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Finance Transformation

What is NetSuite Used For? Capabilities, Benefits, Use Cases, and More

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ERP. Such a slight-looking acronym that packs quite the wallop. In fact, in an ocean of corporate hyperbole where seemingly everything is a game-changer or difference-maker, picking an enterprise resource planning platform is an absolutely mission-critical process for organizations. The stakes are indeed high. Thankfully, with solutions like Oracle | NetSuite available, leadership doesn’t have to survive ERP night terrors when facing such a monumental decision.

But what, exactly, makes NetSuite such a popular platform for companies looking to optimize complex operations, gain data-driven insights, and rapidly adapt to market changes? We’re glad you asked because today, we’re taking a deep dive into all things NetSuite – what companies use it for, its endless lists of benefits and capabilities, as well as a few implementation and optimization best practices to boot. So let’s get started.

NetSuite: The Cloud ERP for All Core Business Functions

Since we must walk before we run, let's level-set first with an overview of NetSuite's platform. At its core, NetSuite provides a unified SaaS environment to manage end-to-end business processes across departments using a single source of truth. The platform’s key capabilities span:

  • Financials – General ledger, advanced billing and revenue management, expenses and payments, planning and budgeting, intercompany accounting, global consolidations
  • Supply Chain – Inventory, manufacturing, procurement, order orchestration, fulfillment, logistics, landed cost management
  • CRM – Marketing, sales force, customer service, call centers, partner relationship management
  • Commerce – Webstore, POS, payment processing, order management across all channels  
  • HR & Payroll – Core HR, talent management, payroll, and benefits administration
  • Business Intelligence – Real-time role-based dashboards, custom reporting, data warehousing, predictive analytics
  • Flexibility – Custom workflows, scripting, APIs, and extensions aligned to all industries

With a natively integrated approach, NetSuite enables seamless connectivity and data sharing between applications – from lead to cash, procure to pay, order to delivery, and beyond.

Plus, as a true cloud-native platform, it provides accessibility from anywhere on any device – yes, we’re assuming you have an active internet connection – along with rapid scalability to support business growth, and reduced IT overhead compared to legacy on-premise ERP software.

Beyond Accounting Software: NetSuite Business Management Modules

Any red-blooded C-suite’s best friend, the full NetSuite platform also consists of several modules spanning all essential business functions, including:

Financials

  • General Ledger – Multi-book accounting, financial reporting, allocations, bank integration
  • Billing and Revenue Management – Usage pricing, subscriptions, billing, collections, invoicing, complex revenue recognition
  • Expenses and Payments – Expense reporting, company credit cards, accounts payable (AP), purchasing 
  • Budgeting and PlanningFinancial planning, allocations, modeling, what-if analysis
  • Compliance and Controls – Granular roles, permissions, audit logs and access controls 
  • Intercompany Accounting – Shared customers, vendors, and chart of accounts across business units
  • Global Consolidation and Roll-up – Real-time consolidation of financial data across business units, currencies and fiscal calendars

NetSuite's comprehensive financial modules serve as the backbone for many businesses' ERP implementations. The general ledger and chart of accounts are often – or at least should be – among the first features set up, forming a crucial footing for robust financial management and reporting.

Building on this financial foundation, NetSuite customers can expand their use to include:

  • Enhanced capabilities in multi-book accounting, catering to complex regulations and reporting needs.
  • Sophisticated billing and revenue recognition protocols, which are especially vital for companies with intricate revenue models or those subject to rigorous compliance standards.
  • A seamless transition to managing the full financial spectrum as the business scales, maintaining coherence and compliance across all facets of operations.

