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Oracle NetSuite announces automation and data updates to ‘help businesses run better’

Derek du Preez Profile picture for user ddpreez September 28, 2022
Summary:
Oracle NetSuite is hosting its annual user conference in Las Vegas this week and is taking the opportunity to announce its latest product updates.

Enterprise Application connectivity and Integration in business man hand © TechnoVectors - Shutterstock
(© TechnoVectors - Shutterstock)

Oracle NetSuite has announced a host of updates and product features at its annual user event in Las Vegas this week, with the overarching theme being improved automation and data capabilities for buyers, to help them run their businesses better and support growth in the cloud. diginomica contributor Brian Sommer recently outlined how NetSuite is now taking advantage of Oracle’s more advanced enterprise features, a benefit of the acquisition, which will be a boost for mid-market buyers - which is also evident from today’s product announcements. 

During a pre-brief on the product updates with Oracle NetSuite’s Paul Farrell, he said: 

We're focused on helping customers drive efficiencies by automating vital and at many times complex accounting tasks, giving them more time to focus on value added tasks. It allows accountants to spend more time growing the beans rather than counting them. But we also deliver capabilities that help them grow the beans as well.

There is a lot that Oracle NetSuite is announcing today, which we have broken down into the individual product areas. These include NetSuite Accounts Payable (AP) Automation, NetSuite Ship Central, NetSuite CPQ (Configure, Price, Quote) and SuitePeople Workforce Management. 

NetSuite AP Automation

First up, Oracle NetSuite has announced a range of Accounts Payable updates that include: 

  • Bill Capture - allows buyers to capture vendor bills with fewer errors by removing manual data entry and automating the entire bill capture process. Bills are scanned using AI/ML-based object detection and optical character recognition, and relevant details, like vendor name, PO number, items ordered, quantity and pricing are then converted into digital text. The system then automatically creates a bill record, using artificial intelligence based on previous bill entries and pre-populates the appropriate fields.

  • Bill Matching and Approvals - automated bill matching aims to help ensure vendor bills are two- or three-way matched with the associated purchase orders so that details such as unit pricing, quantity, and totals are accurate. Bills are routed, using SuiteApprovals, to the appropriate personnel for review and approval, with automated reminders to reduce the chance that bills are not left unpaid.

  • Payment Automation - announced last year, vendor payments are now processed through HSBC services with payment options of ACH, check, or virtual credit card. The payer’s current bank account can be used to fund payments. The HSBC virtual credit card offers qualified customers a way to pay vendors without maintaining a physical credit card. The automatically generated single-use card numbers provide an additional layer of protection. Vendors are also notified of paid bills upon successful payment.

  • Payment Reconciliation - this aims to improve the accuracy of accounting data by eliminating error-prone manual reconciliation and enable a faster financial close. NetSuite’s rules engine matches and reconciles virtual credit card charges while flagging discrepancies for further review by accounting staff. Additionally, missing entries, such as bank fees, can be created automatically.

  • SuiteBanking Center - this aims to provide visibility into – and control over – transactions and real-time balances for HSBC online checking and credit card accounts. The dashboard provides users with visibility into their HSBC online accounts, status of payables and payments history.

Building on Farrell’s comments above, it’s clear that NetSuite is doubling down on its automation capabilities for accountants in order to help them reduce the time they spend manually checking, chasing or analyzing data. The hope, according to NetSuite, is that it will allow organizations to spend less time collating and processing the numbers and more time focusing on what they mean in terms of growing the business. 

NetSuite CPQ

Further to AP Automation, a range of NetSuite CPQ features have been announced, including: 

  • Configurator - this update applies customizable rules that ensure every configuration, across product and service features, is correct.

  • Guided Selling - helps buyers find the products and services needed from thousands of SKUs by providing an ecommerce-like catalog and filtering tools.

  • Proposal Generator - allows users accurate and branded proposals for customer approval by giving sales teams fully-customizable templates.

  • E-commerce Integration - aims to simplify product configurations and access pricing, products, and quotes in e-commerce solutions.

  • Bill of Materials and Routing - looks to reduce manufacturing costs and increase efficiency on the shop floor by dynamically creating and delivering a BOM (Bills of Material) based on routing instructions created from the NetSuite CPQ rules engine.

