Well – I got that wrong. Contrary to what I thought, the NetSuite SuiteWorld opening keynote and surrounding executive presentations did not center on retail. Instead, the company chose to walk us through the four big elements of the company’s focus: the suite, customizations, omni-commerce and suite for industries. And while retail was among those industries, it was manufacturing that took center stage. That was something of a surprise given that the company launched a manufacturing edition back in 2010. Times have changed.
Back then, the company had a relationship with Rootstock. That didn’t work out in part because NetSuite and Rootstock could not come to an acquisition agreement. C’est la vie. As it turns out, this was probably a blessing in disguise because it allowed NetSuite to go back to the drawing board, rather than try make sense of a product that is already in the marketplace. And therein lies the key to understanding where the company is going.
During the executive Q&A, I asked Roman Bukary, who heads up the manufacturing division how NetSuite will avoid the trap of re-inventing the past. That’s always a bad idea and something colleague Phil Wainewright disparages as So-SaaS or Same old Software as a Service. Instead, the company is working with customers who are rethinking manufacturing and manufacturing processes. That jibes well with an Infor implementation I recently saw where the company is effectively turning manufacture into a service that adds value to its customers through pro-active demand planning and forecasting.
While it is not giving out too many details at this point we know that NetSuite is concentrating on discrete manufacturing and looking for those use cases where there is value to be added, rather than offering good ol’ MRP and then bolting on some goodies. It is a novel approach but one that might yet prove to be the right strategy in a market that has remained largely unchanged the last 30 years. There is more.
This year and with a standing room only 5,000 strong audience in front of him, it was good to see CEO Zach Nelson putting customers out front from the get go. Even more pleasing was the fact that the executive Q&A included a table of customers ready to field questions from the assembled analyst/media group. This is a sign of confidence at a company which while small, acts big.
However, the panel Q&A in which I participated was a tad disappointing. Apart from the person who would not be convinced that cloud operations are a more reliable operational bet than on premises operations, the questions suggested an audience that is still grappling with some of the basics of cloud operations. That could well be because despite aspirations to be one of the mega vendors, NetSuite’s core customers remain rooted in the mid-market where there is a lot of education still to do.
Overall, I got the sense that NetSuite is much more comfortable in its skin than it was a couple of years ago. Back then, the company was transitioning to play on a larger stage. Today, it is fielding much larger deals than was the case in the past.
To the point about long term SaaS cost compared to on premises – another panel talking point – Nelson said that he is always prepared to look at pricing and ensure that customers get the best value. Of course he would say that but then I have met customers who have successfully negotiated reductions in cost as their circumstances change.
This is a topic I will explore further but it is good to see NetSuite attempting to get closer to a metered method of pricing for (at least) some customers.
Disclosure: NetSuite covered most of my travel expenses