Customer Relationship Management (CRM)

  • Marketing Automation – Campaigns, landing pages, lead scoring, nurturing, analytics
  • Sales Force Automation – Managing accounts, contacts, opportunities, commissions, forecasts, quotes
  • Customer Support – Cases, portals, call centers, SLA management, return management
  • Partner Relationship Management – Channel pipelines, partner portals, payment processing
  • Contact Management – Comprehensive contact profiles and relationships 

Supply Chain Management 

  • Inventory Management – Real-time multi-location inventory visibility and optimization
  • Procurement and Payables – Purchase requisitions, purchase orders (POs), receipts, company credit cards, AP payments
  • Order Orchestration – Intelligent order processing, splitting, and fulfillment
  • Warehouse Management – Seamless third-party logistics (3PL) and shipping system integration
  • Manufacturing – Work order, assembly, and batch management
  • Quality Management – Product inspections, deficiency resolution
  • Landed Cost Management – Calculate global shipping, tariffs, and duty costs

Commerce

  • Webstore – E-commerce features, including merchandising, promotions, A/B testing
  • Omnichannel Order Management – POS, call center, web, mobile, kiosk  
  • Payment Processing – Securely accept payments from all channels  
  • Customer and Partner Portals – Self-service account management, reporting, document access

Human Resources & Payroll

  • Core HR – Organization structure, job roles, employee records, self-service  
  • Talent Management – Recruiting, onboarding, performance management, succession planning
  • Payroll – Payroll processing, tax filing, payment disbursements
  • Benefits Administration – Health plans, retirement accounts, benefit enrollment

Business Intelligence

  • Dashboards and Reporting – Hundreds of pre-built KPI dashboards by role, as well as ad hoc custom reporting 
  • Data Warehousing – Unified data collection across all modules
  • Online Analytical Processing (OLAP) – Fast multidimensional data analysis across billions of records

Before moving on, let's pause for an extra beat to take a slightly closer look at this critical functionality. NetSuite has continually improved its data warehousing and business intelligence tools, dedicating substantial resources to bring enhanced analytical capabilities to its users. Now, the NetSuite analytics warehouse lets businesses:

  • Conduct in-depth data analysis with granular detail, leveraging the latest developments in data warehousing to make data-driven, informed decisions that refine strategy and drive profitability.
  • Utilize predictive analytics to forecast trends, applying statistical models that leverage AI and ML for nuanced market insights and proactive planning.

In short, by prioritizing analytical advancements, NetSuite ensures enterprises have the high-caliber insights necessary for today's fast-paced, data-centric business landscape. Now let’s continue.

Free Resource: NetSuite Go-Live Checklist

Flexibility & Customization

  • Industry Editions – Pre-configured editions for retail, manufacturing, nonprofits, and others
  • SuiteCloud Platform – Point-and-click customization, scripting, workflow automation, and building entirely new applications
  • SuiteAnalytics – Ad hoc analysis, custom reporting and dashboards
  • Application Integration – Robust web services and APIs
  • Commerce Agency – Custom webstore design and implementation services

With end-to-end process visibility and deep customization options, NetSuite’s capabilities allow leadership to run entire businesses globally.

Maximizing NetSuite's Potential

While NetSuite is equipped with an impressive array of modules to streamline nearly every aspect of business operations, many organizations tend to focus exclusively on a particular subset or two, failing to take advantage of the platform’s scope. That said, to unlock the full spectrum of NetSuite's capabilities, companies should:

  • Regularly review their NetSuite deployment, spotlighting areas like customer relationship management (CRM), advanced e-commerce integrations, and cutting-edge analytics that might provide additional benefits for the enterprise.
  • Promote internal awareness through custom-tailored training, empowering employees to harness features that drive efficiency beyond the foundational core.
  • Foster a data-driven culture that emphasizes continuous innovation, tapping into NetSuite's robust selection of tools to solve emerging business challenges and drive growth.

This proactive approach not only maximizes investment ROI but also ensures that, as the organization evolves, its ERP system will keep pace, fully aligned and perpetually responsive to whatever a business might throw at it.

Common Use Cases Driving NetSuite Adoption

With so many modules available, it’s easy to lose sight of the forest through the functionality trees. To that point, we’re now going to look at some of the NetSuite modules in action by running through a handful of extremely common use cases:

Replacing Small Business Accounting Systems

Small-to-medium-sized growing businesses often replace QuickBooks, Sage 50, or legacy versions of Dynamics GP with NetSuite. Although many entry-level accounting systems work very well initially, they usually lack the more advanced features, custom workflows, granular permissions, regulatory compliance, global operations, and sophisticated revenue recognition needed as organizations scale.

