OOW17 - NetSuite CTO Goldberg says it's business as usual in changing times

Jessica Twentyman Profile picture for user jtwentyman October 4, 2017
Kicking off SuiteConnect at OOW17 NetSuite CTO Evan Goldberg says it's business as usual for the cloud ERP vendor even as Oracle ownership brings changes

Mark Hurd with Evan Goldberg at SuiteConnect 370px
NetSuite co-founder and CTO Evan Goldberg was in nostalgic mood this morning when he took to the stage for his keynote presentation at Oracle OpenWorld 2017, for the NetSuite-specific SuiteConnect stream of the conference. Attendance was good – so much so, in fact, that the keynote was switched from the Marriott Marquis hotel where SuiteConnect is taking place, to the main OOW17 stage at the Moscone Centre.

Thirty years have passed since Goldberg began his career at Oracle, straight out of college, he told attendees. He left eight years later to start mBED Software, a web authoring specialist. Three years later, mBED was on the rocks, but Goldberg’s next start-up, NetSuite, was a much bigger success – which is how he finds himself back at Oracle, following the company’s $9.3 billion acquisition of Netsuite, which closed in November last year. Along the way, he said, periodic chats with Oracle founder Larry Ellison have been key to his thinking about business.

In a presentation that sometimes trod a rather precarious line between ‘business as usual’ and ‘changes are coming’, Goldberg began by trotting out a few old NetSuite favourites, messaging-wise – the superiority of cloud over on-premise systems, the importance of a unified platform, the challenge of managing software ‘hairballs’. None of this has changed, he said:

Our mission remains the same. We’re singularly focused on helping you to grow your business. And we’re uniquely positioned to do this.

But beyond that, it’s clear that other things are very different as NetSuite approaches the first anniversary of new ownership. The combination of the two companies, Goldberg claimed, is allowing NetSuite to innovate faster and reach more customers, in more countries and in particular in more industries, with the roll-out of more vertical-specific features and functions.

With Oracle’s help, the pace is now accelerating – it’s blistering. So we’ve gone from lumbering to blistering. It’s good.

All change

So what’s new? Well, for a start there’s SuitePeople, a brand new HR product that the company first unveiled earlier this year at its SuiteWorld event in Las Vegas. NetSuite today announced the general availability of SuitePeople and Goldberg was keen to stress its deep integration with business processes across enterprise resource planning (ERP), customer relationship management (CRM), professional services automation and omnichannel commerce.

It all works together. That’s our special sauce – so, for example, in professional services automation, being able to see vacation time, being able to see skills, being able to assign resources based on that. That’s an integration we can do best, because it’s all one system.

Elsewhere, there was plenty of evidence of Oracle’s influence on the NetSuite product roadmap. For one, NetSuite has announced that the Oracle Blockchain Cloud Service is now available to its own customers, so that they can access the distributed ledger technology directly through the SuiteCloud platform. Said Goldberg:

We’re letting NetSuite customers securely extend and automate their supply chain processes, conduct online transactions with trusted networks, confidentially share data with their supplier base. This provides a secure audit trail and tamper-proof business records.

Then there’s the Oracle NetSuite Planning and Budgeting Cloud Service (PBCS), also announced this week. This is clearly based on Oracle technology, most notably from Hyperion, and now plugs directly into the NetSuite platform.

Goldberg also stressed NetSuite’s deepening reliance on Oracle technology to run its own operations. Its cloud software has always been built on the Oracle database, but NetSuite is now integrating other technologies, too, he said.

We’re integrating Zero Data Loss Recovery Appliance for recovery and back-up. We are using Oracle’s multi-tenancy to deliver better performance and better upgradeability to our customers. We are using Oracle’s engineered systems to deliver the fastest databases and ultimately we’re using their cloud infrastructure. We have had 99.99% uptime over the past 12 months. My team just loves it when I say that, they’re rather superstitious. But we’re going to keep that up and we’re going to do even better. We’re going to deliver more scalability and more performance by integrating these Oracle technologies.

Hurd: 'tremendous credit'

Later in his keynote, Goldberg was joined on stage by Oracle CEO Mark Hurd, eager to give his side of the story. Hurd was quick to praise Goldberg and NetSuite president Jim McGeever, telling Goldberg:

First of all, I give you and Jim tremendous credit. All of the acquisitions we do are a little different, despite what some people write. They think we do everything the same way and we really don’t. We improvise, depending on the situation and the company that we’re working with and in this case NetSuite brought a tremendous team. Our view was to try and give NetSuite all the best of Oracle and, to be very frank, make sure that none of the other parts of Oracle that could potentially hinder our progress with NetSuite get involved.

Acceleration of growth at NetSuite, Hurd said, has to date been “extremely encouraging” and progress has been “fantastic.”

My take

Talking informally over lunch with Jason Maynard, NetSuite’s senior vice president of strategy and marketing, what stood out for me is a sense of renewed ambition at a company that now has access to much deeper resources with which to expand. But at the same time, there’s still a sense of independence - of NetSuite being in charge of its own destiny.

For example, while Oracle’s influence is very clearly being brought to bear on NetSuite’s product roadmap, Maynard stressed that NetSuite still remains very much in control over how and when products from the parent company are integrated into SuiteCloud. Oracle is now thought of by NetSuite execs as their largest ISV partner, he said, and he was only slightly joking.

NetSuite product strategy has not changed, except we’re doing a lot more because we have more resources.

It hasn’t all been plain sailing, but the mood at the company seems broadly optimistic. Said Maynard:

We had to work through some complex stuff, we had to figure out rules of engagement – but what Oracle said they’d do with us… well, it’s exceeded expectations.

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