By Chuck Schaeffer
With an original company name of NetLedger and a product limited to a basic accounting application, NetSuite was founded in 1998 by Evan Goldberg, the current chairman and CTO, with the financial backing of Oracle founder and CEO Larry Ellison.
The company started out developing small business accounting software integrated with the Oracle 8i e-business suite and hosted through Oracle Business Online. After the initial years of struggling as an unknown startup, the company gained marketing muscle by partnering with its chief investor (Larry Ellison) and re-launching its SaaS solution as the Oracle Small Business Suite (SBS) in 2001. While the two companies maintained a marketing and revenue sharing partnership, NetSuite was not owned and was not a subsidiary of Oracle. In June 2004, the three year marketing arrangement lapsed, the Oracle Small Business Suite on-demand service provided by NetSuite was rebranded as the NetSuite Small Business Suite and NetSuite set out to create its own identity without Oracle (although Ellison continues to own the majority of the company).
NetSuite completed a successful IPO in December 2007 (NYSE: N).
NetSuite's product portfolio includes NetSuite (accounting, ERP and CRM suite), NetSuite OneWorld (multi-company financial consolidation), NetSuite CRM+ and various platform products such as NS-BOS (a platform as a service development framework).
The NetSuite CRM+ suite includes the traditional CRM pillars of sales, marketing and service, as well as extended software functionality for sales order processing, incentive management, project tracking and partner relationship management (PRM). NetSuite's CRM+ is available as a standalone front office suite or as part of NetSuite's integrated e-commerce, accounting and ERP solution. The scope of this review is limited to NetSuite CRM+.
Sales Force Automation
The core tenants of Sales Force Automation—account, contact and opportunity management—cover the basics and are largely undifferentiated from SaaS CRM competitors in terms of feature sets or flexibility. Where NetSuite does begin to break out from the pack is with capabilities such as up-sell and cross-sell, quoting, sales order processing and commissions. These capabilities tap into NetSuite's back office accounting and ERP software to provide benefits that cannot be matched by CRM-only solutions.
Back office integration also contributes to one of the most cited objectives for Customer Relationship Management—the 360 degree view of the customer relationship. When CRM is integrated with ERP, sales reps view of the customer relationship grows dramatically to include payment terms, credit limits, available credit, outstanding receivables, purchase history as well as visibility to transactions such as sales orders, invoices, returns, credits and payments.
NetSuite delivers very strong order to cash process functionality within the context of the CRM solution. Sale opportunities can be extended to quotes, which can be extended into sale orders. Back office staff then convert sale orders to invoices. The entire process is seamless, automated and gives the sales rep complete visibility throughout the order fulfillment stages so that he or she can close deals, set customer expectations, or take action to avoid disappointing customers. Customer purchase history can be mined in order to provide highly relevant up-sell and cross-sell promotions.
Sales forecasting is flexible and integrated with order management to include actual sales and projections of recurring revenue in forecasts. Forecasting also permits sales managers to manually override the sales reps forecast amounts before rolling up the numbers. While such functionality is designed to better account for sand baggers or those reps who wear rose colored glasses, such a process seems to condone bad forecasting instead of correcting the problem at the source.
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Back office integration contributes to one of the most cited CRM objectives—the 360 degree view of the customer relationship. When CRM is integrated with ERP, the sales reps view of the customer relationship grows dramatically to include payment terms, credit limits, available credit, outstanding receivables, purchase history as well as visibility to transactions such as sales orders, invoices, returns, credits and payments.