Cloud ERP vendors have a positioning problem. While they want customers to embrace their offerings as a suitable substitute for traditional ERP systems, they also want to be so much more than the inflexible, inward-looking and outmoded ERP of old.
The cloud vendors believe it’s not enough to be merely the authoritative system of record that executes and stores the administrative transactions at the heart of the business. They want to extend into systems of engagement that digitally interact with customers, partners and employees at any time or place. But there’s no generally accepted term for systems that fulfil this multi-modal role, in part because each vendor has extended in a different direction.
NetSuite is best known for adding ecommerce to the core ERP proposition. Workday, as well as combining HR and finance, is focused on building in business intelligence and forecasting. Salesforce-native Kenandy has just announced the addition of configure-price-quote and subscription billing. I could go on, but the essential point here is, there’s no consistent pattern that customers can rely on.
So when a vendor salesperson meets a new customer prospect, the first task is a little education about what’s actually on offer, as NetSuite’s managing director EMEA, Mark Woodhams, explained to me earlier this week.
In the UK, we’ve been getting into the habit of walking into a prospect and saying, ‘Before we start, this is what we do.’
The positioning issue is especially acute for NetSuite because over the years it has extended its platform in several different directions. Its extensive ecommerce capability has had a lot of emphasis recently, bolstered by a comprehensive rearchitecture and acquisitions of London-based ecommerce provider Venda last year and retail marketing specialist Bronto earlier this year. It also has a professional services automation offering which it introduced last year as service resource planning (SRP), drawing on its experience after acquiring PSA provider OpenAir in 2008. It has always included CRM functionality in its core proposition. And there are other capabilities, including dashboards (introduced very early) subscription billing, revenue recognition, procure-to-pay and HR.
Roadmap for doing more
Having so much built into the platform does help to secure deals, Woodhams told me. Prospects are either looking for a new ERP system that offers some of the extra capabilities NetSuite includes, or they have a problem with their current IT that NetSuite can help to solve. Being able to solve that problem and then have a roadmap for doing more is very powerful, he said.
The opportunity is based on our ability to execute the right way. It’s about what’s right for the business at the right time.
The other aspect of NetSuite’s offering that’s especially useful in a European context is its OneWorld multi-country capability, which earlier this month expanded its tax calculation and reporting to be compliant in more than 100 countries worldwide. Coupled with support for 20 languages and all 190+ ISO currencies, this is especially relevant for businesses with multi-country operations or subsidiaries, such as London-based software provider Misys, which is using NetSuite to unify financial and business processes across more than 150 subsidiaries in 70 countries. Misys can now close its books in 5 days where it used to take 5 weeks, Woodhams told me.
NetSuite targets three broadly defined vertical markets in EMEA, he said.
- Software and technology — this has been an early focus for NetSuite as it has always used its own product in-house and so understands the requirements well.
- Manufacturing, retail and distribution — this is a very broad segment, with NetSuite’s inventory and ecommerce strengths an early differentiator. Important microverticals here include retail apparel and wholesale distribution.
- People-based businesses — the core here are services businesses but this also encompasses sectors as diverse as education, not-for-profit, financial services and others.
While the UK is NetSuite’s strongest market in EMEA, the company is building up its direct presence and partner network across the region, which is contributing to strong growth. Its opening of European datacenters in Amsterdam and Dublin, coincidentally on the very day that the European Court of Justice declared Safe Harbor rules invalid, also helps its cause here.
Woodhams told me NetSuite will be increasing its investment in local staff in its Benelux operations in the first half of 2016, with further investment going into the Nordics and German-speaking countries (the DACH countries of Germany, Austria and Switzerland) later in the year. An exclusive reseller deal leaves France in the hands of CapGemini. Partners will take the lead in other countries.
Whatever ultimately succeeds ERP as the classification that best describes operational and administrative business platforms in the digital era, NetSuite’s broad functional footprint gives it a good presence there. Meanwhile, its global capabilities and a growing presence in EMEA and other regions give it a more mature international footprint than other cloud pureplays.
NetSuite still has a ways to go before it builds out the kind of strength across Europe that more established players such as Microsoft, SAP or Sage can claim. But with a good portfolio of reference customers to show off in the UK and strong growth momentum already established, it has the potential to play a leading role in this evolving market.
Image credit: Map of Europe made of white clouds on blue sky © artjazz – Fotolia.com.
Disclosure: NetSuite, Salesforce and Workday are diginomica premier partners.