NetSuite's modular approach lets companies add capabilities over time. For example, a retailer could start with core Financials, Inventory, and e-commerce modules, then activate advanced Supply Chain and Business Intelligence modules after going public to support rapid expansion.

However, even NetSuite's basic "Starter" edition delivers substantial improvements in reporting, automation, business visibility, and compliance over entry-level systems. Specifically, the platform seamlessly adapts as transaction volumes and business complexity swell, quickly growing beyond the limitations of small business tools.

Launching New Business Models 

Many companies leverage the NetSuite solution to launch disruptive new business models not readily supported in legacy systems.

For example, an industrial manufacturer launching Internet of Things (IoT) sensor-as-a-service offerings could use the NetSuite ERP to quickly create customized billing workflows for usage-based pricing that aren’t possible in typical ERP platforms.

Likewise, a retailer expanding into same-day delivery can use NetSuite's omnichannel commerce capabilities for real-time order orchestration and fulfillment across channels.

Zeroing in further, new startup ventures within established organizations can also take advantage of NetSuite's agility. The CEO of a hardware vendor starting an online direct-to-consumer e-commerce division can deploy NetSuite as an entirely separate brand and platform, specifically tailored to the new business model.

Entering New Markets and Geographies

NetSuite's unified data model, multi-currency support, and separation of duties across business units make it well-suited for international expansion.

For instance, a software firm can easily replicate its US subscription management, billing, and revenue recognition processes in NetSuite when launching in the EU and Asia using the platform’s out-of-the-box global financial capabilities.

Similarly, a manufacturer opening plants in Mexico can seamlessly integrate production, inventory, and financials across the entities using shared NetSuite dashboards and reports. 

Or maybe a multi-subsidiary management and global consolidation uses the platform to provide the real-time roll-up of business data across all entities, currencies, and accounting standards onto a single version of the truth. You get where we’re going – the potential is seemingly endless.

Supporting High-Growth Companies 

NetSuite's scalability also makes it the ERP of choice for many companies undergoing rapid growth. The system can help these organizations as they encounter significant business events, transitions, and potential stumbling blocks, including scenarios like:

  • Preparing for an IPO, private equity investment, or acquisition
  • Expanding into large new distribution channels. 
  • Absorbing surges in seasonal order volumes cost-effectively
  • Quickly onboarding large numbers of new employees
  • Integrating business units after a merger
  • Launching new product lines or microservices

In these scenarios, NetSuite provides the unified visibility, controls, and automation needed to scale the business without disruption.

For example, a high-growth software-as-a-solution provider might implement NetSuite as part of preparations to go public. Leadership knows external auditors and investors would expect modern cloud-based financial planning, compliance controls, revenue recognition, and reporting from the SaaS company, none of which are readily available in their legacy system.

Likewise, let’s say an e-commerce retailer outgrows QuickBooks. By switching to NetSuite, the retailer can better manage increased transaction volume and complexity, all while scaling operations into new markets without missing a beat. Similarly, a technology firm on the verge of an IPO can streamline its financial processes in NetSuite to satisfy the rigorous demands of external audits and investor relations.

Flexibility for Custom Processes

Some companies adopt NetSuite for its ability to support completely unique business processes that aren’t exactly easy to accomplish with rigid off-the-shelf ERP suites.

For example, while many – even most – platforms might struggle with the specialized manufacturing workflows needed for custom window blinds, NetSuite can readily adapt production management processes to match the client's build-to-order requirements.

Elsewhere, retailers with unique in-store customer experiences can leverage open APIs and commerce agency partners to tightly couple mobile apps and digital kiosks with NetSuite's back-end inventory and order management. 

Further, nonprofits with complex fund accounting and grant tracking needs can take advantage of NetSuite's flexibility to conform to reporting requirements that typical ERPs can't address efficiently. Namely, the SuiteCloud development platform enables this level of customization without extensive coding expertise.

Centralizing Disparate Systems and Data

Lastly, organizations with disjointed legacy systems and standalone applications often need to centralize everything onto NetSuite as a unified cloud platform.

Consolidating all information into NetSuite provides complete visibility into operations and consistent metrics across departments. This eliminates tedious manual processes previously needed to reconcile and report across disconnected data silos.

