NetSuite Launches a New Platform

NetSuite answered Salesforce.com's upcoming summer solution with a launch of its own today, throwing in some added customization features and simple point and click application-building technology. The company's new platform, NetFlex, includes three key elements: NetFlex Customization enables users to conduct simple point-and-click personalization of dashboards, carry out search-summary analysis functions, and create customer tabs. It includes the ability to color code screens and brand them with company logos. The second, NetFlex AppBuilder, is a toolset that essentially enables employees to create a customer database by pointing and clicking instead of using code. The third element, NetFlex Web Services, provides a standardized way for existing NetSuite customers to access its data and business processes, and makes it easy to integrate NetSuite with other systems. Any program that supports the Simple Object Access Protocol (SOAP) standard, such as Java and .Net, can integrate into the system. Liz Herbert, an analyst with Forrester Research, says that NetSuite is playing catch-up with its Web services, but praises NetFlex's simplicity, particularly the ability to edit information right on the dashboard: "Sales users complain about having to constantly go to different screens and navigate back and forth while on the call. Salespeople aren't goaled on using software, they're goaled on making sales." Anything a company can do to make life easier for them to achieve that task will be beneficial. NetSuite has so much confidence in its eXtreme List Editing and the idea of being able to drop and drag on the dashboard that both concepts are pending patents, according to Mini Peiris, senior director of product management. "Drilling into the dashboard and changing the record is much more intensive," she says. "[With this system] you can select and edit multiple rows like in Excel. It's a little more organized and you can see more information." Sticking with the concept of simplicity is the application builder, which includes custom records, tabs, and code. The ultimate flexibility is in creating various types of relationships, including one-to-one, one-to-many, and many-to-many. "AppBuilder is very different in that someone like a data analyst, who doesn't code but understands this [information], can use point and click rather than having to resort to code" or contact an IT person, Peiris says. AppBuilder's integration capabilities are just point and click--there's no coding or programming involved. Herbert agrees that ease-of-use can provide a huge advantage to using this hosted solution. She cites an example of a company based in the United States with an IT department in Europe that is using a premise-based solution. "Any time they need any kind of customer report they send an email to the U.K.," she says. Then the company has to wait until the next day to find the solution to a problem. "Partially it's about hassles and partially it's the time delay," she says. Knowing that anyone can build or update an application without being technology savvy is a big plus. Another feature of NetFlex is Role-Based Permissions, in which only certain employees have access to specific information. This feature is "a must-have for midmarket and enterprise companies," Herbert says, "especially if you're in an industry where data is sensitive." Some capabilities of NetFlex are available now, with complete rollout of Web services and custom tabs expected in mid-April. Related articles: Salesforce.com Previews Summer '05
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