We had the opportunity to attend NetSuite’s SuiteWorld conference in San Jose this week. It was a successful event for NetSuite with over 6500 attendees overall, great partner presence while still being a walk able event at the McEnery convention center. 

As usual NetSuite has released a barrage of news releases – so let’s look at my top 3 takeaways from the event: 

  • A new user interface – This has been an area where NetSuite has been lagging compared to other web competitors and it is good to see the company making progress on this front. While the new UI seems to be only a small improvement at first look, once looked at it in detail it delivers tangible benefits to NetSuite users. From the demos we saw we expect the Dashboards and the improved List Pages as the major usability improvements users will experience. But let’s not forget that NetSuite does something very well that most competitors do not do – support the professional users really well. The NetSuite table control remains one of the best controls out there in the market place. On the flipside NetSuite needs to probably re-think that the one size fits all user interface will be hard to maintain when having to service the professional user and the casual user really well. And NetSuite is moving more towards the casual user with its push to provide more HCM automation (more below). Lastly it’s only fair to remember that NetSuite allows probably the highest degree of customization of its apps amongst the larger web players, and that makes UI innovation and renovation a little trickier than in other places. So NetSuite has bought probably 2-3 years of time before having to come up with a completely new user interface. (Here is the UI press release). 
Picture take at new UI Demo

  • Re-inventing the General Ledger (GL) – Clearly one of the most impressive areas NetSuite showed at SuiteWorld was the innovation on the GL, with its new SuiteGL offering. Finance departments and their leaders will be excited about the new capabilities to create customer GL Lines (coming with NetSuite Version 2014.2 in the 2nd half of 2014), custom Transaction Types (coming with NetSuite Version 2015.1 in the 1st half of 2015) and custom GL Segments (you guessed it – coming with NetSuite Version 2015.2 coming in the 2nd half of 2015). So quite a staggered roll out – but that will give Finance departments time to learn and implement the new capabilities). NetSuite will also have to address potential fears and concerns around compliance and performance when creating custom GL code. But that’s a good problem to have versus facing the alternative of a ‘take it or leave it – this is SaaS’ approach to GL (which is often heard in the industry) (and the press release is here). 

Goldberg presents SuiteGL

  • HCM traction – It is only about 6 months ago that NetSuite acquired TribeHR. NetSuite’s HCM strategy has gone through quite some directional changes – from a multi partner approach a SuiteWorld 2013, to a partnership with Oracle Fusion HCM for large accounts (over 2000 employees, we covered it here) and then to the acquisition of TribeHR (we covered it here). And HCM is a huge potential market for NetSuite, which on its own had only covered Payroll for the USA and Incentive Compensation, now with TribeHR it covers Core HR, Recruiting and Performance Management. So quite some progress in 12 months that should give NetSuite customers enough to evaluate using more of NetSuite HCM automation. The social DNA that TribeHR brings to HCM is certainly a good differentiator – and Goldberg did not get tired in the keynote to show the benefits of running HCM together with Finance and Sales automation.

    And no surprise – HCM was the first area of automation Goldberg showed in his keynote. It was good to see that TribeHR functionality is already available in NetSuite look and feel -always one of the early steps after an acquisition. In meetings with the former TribeHR CEO Joseph Fung and his team it was good to see that the TribeHR talent is on board and excited to be part of NetSuite. Not surprisingly there is s a strong push to bring HCM country localization to core HR. And SuiteWorld also feature the launch of TribeHR on iOS (press release here) a good solid mobile application featuring Employee Directory, Time Off Management, Recognition Management and not surprisingly for social savvy TribeHR team – a news feed. So encouraging first steps by NetSuite in the HCM area – it will now have to chart a roadmap in the next 6 months and share it with customers and prospects to give them a chance to align their HCM automation needs with the NetSuite HCM roadmap. 

TribeHR Employee Profile in NetSuite UI

Implications, Implications

So what does this mean for... 

  • NetSuite customers & prospects – Customers should be appreciative of the investment NetSuite is making. It is key that a SaaS provider keeps innovating and doing good housekeeping activities without customers noticing too much. The new user interface will be certainly an asset coming later in 2014. When NetSuite has formulated a roadmap for its HCM offering we recommend customers to evaluate the existing and coming HCM offerings. There is a lot of benefits to make from running an integrated suite in the cloud and if you look across all enterprise automation, HCM was one of the last pieces NetSuite needs to address. 

  • NetSuite partners – There can be no doubt there is traction in the NetSuite platform. Now it’s time to differentiate and chart a course how to carve out an attractive niche in the NetSuite ecosystem. Cloud integration and complimentary technical and functional offerings are the looming opportunities. 

  • NetSuite – Good progress and good to see the company challenging and improving its product all the way to the core. NetSuite now needs to show it can keep delivering to its many promised deliverables. But that is business as usual now. Becoming more global beyond North American and particularly how to get traction in APAC will be the overall commercial NetSuite topics to watch. 

  • Competitors – If you were hoping for NetSuite to rest – that hope did not materialize. Certainly NetSuite feels the burden and responsibility of over 20k customers – but that’s what competitors also want to get. Differentiation options loom around more standard based cloud stacks, reporting, persona driven user experience and BigData, maybe even Social and Collaboration. 



NetSuite is showing good progress and looks to be on track with its ambitious development agenda. We welcome the aggressive hiring on the R&D side as otherwise these plans are not unlikely to all realize themselves. It’s good to see NetSuite actively tackling issues around user interface and reporting, but much more needs to be done (a year ago our key takeaway was the aging UI – read here). And it’s likewise good to see NetSuite tackling the HCM area, a huge potential for NetSuite and its customers – but NetSuite needs to chart and then communicate its course for HCM first.

More about NetSuite

  • Why NetSuite acquired TribeHR - read here
  • Act III the cloud changes everything - Oracle and NetSuite with a touche of Deloitte - read here
  • Act III and final day - A tale of two conferences - Sapphire and SuiteWorld - read here
  • The middle day - 2 keynotes and press releases - Sapphire and SuiteWorld - read here
  • A tale of 2 keynotes and press releases - Sapphire and SuiteWorld - read here
Find more coverage on the Constellation Research website here.