For example, large enterprises can use NetSuite to easily roll up financial data from dozens of global subsidiaries – all operating in different currencies, languages, and lines of business – into real-time, unified financial reporting and dashboards.

Tailoring NetSuite's Modules to Your Organization's Needs

We know what you’re thinking – with so many capabilities, how do I figure out which NetSuite components match my company’s needs? 

Well, for starters, NetSuite offers pre-configured industry "editions" containing built-in workflows, dashboards, reports, and processes tailored to each vertical, including NetSuite for:

  • Retail
  • Nonprofit  
  • Software
  • Wholesale Distribution
  • Manufacturing
  • Advertising
  • Media and Publishing
  • Food and Beverage    
  • Telecom
  • and others

Within these, you simply license the specific modules you need now to satisfy top priorities – across Financials, Supply Chain, CRM, HR, and whatnot. From there, you can phase-in additional capabilities over time as needs grow and evolve.

To use an example, a multi-channel retailer could start with Commerce, Marketing, Inventory Management, and Financials to support a major direct-to-consumer e-commerce initiative. Later, they expand to advanced Warehouse Management and Planning/Forecasting modules to optimize order fulfillment and demand management as volumes ramp.

This phased approach also provides flexibility when transitioning away from legacy systems. Companies could start by migrating Finance functions onto NetSuite initially while retaining some legacy CRM, HR, or PLM systems. This approach reduces risk by using a staged migration from the legacy platforms.

The same methodology applies even when "moving up" from entry-level accounting systems like QuickBooks. Businesses initially activate basic Financials and Inventory Management capabilities within NetSuite to solve immediate limitations of QuickBooks, then incorporate Supply Chain, Manufacturing, and Advanced Analytics over time.

Now, if an out-of-the-box edition doesn't fully match a company’s needs, NetSuite also features a user-friendly collection of forms, fields, workflows, reports, and more, none requiring extensive coding expertise. Also, enterprises can tackle more advanced customization via SuiteCloud development capabilities and APIs.

All told, this means the platform can natively support both standardized and highly specialized business processes equally well. To ensure you start on the right foot, though, here are some factors, insights, and tips to help deteremine what’s right for you:

  • Immediate Challenges – Solve top priorities and pain points with solutions delivering the fastest ROI.
  • Stage of Growth – Are you an early pre-revenue startup? Or a large enterprise with years of complexity built up?
  • Business Model – Match capabilities to your specific revenue streams, distribution models, and lines of business.
  • Industry Norms – Pre-configured industry editions provide specialty workflows and reports out-of-the-box for your vertical.
  • Future Plans – Build capabilities now to support upcoming expansion initiatives and objectives 12-18 months out.
  • Deployment Timeline – Need rapid implementation in weeks? Or can you take a phased rollout approach? 
  • Custom Requirements – Leverage built-in flexibility for unique processes not supported out-of-the-box in typical ERP suites.
  • In-House vs External Expertise – Choose out-of-the-box capabilities matching needs if you have limited internal resources. Just remember, for advanced customization, you should engage specialists.
  • Compliance Needs – Specialized compliance needs may require increased customization.
  • Shopping Phase – If just researching options, focus on addressing immediate top pains first, not a full-scale transformation.

This systematic approach ensures you land on the optimal blend of solutions for your strategic priorities, all while scaling intelligently over time.

Implementing NetSuite Using Phased Deployment Strategies

At this point, let’s assume you’ve seen the light, are all-in with NetSuite, have chosen your initial configuration, and you’re ready to rumble. In other words, you’ve already covered the essential discovery phase of the move:

  • Current State Process Analysis – Conduct exhaustive evaluation of existing processes, data, and reporting needs across departments. Identify pain points, inefficiencies, and bottlenecks. Define requirements for future state systems, workflows, and analytics to address these gaps.
  • Software Evaluation & Selection – Assess leading cloud ERP/financial platforms against needs identified. Narrow down to two or three frontrunners for detailed demos and proof-of-concept testing. Select the finalist delivering the best fit to requirements.

Where do you go from here? How do you begin the transition?

