NetSuite — NetSuite Small Business

From the June/July Review of Small Business Accounting Systems

NetSuite was an early pioneer of on-demand computer programs, a.k.a. purely web-based systems. Initially funded in part by Oracle founder Larry Ellison, the company is now publicly traded on the New York Stock Exchange under ticker symbol (N), providing a range of accounting, ERP, e-commerce and CRM functionality centered on its core NetSuite solution. NetSuite is geared for small and mid-sized businesses and integrates all primary accounting functions and customer interaction functions into a web-based solution that supports more than 12 languages and multiple currencies.

NetSuite Small Business is the company’s entry-level system, offering smaller and growing entities the benefits of integration between front and back office applications, enabling them to better manage sales, accounting and e-commerce activities through a single system. The Small Business version of NetSuite is priced at $99 per month for the company, with user seats available for $49 per month. NetSuite’s other primary offerings include the full NetSuite system, NetSuite CRM+ and add-on modules including the new NetSuite OneWorld, which enables companies to manage multi-location, multi-subsidiary operations in real-time, with support for varying currencies, taxation and reporting.

Ease of Use/Basic Functionality -- 5 Stars
The interfaces in NetSuite Small Business are geared toward the role of each individual user, with access rights depending upon that role; but, just as important, with workflow processes and functions designed for the needs of users of that type with complete customization capabilities to meet individual preferences. Roles include top-level executives, sales management, sales staff, marketing management, support, e-commerce management, warehouse management and controller, the last of which can be configured to allow use by an external accountant to provide write-up, reconciliation and other services for the business. Since the program is completely web-based, the physical location of each of these individuals is of no importance, as long as they have Internet connectivity and authorized login information. The system can also be used on portable web devices, including the iPhone and other smart phones.

Each of the role-based interfaces is centered on real-time dashboards that provide key information as selected by the user and related to their role. Executives, for example, can set up tabs that enable them to focus on individual departments or on bottom-line financials, account balances, forecasts, sales actuals vs. goals, and period comparisons, with the web-based system providing text or graphical presentations of the data. Meanwhile, a sales manager can keep an eye on productivity of his staff, sales goals, leads and open opportunities, commissions, and other data. In either case, the tabs allow them to quickly move between dashboards for the various activity centers in their business. The dashboards are customizable and include drag-and-drop functionality.

Transaction screens are well-designed, offering quick lookup functions for customers, vendors, items and other options, while comprehensive customer and vendor contact management lists enable multiple methods of searching, filtering and sorting. Searches can be saved, and the program keeps a linked list of recent activity, allowing users quick access to return to previous or ongoing tasks.

Core Accounting/Security Functions -- 5 Stars
NetSuite Small Business provides the core accounting modules, including GL, AP and AR with GAAP-compliant double entry bookkeeping, along with integrated sales, payroll, billing and inventory components. As a part of its “customer fulfillment” component, the inventory capabilities in the program are impressive, supporting FIFO, LIFO and ACOGs, with stock levels automatically adjusted when making sales or receiving shipments. Multiple pricing can be applied to individual items, including matrix and kit pricing. The suite is especially well-suited to entities with e-commerce activities since the centralized nature of the program automatically keeps all areas updated instantly, from the second a website visitor looks at an inventory item, through actual sale, shipping and replenishment. NetSuite Small Business also has options for electronic banking and allowing electronic payment by customers, as well as EFT of payables to vendors. A full-time audit trail is built into the system, providing drill-down access to individual transactions, while role-based access rights and individual security settings provide for total control over financial, customer and other business information.

While accounting is a science that involves mostly logical mathematical manipulation, many of the other notable features of the NetSuite system are more related to the art of managing human interaction. Through its seamlessly integrated CRM components, all customer and prospect contacts (e-mail, phone, written, product shipping) are tracked and are visible to users whose roles are affected by that contact. For instance, if the customer contacted support or if shipping was delayed, a salesperson attempting to up-sell or cross-sell that customer can be better prepared. The system also provides excellent alert features, to-do lists, calendaring and appointment scheduling options, and other productivity tools.

Reporting & Management Functions -- 5 Stars
Reporting options for current tasks are accessible from all of the dashboards, while authorized users can also access the more comprehensive Reports section, with options ranging from full financials, to period comparisons, sales performance data, cash flow, customer histories and other information, with all reports easily editable and customizable. Reports and data can be output into Word, Excel, PDF or text formats. The system can also print wage and 1099 reporting forms. NetSuite’s role-based dashboards also provide excellent monitoring of key business data, presented in real-time.

Import/Export/Integration -- 5 Stars
Users can import QuickBooks, XML and spreadsheet data into the system, while the program also integrates with Microsoft Outlook for contact management and e-mail. It can export financial data to XML or spreadsheets, and offers reporting into Word, Excel or PDF. The web-based system is accessible from any location with Internet connectivity, including smart phones like the BlackBerry and iPhone.

Help & Support Options -- 4.5 Stars
The role-based nature of NetSuite eases the learning curve, since it removes most of the features and distracting information not necessary to all users. Additionally, the system provides a good assortment of user guides, wizards and tutorials that, along with task-specific Help and search features, provide excellent assistance. Since the system is web-based, all program updates are automatically performed by the vendor as needed.

Relative Value -- 4.5 Stars
NetSuite Small Business is geared to small and mid-sized entities with strong customer relationship requirements, particularly sales-centric concerns, e-commerce businesses and those with multi-national/multi-lingual requirements. The web-based system offers outstanding flexibility and customization options along with the convenience of anytime, anywhere access.

2008 Overall Rating: 5 Stars