommended to map a client’s end to end processes and requirements before diving in to configure the system. Our implementation approach is typically high touch as it is not a feasible assumption to assume that a client can implement NetSuite without prior experience. In addition, NetSuite has two major releases per year which requires keeping up to date on the newest features.
A portion of our business is helping clients fix NetSuite issues. One of our key learnings in helping clients is that documentation and signoff of functional design in NetSuite prior to any configuration is a critical success factor. Although this process requires more upfront work it does greatly facilitate the development and configuration process, and ensures client and consultant expectations are one in the same. This documentation in turn can be used as the basis of customized training for users.
Another key success factor in a NetSuite implementation is to focus on the Minimum Viable Product (MVP) for the first phase. Filter out any “nice to haves” and edge cases and focus on implementing a solution. NetSuite allows you to change most of configuration and add additional features post phase 1 go live. We find that our clients are never completely done as they are always finding ways of driving efficiencies and revenue opportunities once the organization has launched NetSuite (Launch, Learn, Modify).
We would welcome the opportunity to speak further on any of the topics I briefly covered above. As Victor Kiam used to say about Remington Razors in the 1980s, “I liked the shaver so much, I bought the company”. Unfortunately, my partner and I could not afford to buy NetSuite, so we opted to invest in NetSuite another way by forming ScaleNorth Advisors.