As you probably guessed, transitioning business-critical systems requires some rigorous coordination between teams, a process that should progress over key phases. 

  • Implementation Planning & Scoping – Define implementation strategy and timeline according to complexity, customization needs, resources, and strategic priorities. Choosing between a "big bang" or phased rollout approach? Either way, you should set detailed project management parameters, including scope and staffing.
  • Configuration & Set-Up – Conduct baseline software configuration, including the number of users, roles, controls, reports, data flows, and workflows per specifications.
  • Data Migration – Extract data from current systems, transforming and mapping it to target NetSuite data structures. From there, load it into NetSuite and validate for accuracy.
  • Testing & Validation – Thoroughly test configured processes, reports, and integrations against requirements and use cases. Identify gaps for configuration refinement.
  • Training & Adoption – Deliver training tailored to each department and role on the new processes, workflows, and analytics, including job aids, video tutorials, and user support models. 
  • Phased Go-Live – Transition usage entirely to NetSuite across groups incrementally based on departments, functions, or regions. Be sure to address support issues as quickly as possible.
  • Post-Launch Assessment – Evaluate utilization, adoption levels, and performance in the initial weeks. Fine tune configurations and deliver additional training to fill gaps as you go.
  • Continuous Improvement – Monitor adoption and continuously expand functionality by activating new capabilities that align with future strategic objectives. Establish metrics for increasing usage. 

While this provides a pretty robust overview, it’s still just that – an overview. Truly seamless execution requires truly extensive planning, user engagement, and skilled resources. And that’s why most organizations engage professional services teams to de-risk and expedite the implementation.

Simply put, by leveraging proven methodologies refined over countless deployments, these specialists identify and follow the fastest path to ROI – typically within very aggressive 12-week deployment timeframes from project kickoff to go-live.

Unlocking NetSuite's Full Potential Post-Deployment

Of course, realizing NetSuite's full potential doesn't stop at the go-live point. Post-implementation optimization – a real mouthful – is just as crucial for value realization, where going live might lay the foundation for business transformation, but the steps you take afterward ensure widespread adoption and ROI across the organization: 

  • Educate Users – Ensure all stakeholders understand the breadth of possibilities across Financials, CRM, Commerce, Supply Chain, HR, Analytics, and more.
  • Drive Adoption – Get users actively utilizing NetSuite daily through training, support, and change management. Spotlight power users as champions. 
  • Assess Underutilization – Identify pockets of unused functionality you’ve already paid for, optimizing these areas with engagement campaigns. 
  • Apply Custom Tailoring – Don't settle for just out-of-the-box functionality if it doesn’t fit the bill. Use SuiteCloud for greater flexibility and innovative customizations that can create powerful competitive advantages.
  • Add Capabilities - Phase in new modules, customizations, and enhancements over time to further boost efficiency and insights.
  • Upgrade Frequently – Take advantage of NetSuite’s hundreds of new features delivered in its semi-annual releases.
  • Unify Data - Incorporate additional data sources into NetSuite's single platform over time for a true "single source of truth." 
  • Leverage Impartial Guidance – Once again, outside specialists provide unbiased assessments of increased usage, adoption, and ROI opportunities.

The key is to take an iterative approach to expanding high-value capabilities while still driving adoption across roles, teams, departments, and the enterprise itself. Obviously, you’ll want to establish processes for continuously enhancing how your people leverage NetSuite's ever-evolving functionality.

Parting Words from Embark

We understand. That’s was an absolutely dizzying amount of information. But we’d rather be too thorough than too brief, especially given the massive difference NetSuite can make to your operations, decision-making, and simple viability.

So, what’s the next step? Let’s talk and figure it out. Aside from our vast experience and expertise with the entire NetSuite platform, Embark’s job is also to determine what’s best for your organization, using a holistic approach that, honestly, differs with every company. To that point, we start with a fact-finding mission, get to know your specific needs and objectives, and create a solution set tailored specifically for you.

Whether you’re still in due diligence mode or ready to dive into the NetSuite pool, though, one thing is for certain – the competition isn’t sitting on their hands. So let’s stop wasting daylight and start driving growth because there’s much work to do.

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