• February 28, 2008
  • By Marshall Lager, founder and managing principal, Third Idea Consulting; contributor, CRM magazine

NetSuite Calls In the BOS

Customizing a CRM system for business in a given vertical industry is time-consuming and difficult to do well, so software-as-a-service (SaaS) CRM vendor NetSuite is allowing the task to be handled by outside software developers. The NetSuite Business Operating System (NS-BOS), announced today, is a SaaS software development platform designed to help developers, independent software vendors (ISVs), and value added resellers (VARs) create industry specific applications targeting vertical markets. NS-BOS includes:
  • SaaS Infrastructure: Third-party applications will be hosted on NetSuite's multi-tenant, on-demand architecture.
  • Core Business Management Suite: By including the NetSuite application within the NS-BOS environment, ISVs can focus on adding features designed for specific industries instead of building core application capabilities like accounting, inventory, or order management.
  • SuiteFlex: NetSuite's technology platform for customer, partner, and development customization, verticalization, and business process automation includes tools and the SuiteScript programming language for creating new applications.
  • SuiteScript D-Bug: NetSuite claims this is the first Platform-as-a-Service code debugger, and is a key component of NS-BOS. It enables real-time code validation and testing against the entire NetSuite application, which can result in faster development.
  • SuiteBundler: This enables the delivery of ISV-built vertical solutions to SaaS customers in a packaged, repeatable manner, rather than recreating the code for each customer.
There is no additional cost for NS-BOS to developers, according to the company. Applications built with NS-BOS that include the NetSuite ERP / CRM / Ecommerce Suite will be priced by the ISV developing the vertical applications, with an agreed-to revenue share with NetSuite for the base suite. Along with NS-BOS, the company announced the first three vertical customizations built with it:
  • Supply chain management for manufacturers, by SPS Commerce;
  • Integrated CRM and ERP for government contractors, by Daston Corporation; and
  • Total commerce management, automating and integrating key business processes including supply chain management, procurement, competitor monitoring, and pricing, by IntroScape.
Finally, NetSuite has created a new position to oversee the NS-BOS development community. Michael Ni is now the vice president of industry solutions and ecosystem. In this new role, Ni will direct NetSuite's industry vertical initiatives, software developer programs, and will oversee the continuation of the development of NetSuite as a vertical application platform, according to the company. "Third-party vertical application developers are struggling to move their client/server applications to the SaaS model, and NS-BOS provides the technology they need to do that quickly," said Zach Nelson, CEO of NetSuite, in a statement. "But developers need more than just great technology; they also need a new approach to business mandated by the on-demand software approach. Michael has the experience and the skill to take our platform initiatives to the next level and to help our partners transition their business to the Software as a Service model." CRM industry analysts expressed approval of NetSuite's moves. "It's great to see all of NetSuite's strategic plans of the past year have been wrapped up within NS-BOS," says Gretchen Duhaime, senior research analyst with Aberdeen Group. "Vertical solutions are critical to our industry; NetSuite is keeping its focus on the core CRM system while it lets other developers take over the creation of vertical applications where they have the expertise." The introduction of NS-BOS has inevitably led to comparisons with rival Salesforce.com's Force development platform. "Both are addressing the same need," Duhaime says. "But while Salesforce.com is using third-party developers both for horizontal and vertical functionality, NetSuite is keeping its focus on the core application, which is more complete, and leaving vertical customization to the VARs." "It's a fairly savvy approach, participating in the platform hoo-ha without getting bogged down in vertical development," agrees Denis Pombriant, founder and managing principal of Beagle Research Group. "NetSuite has a different view of the ISV channel relationship--it's focused on giving people who want to use one or more core NetSuite applications the ability to get custom-crafted functionality. Salesforce.com is saying 'Don't use any of our applications if you don't want to; here's the Force platform, you can build your own if you want." On a lighter note, both experts expressed amusement over the choice of name for the developer platform. "It sounds a little too much like MS-DOS," Duhaime says. Pombriant notes that, "Given the orientation toward 'Suite,' I figured the name would have reflected that." He adds that, to him, the name "sounds like a combination of an international airport and a starship."

Related articles: NetSuite Takes Stock, and Sells It The on-demand CRM vendor posts a big IPO, suggesting the tech market is still buoyant. NetSuite: A Not-So-Quiet Quiet Period The on-demand provider fills its pre-IPO days with the announcement of SuiteBundler, a feature-and-function packaging system for resellers to maximize delivery of services. NetSuite Goes Vertical The on-demand provider releases upgrades to two vertical editions, as software-as-a-service vendors take "a more focused approach," according to one industry analyst. NetSuite iPhones It In The on-demand CRM vendor announces full in-browser capabilities for use on the wildly popular new Apple device; CRM on the hip could make Apple the next big mobile business tool. NetSuite Will Go IPO After years of rumor, the on-demand CRM vendor files papers to become a public company; analysts agree it's the right time, more or less. NetSuite Dials a New Number The on-demand CRM suite provider floats its latest version, combining analytics, back-office integration, and partner relationship management.
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