NetSuite’s growth agenda - and its plans for software expansion

Profile picture for user jtwentyman By Jessica Twentyman October 29, 2018
Summary:
At SuiteConnect West, part of last week’s Oracle OpenWorld event, NetSuite CEO Evan Goldberg described how supporting growing customers means growing its own product, too.

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Goldberg

NetSuite wants to help its customers grow - and it’s difficult to see how executives at the cloud ERP company could be doing much more to hammer that message home.

The company’s recurring theme of growth raised its head yet again at last week’s SuiteConnect stream of Oracle OpenWorld in San Francisco. ‘Keep Going, Keep Growing’ was the name of the keynote delivered by NetSuite co-founder and now Executive Vice President of Development, Evan Goldberg. As he told attendees:

For many entrepreneurs and business owners, it can often feel as though the only constant is change, but there are many things that have stayed the same, including the mandate for growth. We work with thousands of organizations from different industries to help them stay focused on successfully growing and scaling their business amidst all of the change.

As indicated, the theme of growth is pretty familiar stomping ground for NetSuite in 2018. Goldberg’s earlier presentation at April’s SuiteWorld event in Las Vegas was entitled, ‘It’s Grow Time.’ Similarly, his EVP colleague Jim McGeever has also taken several turns at banging this particular drum, delivering presentations entitled ‘Let’s Grow Together’ (at SuiteConnect in London in mid-October) and ‘Ready, Set, Grow’ (at SuiteWorld in Las Vegas).

And, by the way, NetSuite has this year launched a website and accompanying podcast, Grow Wire, where - you’ve guessed it - it shares inspirational growth stories from the world of business.

OK, NetSuite, we get it. As a marketing angle, a focus on helping customers to grow is perfectly serviceable, if a little obvious. But what I really wanted to know more about was NetSuite’s plans for growing its own software footprint - and whether it would be relying more on parent company Oracle and third-party software partners in order to do so.

Keynote announcements

One thing is clear: NetSuite is firmly tying new features and improvements to its products very closely to that idea of supporting customer growth. That’s pretty smart. It’s a case of, ‘Here’s what growing companies say they need from us’, rather than a straightforward, ‘Here’s some new stuff that we hope will make us more money.’

For a start, Goldberg’s keynote, while adding little entirely new, at least provided some more detail around SuiteTax and SuiteAnalytics, both previously showcased at SuiteWorld in April.

SuiteTax is the company’s new tax engine, which has been designed to simplify tax calculations in around 140 different countries. According to Goldberg, NetSuite’s analyses of fast-growing companies show that those that expand internationally tend to grow faster than the average and that international expansion now happens earlier in business lifecycles than was once the case.

Importantly, SuiteTax enables customers to use third-party tax engines from companies including Thomson Reuters, Vertex and Avalara - a clear recognition that other companies simply have more expertise in this complex and specialist space. As Goldberg explained:

We’ve built an API [application programming interface] that we use to develop the tax capabilities that come with NetSuite - such as sales tax in the US and basic VAT in Europe - but more importantly, this API allows our partners to develop tax engines for more complex tax situations, whether that be for a particular industry or a particular country with more complex requirements.

In terms of SuiteAnalytics, the pitch here is that leaders of growing companies frequently complain of the lack of visibility that arises when they’re managing bigger sales teams, dealing with a larger customer base and so on. Goldberg says they often feel they no longer have their finger on pulse - so this is what has prompted a wide-ranging rethink of NetSuite’s analytic capabilities, along the lines of workbooks designed to make it easier to explore and visualize data. Said Goldberg:

SuiteAnalytics is something we’ve retooled from the ground up. We’ve been working on this for several year, it’s been a massive project and it’s now coming to fruition.

So far this year, some 2,000 customers have been part of a beta programme for SuiteAnalytics, he added, which is coming in the company’s forthcoming 19.1 release.

Finally, for companies where online channels are increasingly critical to growth, there’s SuiteCommerce, which has also been radically redesigned, according to Goldberg. Improvements here include new customer engagement, search engine optimization and marketing optimization capabilities and new options (‘themes’) that support both B2C and B2B ecommerce.

Future expansion plans

Following the keynote, I had the chance to ask Goldberg about other plans to grow NetSuite’s functionality footprint.

For example, is NetSuite planning to bring in more Oracle software as part of its product portfolio, as it did last year with the Oracle NetSuite Planning and Budgeting Cloud Service (PBCS), a product based on Oracle Hyperion? Said Goldberg:

We’ve done a number of other things with Oracle’s software, with LogFire for cloud-based warehouse management capabilities, and with Taleo, for recruitment. So we’ve got people working on bringing that sort of stuff in-house…

What I think you’ll see is more partnering activity as we move more into the area of next-generation capabilities like AI and blockchain. A lot of those will be with partners, I think, because we don’t have all the answers about how these new technologies are going to be used and where they’re going to be best implemented. And some of them will apply to fast-growing businesses and some of them will be more targeted towards the enterprise, so I think it’s going to be a case of working with our partners.

You’ll see stuff at SuiteWorld around some cool integrations with technology led by some of our partners who are really hungry because they’re in a specific vertical and see better perhaps than we might about how, in that vertical, some of these next-generation technologies can be brought to bear. I think there’s a real future there.