The steady growth and evolution of Oracle NetSuite over the years into a rich, multifaceted cloud-based enterprise resource planning (ERP) platform today has a long and storied history that goes back nearly 25 years. Always a modern, cloud-based solution, the NetSuite platform has evolved extensively across many dimensions over the decades to help organizations manage a wide range of business operations. This now includes financials, inventory, customer relationship management, and e-commerce operations, all within a single platform.
At issue is that this is far from an exhaustive list of functionality. NetSuite is now a vast solution suite that can seem almost formidably comprehensive today, as the company has grown to serve more than 33,000 customers in over 217 countries with a platform that can seamlessly run almost all key parts of their business today.
In fact, one of the leading challenges in adopting and getting the most value from NetSuite is having a clear and effective understanding of all the capabilities that it has and when to start deploying them. While consolidation for its own sake has some value, the benefits of a deeply integrated platform with a truly unified data model are well-known. The Chief Information Officer (CIO) and Chief Financial Officer (CFO), the two leading C-Suite roles in making a NetSuite implementation successful within an organization, can feel like a tall order, especially when it ultimately falls on them to decide where NetSuite will be used, what systems it might be wise to supplant with it, and planning of the resulting adoption and migration paths. This will usually take place over years given the amount of end-to-end business functionality that NetSuite is able to provide in a cohesive, well-organized way.
However, figuring out an organization's NetSuite journey needn't be daunting. I've been directly involved in as well as a researcher of the deployment of large enterprise software suites for several decades. Understanding where to start and how best to roll out complex new layers such as analytics and AI and adjacent business functionality can require not just good planning and a system-wide view of the options, but some carefully thought-out professional aids. This is where business-focused system models of NetSuite can help to streamline the planning and strategy process.
Appreciating The Options Within a NetSuite Journey
So when leaders begin asking difficult questions about how best to deploy new enterprise-wide, mission-critical business systems like NetSuite, I've found that there is no one-size fits all approach. Instead, what CIOs, CFOs, and other C-Suite leaders tasked with making a NetSuite deployment successful over the long term actually need is a strategic master view. One that helps them really understand and appreciate a) where they should likely start and b) the universe of available options to them (in a manageable way), depending on what their business goals are now and in the future.
What's often the most approachable method for this is a heuristic model that presents a roadmap with various clear but different paths with overarching results that can be achieved clearly labeled in each direction. To that end, I've designed such a C-level roadmap for NetSuite that can help C-level leaders get a mental handle on the total operating space that NetSuite occupies today from a functionality standpoint and then understand where they can begin, then where they can grow and expand as they decide to adopt new capabilities, as they decide they need them from NetSuite.
NetSuite Roadmap for the CIO, CFO, and C-Suite
To that end, the C-level roadmap (seen in the master visual above) that I've developed has five major regions. Each has a recommended range of order that helps understand when they can best be applied. These five regions comprise the strategic waterfront through and across which NetSuite can provide capabilities to the business in a way that will tend to unfold naturally as well as build on or complement each other. These regions are:
Build the Core - Step 1
Most organizations start with implementing financials with NetSuite, along with some basic reporting and analytics. There is a choice to add customer relationship management (CRM) as well, or even start there if there is a good opportunity within the business, but the first step is often the simplest. This gets the basics of NetSuite's extensible and highly customizable SuiteCloud Platform in place, which is the foundation of the entire NetSuite platform, firmly within the organization and ready for its future evolution and growth in the cloud. The SuiteCloud Platform provides a real-time view of information in a unified data model with full controls within an open platform that can integrate with internal systems or bring in 3rd party applications that enrich the core experience.
Run the Business - Steps 2-3
As organizations seek to have a handle on their business within one reporting system with a master set of controls, additional business functions like inventory, billing, project management, and revenue management can be deployed to the instrument and automate more of the value stream across key operating functions. Specialized vertical functionality can be activated and deployed as well for such industries as high tech, advertising, media, professional services, manufacturing, and wholesale (not exhaustive) All of these vertical modules focus on running the business better than before using leading good practices. Because all of these are hosted in a single integrated platform within NetSuite, this is realized in a more holistic fashion that also gives an instantaneous and accurate view of what is happening within the business, with the ability to automate it and orchestrate it as needed.
Strategic Capabilities - Steps 2-3
After the business is running smoothly using NetSuite, it is often desired to go a level up and begin to deploy capabilities that provide more strategic control and guidance for the organization. This can include NetSuite's financial planning and budgeting, asset management, human capital management, and international operations. The goal is to go beyond just operating the business from a day-to-day perspective but begin to gain and level of truly strategic influence over the direction and evolution of the organization, and become ready for global growth.
Increase Intelligence - Steps 2-4
These days businesses must wield the entirety of their business data with agility to gain insight and make critical decisions, all within shrinking competitive windows. NetSuite brings a wealth of capabilities that can be deployed as they are needed, and that can work seamlessly across the different regions above to bring together views of the business that provide key windows into both challenges and opportunities. From workbooks to SuiteAnalytics, machine learning and artificial intelligence (AI), and a growing cohort of prescriptive tools, when the C-Suite requires much better visibility and transparency into their organization, NetSuite delivers an array of analytics and business intelligence tools that can be brought to bear across the entire suite of capabilities, with little to no siloing or otherwise inaccessible data. These intelligent capabilities provide a command chair and virtual dashboard across NetSuite for leaders and staff to cope better with operating turbulence or to seize the moment, as required.
Maximize Potential - Steps 2-5
Towards the end of the journey, or a bit nearer to the beginning if desired, organizations can expand their capabilities into vital new business dimensions such as e-commerce and fulfillment, or functions like expenses or accounting that may not be the stars of the business, but make an organization run smoothly and properly.
Determining the Journey with NetSuite
It's useful to understand that the two major categories of business goals for NetSuite after initial implementation generally boil down to a) running the business better or b) knowing/growing the business. Most executives have a fairly good sense of what they'd like to achieve for their part of the business overall but may not have a firm grasp of all the ways that NetSuite can help them. Creating two primary categories makes it easier to balance the overall strategy of each stage in the journey. The heuristic roadmap presented above can help with that, making it clear that there are numerous good options in different dimensions to move into the future and expand with NetSuite, with clear overall business objectives for each. The next step is typically to use the heuristic roadmap to develop a more concrete and specific roadmap of what the organization will actually do.
At the end of the day, the CIO and CFO have momentous responsibilities in just getting NetSuite deployed in its core form. Jointly planning, and then sequencing, and staging the rest of the journey in a clear and effective way for stakeholders, and then using communication to help the broader organization understand the journey can truly pave the road ahead. Planned well, especially in an agile way over time, NetSuite can help organizations digitally transform a vast array of their vital operations today in a way that wasn't really possible just a few years ago. By developing, relying upon, and maintaining a living roadmap that describes the NetSuite journey, C-Suite leaders can best guide their organizations into the future.
CXOs wishing additional detail on NetSuite's enterprise capabilities can take this detailed product tour that provides an executive-level walkthrough.