NetSuite Ship Central

Given the inflationary pressures and supply chain/manufacturing challenges that have faced organizations over the past few months, it’s unsurprising that Oracle NetSuite is seeking to introduce greater efficiencies for organizations’ operations. Announced this week, NetSuite Ship Central aims to help buyers:

  • Locate Shipments Easily - NetSuite wants to help warehouse workers quickly find shipments that need to go out by scanning a carton, pallet, or order – or by selecting from a list of shipments. It claims that this will reduce the time spent locating orders and information.

  • Combine Multiple Shipments - buyers will be able to identify products going to a single location based on common criteria including address, carrier, or shipping route, and then pack it all in the same shipment.

  • Work Across Multiple Shipping Carriers - similarly, buyers will be able to identify products going to a single location based on common criteria including address, carrier or shipping route, then pack it all in the same shipment to boost efficiency and lower costs.

  • Print and Reprint Labels at Any Point - users will have the option to print labels, reprint damaged or missing labels, and change label information on packages at any point during shipment.

  • Track Packages in Real Time - customers will be able to track the precise location of products in real time via carrier tracking numbers.

  • Customise Ship Processes - NetSuite aims to introduce efficiency into warehouse operations by giving teams the ability to modify workflows to support unique business requirements.

SuitePeople Workforce Management 

Extending its capabilities into workforce management and planning, NetSuite has announced the following capabilities for buyers:  

  • Scheduling - a new vizual shift scheduling tool that aims to eliminate the need for stand-alone scheduling applications or spreadsheets. It also enables teams to use a combination of forecasts, employee schedule templates, labour costs, and labour deployment models to build a staffing plan. This hope is that organizations will be able to more accurately forecast staffing to ensure they are correctly staffed to meet demand.

  • SuitePeople Time Clock - new mobile tools allow employees to record time and attendance. It also has options for photo capture and biometric fingerprint verification to reduce the risk of employees logging in and out of work on behalf of other employees. 

  • Wage Calculations - a new wage rule engine will help companies automate the calculation of regular hours, overtime, and holiday pay to minimise compliance risks. 

  • Labour and Operational Metrics - a new real-time dashboard will allow managers to obtain insights into day-to-day operational metrics including sales, wages, and forecasts and compare them to actuals. 

  • Engagement - NetSuite is launching a new mobile app to help employees track time, fill, swap, drop shifts, and talk with managers. 

A more automated, insightful platform

The key takeaway for customers of NetSuite, said Farrell, is that the vendor is focused on taking away the manual tasks from users, is automating them, whilst also providing greater insights for organizations in order to help them not only navigate an increasingly complex, pressured macro environment, but to help them grow within it. He said: 

NetSuite has always been a solution designed to run a business. This means that it allows companies to be able to operationally run the way that they want, taking advantage of growing internationally, acquiring companies, introducing new business models, etc. 

But at the same time, it provides the financial framework to accurately and efficiently process all of those transactions, or as we say in the value stream, optimise cash and profits. As a result, the majority of customers run multiple companies on NetSuite, and more than often run international companies as part of their solution as well. So we continue to release functionality to automate the ever increasing complex and compliance driven processes. 

In addition, Farrell said that Oracle NetSuite is prioritizing experience for users, so that when using the platform they get a personalized view of how their organization is performing. He added: 

Previously, we've reimagined things like supply, planning and MRP - we’ve completely re-engineered those for the modern business, but at the moment we're focused on execution. So, streamlining data capture processes across the shop floor, in the warehouse, and in fact any area that adds value to the product. This includes features that are optimizing experience - and experience is a major initiative with NetSuite at this moment in time. 

No matter the role, we want the user, when they log into NetSuite, to think the product has been designed uniquely for them. We don't want people to think that capturing transactions is a difficult and a long unwieldy task. We want it to be streamlined and quick so that people enjoy the solution that they're using.

My take

My colleagues will be on the ground in Vegas this week, where they will be speaking with customers and Oracle NetSuite executives to get a view of how these announcements are going down with buyers and how they are utilizing the platform to navigate what are increasingly hostile macro conditions. Keep your eyes on diginomica for updates throughout the week. 

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