Oracle NetSuite has launched a free research and benchmarking service that draws on anonymised data from 16,000 companies using its ERP (enterprise resource planning) platform. The service, called Brainyard, will “give everyone across the technology ecosystem equal access to the research, data and practical advice needed to grow and run a business”, the company said in a press release.
The service would challenge research firms that marketed “expensive” benchmark services built on proprietary data.
At this point, Brainyard is a website featuring industry stats, KPIs and benchmark information across 12 industries. The industries are advertising; apparel, footwear and accessories; consulting services; food and beverage; manufacturing; media; nonprofit; publishing; retail; software; technology services; and distribution.
It neatly shows the data on NetSuite’s spectrum of growth stages from foundation to transformative. A business can see where it falls on that spectrum.
Brainyard includes educational material that gives meaning to the figures, introduces key concepts, and explains what drives different metrics. A sample of articles on the site include “Top 7 Benchmark KPIs Every Restaurant Owner Should Measure”, “How Wholesalers are Turning the Amazon Threat into an Opportunity”, and “What Growing Retailers Should Know About Multi-Currency Ecommerce”.
Brainyard also educates on KPIs. For example, it explains what DSO is (Days Sales Outstanding) and how it is influenced by Days to Invoice and Receivable Staff FTEs. Understanding the drivers can give you clues as to how to improve a certain metric.
What you can do with it
Brainyard is free and publicly available. You can use it to get a sense of how your business is doing and to learn about how you could improve specific aspects. NetSuite uses the Brainyard information in semi-annual reviews with clients. But those of us who are not NetSuite clients can still use the data for our own reviews.
In the future, I believe that this data will be embedded in the NetSuite app. So when you are working on some modelling you can see relevant industry KPIs. And when you are preparing a proposal you can see standard margins from businesses similar to yours.
What if we took all the knowledge, all the subject matter expertise, all the data… and shared it with everyone? That’s what we did. We created the Brainyard
Jason Maynard, Senior Vice President, Global Field Operations, Oracle NetSuite
On a side note, NetSuite showed a fantastic machine learning-based function in SuiteWorld 2019. The ERP shows your internal metrics to assist in your decision making. For example, when you prepare a proposal, it might come up with margin information on similar past proposals, or advise that the staff member you allocated typically delivers over budget and you may need to increase the quoted hours. All this advice is based on analysing your internal data.
I believe that as a next step NetSuite will extend this function to show you information from your own history, alongside industry stats and benchmarks.
What is still missing
The data in Brainyard is global. You cannot filter the stats for your region, and I am not sure what geographical area is included in the third party research that supports Brainyard.
Brainyard also “speaks” American. In retail, for example, it talks about sales per square foot. Not perfect for us in Australia, but still, informative and interesting.
Finally, it seems frustratingly incomplete. The data cannot be filtered at all, whether by business size, business age, geographical region or other parameters.
I am sure that there are significant differences between the ratios of a $20M business and those of a $200M. The internal wiring, structures and overheads are just not the same.
I am also not comfortable with NetSuite referring to Brainyard as “a tool” At the moment it is a static website with very interesting information. A tool suggests more interactivity an ability to plug in your own figures and monitor them over time, and more activity rather than a dump of passive data.
Overall I love the culture of openness NetSuite is showing in publicly sharing information and knowledge. Keen learners can make a lot out of it.
I feel that it is worthwhile keeping an eye on Brainyard to see if it continues to evolve with more data, more filtering options, more interactive analysis options and more educational material.
Disclosure: Inbal Steinberg travelled to NetSuite SuiteWorld in Las Vegas as a guest of NetSuite.