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Oracle OpenWorld, Part 3: The NetSuite Addendum

Oracle OpenWorld got me reacquainted with SaaS ERP and CRM provider NetSuite, as part of a week that was all about making clear that which had been a bit foggy for a while. I hope you’re not expecting me to be writing about how NetSuite has re-emerged, because they never went away. The fault is all mine for not providing more coverage of the company the past couple of years—I let the San Mateo-based company drop off my radar because their primary focus is ERP, while mine is not.

There are two reasons this was a mistake (three, actually, but only two of them matter to you). The first is that NetSuite’s CRM prowess, while not the thing that brings most customers to the door, has been consistently excellent over the years, good enough to rival any CRM vendor’s offering. Second is that the company has found a way of making ERP relevant to customer experience, which is no mean feat—more about that in a moment.

The third reason is that the NetSuite team is composed of some of my very favorite people in the industry, and I’ve done them a disservice by not staying in touch. It has nothing to do with the lovely dinners and bottles of liquor they’ve bought me in times past, not the CES-level swag that often accompanies their conferences and other gatherings. I mention that because it’s always a good idea for people like me to disclose what might serve to bias us in a company’s favor. It takes a lot to bribe me, though; I’m perfectly happy to pee in a vendor’s Cheerios if I think there’s something wrong with their products or strategy, no matter how nice they’ve been to me; the best they can hope for in such a case is that I’ll try not to be mean about it. Fortunately, NetSuite has given me no reason for any cereal micturation.

Here’s what got me back in the business of observing NetSuite. The company showed off a very snazzy e-commerce engine that runs directly on top of the two-tiered ERP system that’s part of NetSuite OneWorld. I say snazzy because there’s nothing basic-looking about it; you get a highly polished front end for the minimal required work of setting a few parameters and telling the system what colors and logos it should use.

The two-tier ERP concept is pretty clever in its own right; the system allows users to run NetSuite OneWorld ERP at subsidiaries and satellite offices, while maintaining the value of its existing investment in on-premises ERP software (in this case Oracle’s) at the home office.

I am probably assuming facts not in evidence, but the sample we were shown seemed superior to anything I’ve used as a consumer—uncluttered, sensible, and minimalist, yet vibrant and friendly enough to draw the user along the buying process. I haven’t had a proper demo—as I said, we’ve been out of touch—but I plan to rectify that ASAP and let you know what’s going on with NetSuite behind the pretty face.

I will caution you not to take my initial enthusiasm as anything more than that; because I have recollections of NetSuite products from just a couple of years ago, and am impressed with what little I’ve seen, I am inclined to think the company’s offerings are still strong. However, I also recall a notable lack of redundant data centers just a couple of years ago, and it appears they still only have the one. It should also be noted that there’s a good reason for NetSuite to be present at an Oracle conference: Larry Ellison owns a consiberable stake in NetSuite, and in fact his money is what founder Evan Goldberg used to get started in 1998. If Oracle wants to buy itself some new toys, NetSuite is always a possible target—and that has to factor into any assessment I make.