NetSuite Now 2020 - doubling down on the suite differentiation, benefitting from Oracle technology

Den Howlett Profile picture for user gonzodaddy October 6, 2020
It's not quite business as usual for NetSuite but it's not far off, with plenty on the table to entice tech hungry customers.

evan goldberg
(via NetSuite)

Evan Goldberg, founder and EVP Oracle NetSuite used both his NetSuite Now On Air analyst briefing and opening event keynote to recognize the reality but emphasize the upside of the pandemic alongside announcing a slew of product updates.

A significant benefit of Oracle's ownership is that NetSuite can readily take advantage of Oracle's technology and Goldberg was not shy of acknowledging how that informs both the current and future development roadmap.

Taking the position that the pandemic and its consequences is reminiscent of past systemic shocks (think 2008 financial crisis), he said:

There are definitely businesses that are suffering, and are not going to make it. But generally, you see a thousand flowers bloom. The systems that help you rapidly grow a relatively new business will help the massive business transformation that will occur at some point.

How much that's the natural exuberance of a leader whose job is to convince buyers to acquire its software remains to be seen. But for now, Goldberg acknowledged that NetSuite's priorities are to help its customers through with a focus on supply chain and cash management.

Like other application software leaders, Goldberg said the early days were characterized by people firefighting but that now, customers want to know what more they can get from their NetSuite investments. As an example, he pointed to a new global cash management capability that plugs 'thousands' of financial institutions ini the NetSuite system for automated cash matching and settlements. This has been table stakes in the lower end of the SME market for some years so it is good to see this coming to the mid-market. 

This helps finance leaders improve decision making through real-time insights into bank activity and also greatly reduces reconciliation time by automatically matching bank data with transactions.

In a further nod to automation, NetSuite announced improved AR and AP process automation that helps reduce manual effort and improves data accuracy. I did wonder about exception handling but that's a story for another day when we consider the role of process mining in these systems through which you can detect the way processes actually work rather than simply looking at the design and the way they were meant to work.

On the supply chain side, automated fulfillment is now available and on planning, NetSuite claims it is delivering machine learning based predictive  risk functionality that helps planners assess the health of shipments. I want to see this in action before I'll believe it is a viable solution. That's because of the pandemic has taught us anything, it is that volatility is now a feature of daily operations and I find it hard to believe that machine learning is sufficiently advanced to accommodate those scenarios with the kind of certainty that planners demand.

netsuite data warehouse
Oracle NetSuite data warehouse uses Oracle technology (via NetSuite)

In analytics, NetSuite now takes advantage of Oracle's Analytics Cloud and Autonomous Data Warehouse. Goldberg said that early customers are already taking advantage of Oracle's advanced data warehouse capabilities and that customers will soon be able to ge the enterprise class power that comes from Exadata. During the conversation, Goldberg was asked about using Oracle technology more broadly. He referenced Oracle's Redwood design principles, a topic Brian Sommer touched upon last year. I've seen examples of Redwood and believe it will be an exciting surprise for NetSuite customers whose UI has changed very little over the years. As if to reinforce that, Goldberg said:

We are a a huge fan of the Redwood design system...there will be some convergence and very close co-operation...

This naturally led to comparisons between Oracle and NetSuite. Goldberg was keen to point out the differences both in scale and complexity. I have a sneaking suspicion that while he is correct to ensure that NetSuite customers are not overwhelmed by complexity, there comes a point, when more technology is shared, where the codelines start to converge and then software companies have to take a decision about where exactly resources are shared as opposed to being consumed. In 2021 for instance, NetSuite says that all customers will be on OCI. For now though, Goldberg likes that NetSuite is a part of the Oracle family but separate. 

We are both one and separate.

As you'd expect, the analyst call was long on product and relatively light on more general business questions beyond the very obvious 'state of the nation' questions. In that regard, Goldberg reminded us that NetSuite now counts 22,000 customers and that business continues to grow at a smart clip - last reported at 23% year over year. In similar vein, he cited the number of customers going public saying that the company had a 'big part' in the recent ZoomInfo IPO.

We are the number one choice for companies going public.

My take

NetSuite has always positioned itself as differentiated by its suite approach and over the years has fleshed out capabilities that today make it a credible, perhaps unique player in the smaller end of the mid-market. The fact it can accommodate customers that are rapidly scaling up bodes well for the future of those firms on a growth trajectory. Customers can certainly take comfort from knowing that Oracle's technology is a part of that. However, as the suite expands and inevitably becomes more complex while at the same time we see a myriad of complementary solutions that are more attuned to customer experience imperatives, I have to wonder the extent to which NetSuite can scale its own partner program. 'The suite always wins' remains a compelling idea but for how long? 

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