NetSuite to target services with upcoming release

NetSuite CEO Zach Nelson

NetSuite CEO Zach Nelson

SAN JOSE, CALIF. – Cloud-based ERP vendor NetSuite will look to ramp up its offering for services companies with its second 2014 edition, slated to debut next month.

NetSuite CEO Zach Nelson announced the new functionality at the company’s SuiteWorld user and partner conference here Tuesday morning, saying that as well as enterprise resource planning, the company will be focused on “services resource planning.”

“Our intention has always been to automate services processes in the same way we automate manufacturing processes,” Nelson said in his keynote. “This is the first product that can run a product- and project-based business in one system.”

The company has dabbled with supporting services businesses since 2008, but with the new release, it’s including more functionality, building focus on hardware, advertising, software, computer and IT services, law firms, management consulting, healthcare, and professional services. “These are people who bill time,” Nelson said.

The new SRP module in NetSuite will borrow heavily from the lessons it’s learned since its 2008 acquisition of professional services automation software vendor OpenAir, and the latter continues to exist as a standalone product even as services management functionality starts to make its way into the core NetSuite product. NetSuite said that acquisition was crucial to its ability to build services into NetSuite.

“One of the magic pieces that made it a good fit for us was that they went all the way through billing,” Nelson said. “We would never have figured out the complexities of services-based billing.”

OpenAir will continue to be offered as a standalone product, and Nelson said the company has doubled the number of people working on developing the product. And at the same time, NetSuite will continue to co-market the product. While NetSuite and OpenAir are independent products, Nelson said there are a growing number of joint customers for the two products. OpenAir will continue to focus on very large service organization and managed service providers, Nelson said, while NetSuite’s SRP functionality will be more scalable from smaller services organizations to the biggest consultancies.

The addition of services to the core of NetSuite comes as Nelson says he sees a convergence and a change in business models – one that is driving organizations to change their definitions of themselves.

“There are no clear lines anymore between what your company is and what some other company is. Product companies are becoming services companies, and services companies are becoming product companies,” he said.

Nelson also previewed a new user interface to debut in the same edition of NetSuite, slated to debut for most of the company’s customers next month. The new look incorporates a “flat design” approach, will work better across platforms, screen sizes, and device types, and brings NetSuite’s user interface – one of the early adapters of AJAX – into the ‘HTML 5 world, Nelson said. While Nelson said that “change is always disruptive” – admitting to blowing a gasket whenever Microsoft moves a feature in Outlook – he said the changes have been well-received. NetSuite COO Jim McGeever said that while the new UI will look different, much of the change in how the software will function has already been introduced in years past.

“The hardest part is done. This is updating the look and feel as opposed to how things work,” McGeever said.