The promise of any enterprise resource planning (ERP) solution is that it will transform the entire organization. Because it touches nearly every process, management has visions of a nimble, efficient operation with real-time visibility from end-to-end. Reality is something entirely different. Standardized business practices should trump historical habits, but no solution can house the myriad nuances and requirements associated with the thousands of business types that exist today.
An ERP solution may generally handle manufacturing well, but can it adjust to the requirements surrounding an agricultural operation? On the surface, retail has a known set of processes, but the same framework may not be appropriate for today’s companies selling mobile apps. Even if there is an initial fit, can one reasonably expect an ERP provider to keep up with the changing regulatory landscape of every segment in every industry?
From the beginning, it appears that NetSuite has attempted to avoid this trap through two key pillars— customization and integration. Nearly every portion of the ERP application can be customized. This includes everything from input screens to printed documents. Best of all, NetSuite professional services isn’t necessary to do so.
NetSuite actually required my ERP Administrators to pass a course which included the basics of customizing our company’s instance prior to our initial go-live.
Administrators can add fields without being programmers. If Billy Bob’s Boating needs their inside sales to be able to input dispatch and freight-related instructions on orders, functionality is readily available to make this possible. John Doe and Associates needs the ability to print a partner’s signature on invoices. Their ERP Administrator or reseller can easily do this for them. The same ease of customization applies to automating business processes. Our bill approval workflow makes decisions based on whether there was a purchase order (PO), the variance between the PO and bill, who approved the PO if it exists, and checks to see if the desired approver is currently on leave.
Nearly every portion of the ERP application can be customized. This includes everything from input screens to printed documents
In that same vein, there are times where specialized software is a necessity. This is where NetSuite’s integration flexibility comes in. For example, in our bulk material operations, we needed a national type evaluation program (NTEP) certified solution that was directly integrated with our truck scales. There were a myriad of related requirements associated with remote survivability and offline access. A cloud-based solution simply isn’t a fit. This is also a unique enough need that there were no NetSuite partners already offering solutions for purchase. Because of NetSuite’s integration options, however, we were able to select a solution which met our requirements and write an integration to replicate those transactions in our ERP.
While this makes NetSuite flexible enough to meet the great promise of an ERP, it also exponentially increases other risks. Just because you can customize something doesn’t mean you should. Not everything belongs in your ERP. It’s awfully nice to have a special form just for marketing, but does it really add value to the organization as a whole? Like with any ERP, an organization should view a NetSuite implementation as an opportunity to take a hard look at every business process, even things like pricing strategies, and how cost of goods sold is calculated. I know of very few cases in which at least one customization hasn’t later become a regret. Hard conversations early on can be determined whether these regrets are nuisances or major thorns in the side.