ERP software companies have wanted to crack the SME market for a long time, yet rarely invested in more than marketing. Now, however, they are changing products and customising deployments to fit the appetite and wallets of small businesses.
Oracle NetSuite, a well-established cloud ERP provider, is heavily promoting its SuiteSuccess initiative.
Netsuite is trying to achieve two objectives:
- Make it easier for small businesses to get started with their ERP.
- Promote the growth of businesses using NetSuite so they consume more and more of the ERP platform.
Making it easier to get started through ready-to-use editions
Getting started with an ERP used to mean going through discovery sessions and heavy customisation projects. SuiteSuccess aims to minimise or avoid that expensive consulting exercise entirely. SuiteSuccess editions are pre-configured for industry and region. In theory, you could simply migrate your data, train your team, and get started with no customisation at all.
The editions include wholesale, retail, and service, and sub-industries such as food and beverage, and health and cosmetics. In each edition, NetSuite has removed any irrelevant fields, added industry-specific data, created relevant user dashboards, user roles, forms and flows, configured reports, and even customised the data import templates.
The big revolution in approach is that you are not starting with a big, blank ERP software with consultants asking you to “‘tell me how you work”. Instead you start with a ready-to-use system and consultants telling you, “This is how we see the leaders work. What do you want to change?”
Educating businesses with leading practices
SuiteSuccess also contains a set of leading practices for every industry process. These are step-by-step workflows for collecting data, defining staff roles, and approval processes.
This process documentation is available as educational PDFs with flowcharts and lists of steps, and it is also accessible from within the ERP. When you are working on a specific transaction, you can click a link to the relevant leading practice.
I haven’t had a chance to review these processes in depth yet. When I do, I’ll be curious to see if the analysts who composed them remained faithful to the idea of keeping it relevant to small businesses, or if they ended up generating big-business process documentation.
A stairway for growth
If NetSuite’s customers experience healthy growth while on the platform, everybody wins. The company gains revenue and profits, and pays NetSuite for using extra features or adding more users. So NetSuite developed a set of growth stages for each industry that identifies opportunities for growth and how to go about achieving them.
NetSuite claims to be proactive with their clients through regular reviews designed to identify indicators of these growth areas and whether the client needs to expand into new features of the ERP.
NetSuite then lays out the blueprint for the next step in its “Suite Success Stairway”. basically This could include enabling new modules, forms and workflows, or simply adding extra fields and reports to access a new set of leading practices and let you start playing a bigger game.
Of course, no business will fit the model 100 per cent, but it can still give a good blueprint for businesses to work with, learn from, and follow.
Back to Xero/QBO world
I reflected on the way businesses implement apps and processes in the Xero and QuickBooks Online ecosystems. We are missing just that: blueprints of ecosystems and how they are to be used. The small business app market is somewhat fragmented with businesses having to piece the parts together, working with advisors who are experts in parts of the solution but not in the entirety of it.
While Xero has promoted advisors who specialise in particular industries, there are very few successful industry-specific cloud integrators. In Australia, SMB Consultants come to mind for retail and Tradiepad for trades, but I can’t think of implementers who have an end-to-end grasp on food and beverage, constructions, or software across the full spectrum of business growth. They are mostly generalists. Most likely due to the lack of volume in the market, low margins on projects, and the size and maturity of the cloud integrator businesses themselves.
For implementers specialising in an industry, I wonder how proactive they are around driving growth after a successful set up has been completed. The issue with growth in a small business app ecosystem is that you can quickly outgrow the ecosystem, and therefore your cloud integrator becomes irrelevant. Not a fantastic model for collaboration.
Disclosure: Inbal Steinberg travelled to NetSuite SuiteWorld in Las Vegas as a guest of NetSuite.