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At SuiteWorld, NetSuite CEO Zach Nelson Talks CRM Expansion
Keynote highlights convergence of CRM, ERP, and e-commerce systems.
Posted May 14, 2014
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SAN JOSE, CA—When it comes to customers, omnichannel capabilities are not just a retail responsibility, NetSuite CEO Zach Nelson told a crowd of 6,500 attendees at this year's SuiteWorld user conference.

"You all have issues. Customers are coming at you from so many different channels, and the coupling of information about your customers applies to all of you," Nelson said in his opening keynote.

To accommodate this new omnichannel reality, Nelson and many others at the SuiteWorld conference were calling for a new, broader definition of CRM that brings together e-commerce, social, and mobile capabilities where internal and external enterprise applications are colliding.

"The old definition of CRM is wrong," Nelson said. "It's not just lead management and sales force automation. You need to have CRM to identify customers wherever they are."

The next generation of CRM, Nelson added, is "a merging of CRM and ERP systems. The only way to get a single view of the customer is with a single system of record," Nelson said.

And, of course, NetSuite wants to be the supplier of that system, with Nelson and other company executives promoting NetSuite's strategy of combining CRM with other back-office systems.

In this consolidated business software environment, "order management is the center of everything," Nelson said. "It drives every other business process."

To show how important this has become for NetSuite, company officials pointed to the acquisition of cloud-based order management software provider OrderMotion a year ago.

Andy Lloyd, general manager of commerce products at NetSuite, said during another afternoon presentation that the expansion of CRM goes beyond ERP systems. "Customer lifetime profitability requires a convergence of financials, accounting, marketing, and other systems," he said. Business intelligence becomes very important, he added.

While Lloyd broadly described CRM as systems for sales force automation, marketing, and support, he said that today's business executives can't live in technology siloes. "E-commerce, CRM, and ERP are all related," he stated.

All three systems, Lloyd said, "are about understanding who customers are, what they buy, and what they like. And the customer in the CRM system is the same one in the e-commerce system."

As long as CRM, e-commerce, and ERP are separate, the data will never flow seamlessly between them, he cautioned.

"The massive amount of data available is reason enough for the convergence," Lloyd stated.

And while on the surface the data might appear different, it's really not. "With CRM and e-commerce together, you present one face to the customer," he said. "And then, every piece of data you have can be used to sell to the customer.

"If you play it all out correctly, you want to know everything you can about the customer when you're trying to sell to him," Lloyd said.

But while the message of the conference at Day 1 was about consolidation of CRM with other systems, many analysts said that message is one NetSuite has been touting for years.

"It's something NetSuite has been talking about all along," says Laurie McCabe, of the SMB Group.

So what's different now? Nelson said the message is finally starting to resonate with a broader base of clients. Last year was a record year for NetSuite, and the fourth year in a row that it delivered accelerating revenue growth.

And the company expects its customer base to grow even more significantly this year as it continues to expand in the midmarket and enterprise and other segments. One of those segments is the professional services industry, with NetSuite announcing moves to ramp up its offering for services companies, with its next release slated for next month.

Nelson announced the new functionality, which he identified during his keynote as services resource planning, or SRP.

"Our intention has always been to automate services processes in the same way we automate manufacturing processes," Nelson said.

Nelson pointed out that the new release will borrow heavily from technology it gained during its 2008 acquisition of professional services automation software vendor OpenAir.


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