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SuiteConnect NYC - helping customers scale with Oracle NetSuite

Brian Sommer Profile picture for user brianssommer April 4, 2024
Summary:
Usually, software events are all about the technology, but Oracle NetSuite’s recent event in NYC was mostly about customers and how they can scale their businesses. The company even arranged for us to visit several customers’ shops down one Manhattan block to get the customers first hand and in the flesh. Read on for a different kind of event and vendor story.

NetSuite
Evan Goldberg

Last week’s Oracle NetSuite SuiteConnect event in New York City was similar to others it has been conducting in other cities globally. The event also had some product news, especially around AI, and access to a number of customers. 

More than anything, this event was mostly about NetSuite customers. Some of the customers were from brands you know and recognize like UNTUCKit; others were less well-known companies. But the number of these we got to interact with was significant especially considering that this was only a one-day event. 

NetSuite founder Evan Goldberg made a key point regarding what customers want from companies like NetSuite. SMBs (Small to Medium-sized Businesses) have a couple of specific needs that they hope new technology can solve. He explained that in the founding days of NetSuite (née NetLedger) he really needed marketing leads. Beyond that, SMBs want a solution that helps their company scale. And, if the company can scale without having to keep replacing its ERP software, that would be ideal.

I asked Goldberg that if scale and leads were two legs of a stool, what would be the third leg? He said it would be vertical capabilities. He noted that many product-based firms need help providing or expanding into services. (NB: along this line, NetSuite briefly showed off staff scheduling/workforce management capabilities.)

He's right on these points. SMBs get no or little value in having to get new business software every time their firm outgrows its old tech. I’ve noticed start-ups go from paper and spreadsheets to a starter set of applications to their first real SMB solution to one or more different business solutions after that. All of those changes are expensive, time-consuming and may not add much incremental value.

A scalable solution (e.g., one that picks up after the starter solution and allows the customer to grow into new markets, add new legal entities, broaden its product line, support different sales channels, etc.) should be highly desirable. That seamless and painless scalability was something NetSuite customers articulated. 

I’ll come back to the customers in a bit. First though, let’s discuss the product news Oracle NetSuite shared.

Products

NetSuite briefly touched on a few product developments. 

Text Enhance

Text Enhance is an AI-powered capability that can help populate fields, correspondence, item descriptions and more.  Text Enhance is more powerful than a simple text predictor or look ahead tool. While we’re all familiar with tools that can guess the rest of a word you want to text someone (or automatically correct spelling errors), this tool can look at the context of the surrounding data, the purpose of the field, etc. to pre-fill more than a few letters. This tool can complete large amounts of correspondence one might want to send to a vendor, reply to a customer inquiry, etc. It can also do a fast job of entering in journal entry descriptions, invoice line-item details, etc.

According to the company:

NetSuite Text Enhance helps users leverage company-specific, relevant data to create and refine contextual and personalized content. Now embedded in more finance and accounting, supply chain and operations, sales and marketing, and customer support processes, NetSuite Text Enhance will help organizations reach their goals faster and more efficiently by increasing productivity, reducing human error, improving consistency, and accelerating business processes.

This capability, which is being rolled out throughout the NetSuite product suite, is a productivity and quality play for NetSuite customers. 

NetSuite Connector for Oracle MICROS Simphony

In June of 2014, Oracle acquired MICROS Systems, Inc. for approximately $5 billion. At that time, Oracle noted:

The addition of MICROS extends Oracle’s offerings in industries by combining MICROS’ industry specific applications with Oracle’s business applications, technologies and cloud portfolio. Together, Oracle and MICROS will help hotels, food & beverage facilities, and retailers to accelerate innovation, transform their businesses, and delight customers with complete, open and integrated solutions.

Oracle NetSuite has now announced a NetSuite Connector Oracle MICROS Simphony. This capability can connect point of sale and financial data. It should:

  • Enhance financial reporting: Close the books faster and improve financial visibility by simplifying the management of multi-concept or multi-location restaurants. With NetSuite Connector for MICROS Simphony, each restaurant location can send separate data to NetSuite, with tender data segmented by tender name and carry over amounts included.
  • Streamline data reconciliation: Reduce time spent on manual data transfer and reconciliation with automatic updates from Simphony to NetSuite. With NetSuite Connector for MICROS Simphony, data imports are segmented by dayparts and include detailed transactional data such as totals, items sold, service charges, and discounts.

This is clearly a productivity, efficiency and error-reduction play. It will be available to US customers later this year.

AI insights that span multiple businesses

Some entrepreneurs have multiple businesses with each business running NetSuite software. These could be franchises, retailers, restaurants, etc.  The owners will not only want to see consolidated accounting books, but, they might also want to see and compare all kinds of metrics, cash requirements and other data that cross all of these portfolio firms. 

This type of tool can be quite a time-saver and help owners make adjustments immediately. Another user of this may be private equity, venture capital and other capital/owner firms. Accountants and bookkeepers might find a lot of value from this, as well. 

To provide these benefits, Oracle NetSuite announced its NetSuite Analytics Warehouse Multi-Instance Connector. The name may be a mouthful but the capability is obvious.

To be clear, this tool is more than a collection of integrations or a financial consolidation application. Users can spot patterns and anomalies across the component entities. Its power comes from the Oracle Autonomous Data Warehouse underneath it all. 

