• April 6, 2006
  • By Marshall Lager, founder and managing principal, Third Idea Consulting; contributor, CRM magazine

NetSuite Episode 11: Revenge of the Suite

As NetSuite launched the latest version of its on-demand CRM suite, NetSuite Version 11.0, on Wednesday, CEO Zach Nelson portrayed his company as a brave rebel force fighting the evil empire of Darth Microsoft, Darth SAP, and Darth Wannabe (Salesforce.com). The suite continues the company's bid to capture the midmarket and contains a customizable business process platform, two new vertical products, and AJAX functionality in every part of the user interface. SuiteScript, the new BP-tailoring toolset, is being touted by NetSuite as the first such in the SaaS market. "One charge against on-demand applications has been their limited customizability. With SuiteScript, NetSuite explodes this myth by allowing complete customization of business processes using powerful, industry-standard JavaScript," said Evan Goldberg, chairman, founder, and CTO, in a written release. "And unlike many on-premise applications, these customizations require no maintenance from version to version, allowing customers and solution providers to concentrate on delivering finely tailored solutions to their users, rather than maintaining software upgrades." Goldberg backed up his statements with a live demonstration of BP customization, creating a contract approval process in NetSuite faster than he could describe the action. AJAX is nothing new to NetSuite, having been introduced as a navigation aid in version 8.0 in 2002. Version 11.0 grows AJAX beyond a convenience into a vital part of the suite's functionality. The user interface is now fully dynamic, with rollovers, collapsible sections, and instant drag-and-drop customization of the page layout making it perform like installed software. AJAX also empowers functions like scheduling, reporting, and document management. The two new vertical suite products, for wholesalers and services companies, follow NetSuite's recent announcement of an edition tailored for software developers. According to Nelson, these are true vertical versions of NetSuite as opposed to customizations. Referring back to the Software Company Edition and the importance of concerted efforts in verticals, Nelson said, "Revenue recognition isn't just a customization, because I don't want to go to jail." After the announcement Mini Peiris, senior director of product management, explained that each new vertical version had a functional team determining what specific sorts of functions and modules were most desired in that particular industry, building them proactively. Peiris also indicated there were more verticalized versions of NetSuite planned. Analysts on hand for the announcement were upbeat regarding the new capabilities. "Everyone is looking at verticals, but NetSuite is delivering products that address their needs," said Sanjeev Aggarwal, senior analyst for small and medium business strategies at Yankee Group. He also favored the expanded AJAX functionality. "The whole focus on a suite, a set of applications that look and act alike, is a huge contribution to improving productivity. A major reason for the success of [Microsoft] Office is the look. NetSuite could become the Office of on-demand CRM." Nelson's presentation drew heavily on Star Wars metaphors and imagery: Suite Wars showed SAP taking the stance that suites are good, but on-demand is bad; Salesforce claiming the opposite ("Why use one on-demand system when you can use 20?"); and Microsoft stating that both suites and on-demand are bad, but they would become good when it
released a product that could do both. Never one to shy away from pointed criticism of his competitors, Suite Wars shows that Nelson and NetSuite are ready to take the offensive with aggressive marketing to capture the midmarket. Related articles: NetSuite Powers Up(right) NetSuite Launches a New Platform
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