Superstah! NetSuite - Customer Relationship Management

NetSuite has had a consistent strategy that is unlike any other of its ilk in the industry. Led by the harismatic and definitely hip CEO Zach Nelson, and the uberbrilliant co-founder and CTO Evan Goldberg, NetSuite hasn’t attacked the market with social features or been focused around innovation as its core. Its basic strategy has been to continuously improve functionality so that you can do enterprise-related operational work anywhere in the world in an on-demand environment. Even though they are focused on consistent improvement, they will add major pieces to the suite when merited. In April 2008, they developed their One World edition, which handles globalization and localization in one fell swoop in a rather effective way with a single interface. Also in 2008, they jumped into the business platform pool, as have many of their competitors. But unlike their competitors, their platform, NSBOS, is narrowly focused around developing industry-specific applications. It isn’t just a generally applicable PaaS.

What this points to is a solidly practical strategy that permeates everything they do. They were founded around an order management system that focused in the back office, hence their original name, NetLedger. But they didn’t scrap this just to be “new.” They kept this order management core and built their CRM applications, NetSuite CRM+, around the same idea. For a good look at how this actually works, see Figure.
NetSuite-CRM   sales Dashboard
NetSuite CRM+ Sales Dashboard

Mission 21st Century
What’s in store for NetSuite? Let Zach Nelson tell you the 2010 plan.

The business case for SaaS will only get stronger, as advances in networks, virtualization, and computing power make running your business “in the cloud” an increasingly natural choice. That in turn will lure in new vendors seeking to replicate our success in providing an ERP-driven suite of applications designed to run a global business.

In NetSuite’s second decade we will remain focused on responding to customer demand, which increasingly revolves around building industryspecific solutions delivered from the cloud. That means expanding our own functionality as well as creating a partner ecosystem that leverages NetSuite as a platform to extend our core ERP, CRM, and e-commerce functionality with their business-specific domain expertise.

The Product and Strategy
NetSuite is aimed at the upper end of the midmarket. Throughout their history, they have not hidden their desire to go after parts of the market that SAP covets too. For example, in 2008, they announced a Business By NetSuite program for SAP customers to capture those customers who are exposed by SAP’s lack of an SaaS offering. They spent too much time, to my thinking, in going after their competition publicly and not enough on the merits of their actual solid successful functional applications services.

In April 2009, they seemed to have a change of heart. They redirected their competitive strategy to something that reminded me of the U.S. cold war strategy when Khrushchev was Soviet jefe. It was called “peaceful coexistence.”

What NetSuite did was announce SuiteCloud Connect, too confusing a name, but it was the name of a smart idea. Using their partners Pervasive, Cast Iron, Boomi, and Celigo, they released a set of tools and APIs that would allow customers to integrate salesforce.com CRM applications with NetSuite’s ERP applications. Very shortly thereafter, NetSuite released a new version of OneWorld, which added a Suite-Cloud Connector for SAP so that companies with large investments in SAP on-premise systems could retain their investments and still run divisions or a “local” entity in another nation on NetSuite. This is ERPto-ERP, unlike the salesforce.com connector, which is ERP-to-CRM.

In other words, they took advantage of their greatest asset, the broad capabilities that their suite provided, and instead of aggressively attacking their competition, created “coopetition” by using their offerings to fill the holes of their competition’s offerings.

Finally, this is a company that knows how to market and communicate with the analyst community and press exceptionally well. Zach Nelson is a terrific speaker and a marvelous spokesperson in general for NetSuite and a very, very cool, good-natured guy. Mei Li, their SVP of corporate communications, is not only known throughout the industry but also extraordinarily well liked throughout the industry-not easy when it comes to cynical analysts and press. She keeps the press and analysts well informed.

There are a few weaknesses, which they are aware of and addressing. They have some customer service issues that they need to fix. They are doing that as this book goes to press. Their partner ecosystem needs some work yet-it is a bit thin. They are now addressing that though there is still a ways to go.

But this is a company that can easily be called Superstah! for their offerings’ breadth, its CRM applications’ deep integration with the rest of the suite, the management team, and, now, their intelligence when it comes to integrating with other players in the SaaS and on-premise space.


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