NetSuite customers 

The Bleeker Street Customers

We heard in-store and in-conference customer presentations at the event. We got to head into Bleeker Street in lower Manhattan to visit the shops of three retailers and a Retail-as-a-Service (RaaS) property manager.  Specifically, we visited Cuts Clothing (casual attire), REDVANLY (sportswear), and, Little Words Project (fashion accessories).  These three firms (along with several other retailers on the same block) used NetSuite for their operations.

All of those firms also used the same RaaS firm, too. A few years ago, a Forbes article defined the RaaS space as:

Over the last year, I’ve been very interested in the idea of “Retail-as-a-Service”, sometimes also referred to as “Storefront-as-a-Service”. The idea is that brands who seek a physical store experience can put their products in front of consumers without having to make the real estate, labor, or even the level of inventory investment needed to support an entire physical location.

The RaaS angle was an unexpected part of the tour but it helps point out more buyer values of SMB firms. These firms are great at designing products and selling them, too. What isn’t necessarily their core competency is acquiring leased space, hiring staff, meeting local pay/labor laws, etc. The RaaS firm takes care of all of this. 

We also learned that this RaaS firm also uses NetSuite and can rapidly access similar metrics across all of its retailers. 

While the retailers didn’t say it quite this way, it was obvious that they value solutions that can be brought online fast. It doesn’t matter if its IT, retail space, or other factors, time is critical. And, you only need to know just how fast consumer tastes and fashions fall out of favor to see why speed of solutions is a key buyer value here. 

UNTUCKIt

UNTUCKit built its brand by offering “Shirts Designed to be Worn Untucked.” Listening to the presenters, it is obvious why they outgrew their starter software. The company is now a multi-national and has 80+ retail stores in the US, Canada and UK. It sells via online and retail stores. UNTUCKit now offers a range of products beyond its original untucked shirts. 

UNTUCKit’s predecessor technologies did not provide an ideal solution. The old systems had a number of manual processes and suboptimal workflows. NetSuite software appears to have helped the company scale and scale quickly. According to an Oracle announcement:

As UNTUCKit rapidly grew, disconnected data systems and siloed workflows were creating inefficiencies and were not sustainable,” said Chris Riccobono, founder, UNTUCKit. “With NetSuite, we have been able to improve productivity and create a centralized view of our finances, inventory, and operations across both our e-commerce and retail channels.

There are some NetSuite capabilities that had notable impact. Again, according to Oracle:

With NetSuite, UNTUCKit has been able to integrate and automate workflows to help save time, reduce errors, and improve visibility across its operations. With a single view of financials, and gain the insights it needs to improve decision making and support the introduction of new services. For example, NetSuite Advanced Inventory helped UNTUCKit optimize its buy online, ship from store system. In addition, NetSuite helps with order fulfillment by providing real-time visibility into inventory and stock records to show when inventory needs to be transferred between locations. Finally, NetSuite OneWorld has helped UNTUCKit manage its operations and ensure consistency across its subsidiaries including UNTUCKit LLC, UNTUCKit Canada, and UNTUCKit UK.

Other customers

We also got to interact with other NetSuite customers.  These firms were in property management, snack foods and other industries. While all of them used NetSuite’s financial accounting software, some of them used NetSuite’s Inventory Management capabilities, too. 

There were some business commonalities noted. All of the retailers supported some kind of multi-channel sales (and/or returns) processing. Many use Avalara for sales tax calculations. Many firms used contract manufacturing for clothing, electronic devices, etc. Some had a mix of distribution and warehousing capabilities with 3PLs being frequently mentioned. 

We also heard a lot of scale down as well as scale up stories from all kinds of NetSuite customers. Some clothing companies saw huge increases in their casual wear sales during the pandemic while others saw slumps in in-store sales. Some are worried about whale sales (i.e., deals that dwarf their usual sales) and whether they can support them (or worse, what happens if they see these disappear down the road).  The mix between web vs. retail sales has been a shifting animal for some firms. Scale issues cut both ways for many of these NetSuite customers. A flexible product that supports different channels, sales volumes, product customizations, etc. is definitely what this market needs. 

My take

The overriding observation one gets from last week’s event is that NetSuite’s customers are indeed scaling up their businesses quickly and are doing so without needing to migrate to other solutions. Parsing that a bit finer, these customers are able to grow internationally, deal in multiple currencies, sell across several channels, fulfill orders from multiple locations, etc. That’s not a limited definition of scale, that is a broad, expansive and attractive view of ‘scaling’. If you ask an entrepreneur what they’d like in a scalable solution, they’d most certainly ask for the broadest definition of that capability. 

The capability to see and compare data, metrics, etc. across different entities that use NetSuite solutions is actually important, too. Even small firms might possess multiple legal entities. One firm I know had, for liability and risk reasons, established different entities for every piece of real property they owned. They also had different entities for every operating company they possessed. That kind of environment is actually quite common and it needs a financial, consolidation, capital planning and infrastructure solution that permits instant visibility into the health, metrics, opportunities and needs of the individual and combined firms. Business owners should not have to spend valuable time trying to pull static data from various reports and spreadsheets just to get a unified view of their combined firm’s performance. It should be real-time and automatic. That’s the solution we saw last week. 

NetSuite’s product line and infrastructure has matured a lot since its founding days some 25 years ago. Some of this is due to natural maturation that ERP solutions go through. But other aspects are clearly a result of Oracle’s technology and global assets that NetSuite has taken advantage of. Together, these changes make the NetSuite product line a tough one to compete with in the SMB and mid-size business space. 

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