‘More, Better, Forever’ is a line from a surprise speaker at SuiteWorld 2017, Oracle CEO Mark Hurd. It summarises the essential elements in his highly street-credible speech, which ran over its allotted time because of questions from the audience. Hurd said that after the acquisition of NetSuite, Oracle still had $60 billion in cash, which is to be invested in further development of the database and ERP technologies that are already considered the best in the world.
The keynote address by NetSuite founder and CTO Evan Goldberg has always been the most interesting – and entertaining – part of SuiteWorld conferences (if you don’t take SuiteFest, the late-night rock concert in Las Vegas, into account). Once again, the speech turned out a whirlwind of product releases that got the audience cheering.
Evan’s opening line was ‘Oracle+NetSuite means more, more, more!’ – and he continued with a declaration that ‘what we see today is just the beginning, as the development budget has increased by a massive 25% in this year alone’ (quoted from memory).
Evan used to work for Oracle. That was before he established NetSuite 18 years ago jointly with Oracle founder and CTO Larry Ellison. Evan was clearly happy to ‘return home’ and gain access to the best and most modern database technology and cloud services available.
The technology support received from Oracle is significant, and it is expected to enhance the overall performance of NetSuite rapidly by as much as 98%. This is surprising news when one considers how content many large global companies and US-based listed technology companies that handle huge numbers of transactions have been with NetSuite.
Let’s focus on Finland
With a schedule made public, NetSuite is now fully committed to the Nordics and to Finland. The investment, significant even by global standards, was prompted by the rapid growth of the customer base in the region, consisting of exactly 733 companies today.
According to the roadmap presented at the event, versions of NetSuite that are localised in both the language used and the financial details will be released for Finnish and other Nordic markets by autumn. Localisation work has been carried out earlier through customisation work by local Nordic partners. More information is available in NetSuite’s press release.
At SuiteWorld 2017, bookkeepers seemed to love various features familiar to Finns, such as processing of bank statements and real-time bank integration. One financial administration feature elicited a bigger round of applause: further automation to facilitate global financial management.
You sell, and NetSuite takes care of the rest
The mantra ‘If you can sell it, we can bill for it and we can recognise it’ refers to the SuiteBilling engine, providing revolutionary functionality that, similarly to OneWorld, differentiates NetSuite from its competitors.
SuiteBilling is a tool that enables management of the highly versatile, global, multi-layered, and multi-step pricing and agreement approach required under hybrid business models – for instance, when a company enters or begins a gradual transition from product manufacture to the service industry. Cisco, a well-known giant of the telecommunications and electronics industry, is a good example of putting this capability, power, and transformation to use.
A growing range of new, more advanced functions aimed at supporting global business is available to manufacturing and distribution companies. NetSuite outclasses the competition through control and automation of outsourced production in an international environment that involves numerous manufacturers, partners, and providers. The core promise mentioned above applies to these features, too: you sell, and NetSuite takes care of the rest.
For service companies, the key development is found in SuitePeople (discussed below) alongside improvements to general usability and analytics.
The template developed for not-for-profit organisations includes full support for financial control and enterprise resource planning that is based on external funding. This finely honed vertical solution, now close to perfection, is considered to be a step toward the public sector.
NetSuite is a platform, so customisation of apps and developer tools are an essential part of the cloud-based service. To increase developer engagement, a programme called ‘Developer Love’ was launched. It has been designed to facilitate smooth development of high-performance apps and more efficient publishing of applications, among other things. Without going into more details, I’ll say just that the audience in the huge room reserved for the keynote speeches received the fundamental improvements to the customisation environment with enthusiasm.
The best analytics in the world
The SuiteAnalytics demonstration showed that a faster and more agile generation has arrived. Integration into Oracle’s superior analytics, budgeting, and planning tools, which are relied on also by SAP companies, eliminates the need for a separate BI solution even in major corporations and other complex organisations.
SuitePeople as the missing link
The SuitePeople HR functionality introduced to NetSuite’s core was found to be highly intuitive. It was heralded as the missing link in the single-database philosophy that had already been applied comprehensively. Combining dynamic HR data with business intelligence will open new scenarios for business-developers at both process and analysis levels.
The development stems from the acquisition of TribeHR, a provider of social-media-inspired HR systems, a few years ago. Where a separate HR or payroll solution is used (as in Finland), the integration takes place via SuitePeople, and NetSuite will serve as a versatile HR interface for employees. SuitePeople is spreading rapidly, and it is currently being tested by a customer in Finland.
While NetSuite is known rather more as a solution for advanced early adopters, a model aimed at more pragmatism-focused buyers is now available also. SuiteSuccess is an acquisition and implementation model suitable for the majority of companies. Customers will know exactly what they are getting, through application of best practices developed in collaboration with early adopters in their respective fields, with detailed documentation.
SuiteSuccess is available to eight vertical and 12 micro-vertical industries, and those numbers are expected to grow rapidly. In addition to the best-practices approach, it offers faster and more cost-effective implementation.
Jim McGeever, Executive Vice President of the NetSuite business unit, emphasised that this is not a YARIM (Yet Another Rapid Implementation Model) offering but something more tangible. The model is described as taking any company from zero to the cloud in 100 days or even sooner, thereby resulting in technically optimal implementation.
SuiteSuccess gets customers to commit, from the very first stage, to templates and a model based on an underlying five-step ‘stairway to heaven’ development process. Those satisfied with less can take it easy and remain on the first step, which corresponds to implementing an application suite, or a system that combines back- and front-office functionality in one solution. Transformation takes place through a standardised, guided stairway to nirvana.
There are heaps of important new stuff. Entire product sections and industries had to be left out because of space limitations. Among these are omni-channel solutions for e-commerce and retail trading, recently introduced by CDON.com, the largest online shop in the Nordics for music, films, and games. The company also has operations in Finland.
NetSuite is a business platform, and purchasing of it reflects a platform-based approach. The customer and the NetSuite partner provider meet on the same platform, and this encounter will have to create a new type of added value. Localisation for the Nordic markets will no longer suffice, as NetSuite becomes a tool for something else, something unexpected, wherever the ecosystem has room for it.
With SuiteSuccess, Oracle aims for scalability, and it is yet to be seen how successful the product will turn out to be with Finnish verticals. Disruptive companies that are entering global markets from Finland can be fitted into the verticals already covered, although the benefits usually arise from crossing boundaries between industries. Much ageing software is used in traditional industries, and NetSuite, specifically standardised for certain verticals, can find users also at companies that are not all that eager to grow.
As NetSuite evangelist, I was completely convinced by SuiteWorld 2017. The international capabilities that NetSuite offers for SMEs are absolutely phenomenal in several ways. Any CFO of a Finnish company who engages in international business without being familiar with NetSuite lives in a bubble and is stuck in the past. It is your duty to wake such people up as soon as you meet them!
In the aftermath of SuiteWorld 2017, one dilemma remained: NetSuite is known for being a modern and international solution for youthful (growth or start-up) companies. This reputation leaves NetSuite behind SAP and Microsoft, although, in reality, NetSuite offers big enterprises the agility of a small company. At the same time, it offers small companies the power of big enterprises.
This seeming paradox – being both agile and powerful – which extends beyond black-and-white technocratic thinking, is the key to success, not only on a system level but in modern business in general. So go forth and challenge the status quo! Challenge people to understand at least that one can have both: we have moved from an either…or time to a both…and time. Genuine cloud business gives you just that.