In today's fast-moving, hyperconnected, digital world, nothing stands still. Businesses are constantly looking out for the signals that warn them they must adjust their offerings and operations to adapt to new opportunities and threats. They demand similar agility from the software on which their businesses run. But to be successful with a modern digital business platform, they may have to accept new ways of working.
This is different than the way business software used to be sold. Customers would expect the software to automate their existing processes, and once the vendor or an implementation partner had dutifully put that automation in place — which often took many months and sometimes years to complete — it was difficult if not impossible to change anything without major upheaval. The industry and its customers now have to unlearn those old habits. Doing things digitally requires a new, more adaptable approach.
This is particularly important for vendors serving the midmarket, where businesses have sophisticated needs but limited resources and budget. There's been a trend towards more templatized, vertical industry solutions that businesses can deploy faster and evolve more easily over time. Three years ago, cloud ERP vendor NetSuite became an early proponent of this trend when it introduced a new model for delivering its software called SuiteSuccess. Instead of automating the customer's existing processes, this new approach delivers out-of-the-box functionality that's already tailored to specific industries.
Changing old habits
At its SuiteConnect conference in London this week, NetSuite launched three new UK versions of its SuiteSuccess packages — wholesale distribution, manufacturing and, for non-profit organizations, social impact.
The aim is to help new customers get started faster, and ensure they continue to get maximum benefit as the platform evolves over time. But as Craig Sullivan, SVP Enterprise and International Products, explains, this new recipe for customer success typically means asking them to change those old habits:
For the most part, the way that they do business today is a function of the systems that they’ve had to use in order to get stuff done. It's not the way it should look, either in the cloud or on a unified suite. So to think that they know best [how to do things] is actually hindering their ability to succeed and be satisfied at the end of the project.
So we've spent a lot of time figuring out how to articulate, 'It's not that we don't want to listen to you, but trust that we've got some experience here.
'Let us show you how to achieve the outcome you want. That may not be the thing that you think that you need to do right now.'
The partners that implement NetSuite solutions for customers are also having to adjust to this new regime. Earlier this year, the vendor introduced a new program called SuiteLife, the main aim of which is to help its partners get up-to-speed with the SuiteSuccess model. Sullivan says:
This is how we've seen that we can get the most value for the customer — and therefore, ultimately, you as the partner servicing more customers more efficiently, more effectively. This is the recipe for that.
Partners in transition
Because NetSuite is still in the process of localizing its SuiteSuccess packages for each market, some partners still have the old model in place. Unlike newcomers who can jump straight into SuiteLife — the partner channel in EMEA has grown by almost a third in the past year — those who have been around longer will face a transition as the new packages are introduced, he says.
We're adding new verticals, in the UK and in other countries, on a fairly regular cadence now. But if you're a partner that is traditionally focused on manufacturing in Germany, you've got a bit of a wait until you actually have SuiteSuccess to build it on.
So you're building a practice through the traditional implementation operation you've got in place, right up until such time as we have that foundation offering on SuiteSuccess.
Long-term partners may also have to retool or abandon some of their own extensions and localizations, if they have been superseded by what's in the SuiteSuccess package. But despite such hitches, partners have been telling Sullivan they're keen to adopt the new approach:
They see the upside. They can engage with more customers, they can get them successful more quickly, and they're going to get new prospects ...
Every partner is different in terms of where they are on that spectrum of SuiteSuccess readiness. But everyone wants to get there because they see the proof points and what can be done.
As I've written elsewhere, customer success is about much more than keeping customers happy — "customer experience alone isn't worth much if the ultimate outcome is a disaster." As digital momentum accelerates, a good outcome from implementing new technology is typically going to mean disruptive change from how things have been done in the past.
Sullivan makes clear that NetSuite has embraced this philosophy, but it still has to educate the market — both customers and partners — why these changes are important.
We've spoken to some customers who have experienced SuiteSuccess — for example a 90-day implementation at Blue-9. But it will be interesting to hear more proof points, especially ones where partners have taken the lead. This will be an important test of NetSuite's ability to drive its message out to partners, so that they help customers achieve quick wins and then continue to derive maximum benefit from the product.