To some degree, we've gotten a little bit back towards our roots.
That’s an interesting assessment from Evan Goldberg, co-founder of NetSuite as he considers how the mid-market cloud ERP provider has evolved since its 2016 acquisition by Oracle. That the merger of the two firms has been a success isn’t in doubt - for its most recent quarter, Oracle reported 24% year-on-year revenue growth for the NetSuite business - but it’s also provided some ‘back to basics’ clarity, according to Goldberg, now EVP of Oracle NetSuite:
When we were independent, we really tried to serve everybody. Oracle has a strategy that has two solutions - NetSuite for fast growing small and mid-size businesses and Fusion for large enterprises. We've found that's a great way to do things. It's really nigh on impossible for a large enterprise ERP system, which tends to be more of a series of large applications, to address the market of small companies that want one simple system, one simple solution.
To that degree, we now focus maybe a bit more on the really fast-growing start-up segment of the business. At the same time, we continue to respond to our customers who grow very fast and require sophisticated capabilities. So as a result, we still really are appropriate for larger, mid-sized businesses, especially in certain industries…What we've been able to do is get back to the heart of who NetSuite is for - these very fast-growing, aggressive, ambitious, smaller companies, but able to have the scale so that when they grow very fast, they can rely on NetSuite.
Over the past year with the pandemic impacting businesses across all sectors, many organizations have had an unexpected opportunity to take stock of their tech options and this has favored a shift to the cloud, argues Goldberg:
We have a lot of companies that were hard hit by the pandemic, but they are riding it out and expect a return to growth. Hopefully, the next few months are going to show that they were prescient in that regard. Based on the fact that they may have had more bandwidth, and thinking about the future and what they want to do to grow, a lot of them took the time, sort of the semi-downtime, to re-invent themselves, re-invent their processes, re-invent their systems. Those could be relatively large or mid-sized companies , saying, 'Now the time is right to get off the creaking product that we bought 10 or 20 years ago, that's still holding on by a thread in our back office and the next power outage may destroy all of our financials’…There’s just a constant stream of companies that realize that there's a much better way to do things now.
To meet the changing needs of those kind of companies, NetSuite continues to upgrade its core offerings, with the latest release - 21.1 - featuring new capabilities around Smart Financials and Operational Automation, Automated Inventory Management and Analytics and Insight. Per the official announcement, these include:
- Centralised Purchasing and Billing to improve spend management, increase productivity, and reduce PO volume by consolidating purchases across multi-subsidiary organisations, generating vendor payments from a single location, and automating cross-charges.
- SuiteApprovals Email Approval to enable organizations to click an email link to review, approve or reject transactions. In addition, an email approval log is available so that all approvals can be reviewed and audited before they are updated in the system.
- Pack Station with a touchscreen interface that simplifies and increases the efficiency and accuracy of the packing process. Orders with the same shipping routes can be grouped together so they can be packed together, with an extra layer of verification before orders ship to help prevent customer issues and avoid the added costs of reshipping.
- Warehouse Management System (WMS) capabilities to allow organizations to enhance wave picking, tally scans, cart put-away, and label printing. Picking waves can now be organized by delivery times and shipping address, while wave automation enhancements enable organiZations to take advantage of off-peak processing.
- SuiteAnalytics users can now add calculated fields on aggregated columns in a workbook ,allowing them to gain real-time insights tailored to their business. Conditional formatting allows for customized highlighting of values to notify users of data that is most in need of their attention, while native language support for SuiteAnalytics Workbooks enables users to analyze company data and workbooks in their language of choice.
A lot of this focuses on fulfilment capabilities, an area of business that the pandemic put under a great deal of stress for many organizations. Goldberg says:
There was a lot going on, there were issues with supply chain. Obviously, customers were rapidly standing up websites to sell Direct-to-Consumer. Who knew a couple years ago that medical grade mask manufacturers would have a consumer business? So there was an increase in volume in a lot of industries. In terms of retail, we saw 78 million transactions just over the Black Friday/Cyber Monday weekend, which is a 38% increase over the previous year. So with more volume and limited manpower, businesses need intelligent fulfilment.
Goldberg first started talking up his Autonomous Supply Chain vision a few SuiteWorld conferences back and the firm has been fleshing it out ever since:
A lot of the things that we're doing that you see today are all about making the relationship between suppliers and their customers seamless. The Supply Chain Control Tower, which we've enhanced in 21.1, is a great example, just giving you great visibility into how your suppliers are performing, what risks they represent. In this era of the pandemic, obviously there have been a lot of risks and disrupted supply chains, so [these are] really timely capabilities. Using AI, ultimately I believe that we will be able to develop, as we articulated in the vision, even closer relationships between partners in the supply chain, specifically with your suppliers, opening up access to the system for suppliers so that they can proactively understand what they need to do. It's a series of steps.
The future is Oracle
Looking past COVID and into the emerging Vaccine Economy, expect to see ever more signs of the closeness between NetSuite and its parent, a case in point being ongoing work between the two firms around the Redwood design system, Oracle’s new user experience design language.
This collaboration is going to have a major impact on NetSuite and shape the “next generation user experience for business applications”, says Goldberg:
There's so much we can share there with Fusion. A great example is expense reporting. Nobody likes expense reporting, whether you are in a small business or a huge enterprise. And the process is pretty similar [for both] - you have to collect your receipts, you have to fill out a form. We're trying to eliminate all of that and we're doing it in concert with the Fusion team.
It's a process, so you're not going to see that the results of that right away, but you're going to see some dramatic changes in, I would say, the next calendar year that indicate our commitment to the Redwood design system and Oracle's next generation of view of what business applications should look like. I'm really so excited, in a way I never thought I would be, about the effort and energy that Oracle is putting into user experience. I think it's really going to leapfrog all the other application vendors, both in NetSuite and in Fusion.
In other signs of the inter-company synergies, the first existing NetSuite customers have been migrated to the Oracle Cloud Infrastructure while all new customers will also use the platform, which Goldberg says provides “precedence around the world in literally dozens of data centers over time”. NetSuite is currently migrating to Oracle’s Exadata Cloud Service and will ultimately move to Oracle’s Autonomous Database.
On a personal level, the closer relationship between NetSuite and Oracle means more opportunity for Goldberg to work closely with Larry Ellison, founder and now Chief Technology Officer of Oracle and the man with whom he set up NetSuite in the first place:
I have more direct interaction with Larry than I've had in my entire career. He's very, very involved…He’s thinking all the time about how other things going on in Oracle can help us together. He really dreamed up the NetSuite Analytics Warehouse. We went out to our customers to learn what they wanted and it was pretty much exactly what he thought they wanted.
Goldberg and Ellison go back a long way and from what the former has to say, it’s likely to continue to be a productive relationship as both contemplate how to make sure that NetSuite “remains vibrant for the next 20 years”, as he puts it:
That's what gets me excited. People sometimes ask me, ‘Why aren't you retired?’. You know, me and my team...who have been at NetSuite for many years, they stay similarly because they're so excited about the future and that NetSuite remains super vibrant. We have plans for revolutionizing business applications for fast-growing, and mid-size businesses. All I'll say is...more to come.