Life is full of big decisions. Where should I go to college? What career should I choose? Buy a home vs rent? What ERP software should my business I use? -- Ok, maybe the last one isn’t as common, but if you’re reading this, it’s surely a dilemma that strikes a chord. As the workplace becomes less centralized and the world of digital everything continues to disrupt traditional business models, having the right technology in place with accurate, actionable data at your fingertips can be a game changer in today’s business climate.
Though we may be a bit biased as a leading NetSuite Solution Provider, we think NetSuite is the cloud-based ERP of choice, but for those of you new to ERP there are a number of other options that you may also be considering.
So, we’ve done all the heavy lifting for you!
In this guide, we’ve outlined all of the most common consideration points when choosing a ERP solution and honestly evaluated the NetSuite pros & cons in each area.
Make sure to bookmark this page and use the links below to jump around as you continue to explore NetSuite.
Table of Contents
Chapter 1: What is NetSuite?
NetSuite is cloud-based Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) software. In a nutshell, ERP software integrates departmental functions and processes like finance, planning, purchasing, sales, marketing, inventory, human resources and more to form as a central nervous system for the business.
By having all your data in one system you have instant access to all your vendor, customer, item/inventory and transaction data at your fingertips. Gone are the days of inaccuracies and delays that result from disparate systems and Excel.
NetSuite is deployed in a multi-tenant environment hosted by NetSuite (now part of Oracle). This architecture is the most economical because the cost to develop and maintain the software is spread across many customers.
NetSuite is offered via a subscription model. Many small businesses find the “pay-as-you go” nature of SaaS compelling, as it shifts ERP expense from CapEx to OpEx and allows them to focus on their core business, not managing and maintaining software.
To help make your evaluation process easier, this guide will go into the pros and cons of the six key areas to consider:
- Industry Fit
- Cost of NetSuite
- NetSuite Extensibility
- NetSuite Flexibility
- NetSuite Ecosystem
Then of course, we’ll quickly weigh the software against its major competitors. Let’s get to it.
Will NetSuite Work For My Business?
One of the best things about NetSuite is how well it works for so many different industries and company sizes. Whether you’re a start- up with just a few employees or a large enterprise with thousands of users, NetSuite could make a lot of sense.
Currently, NetSuite has a specific solutions and functionality for the following industries:
- Discrete Manufacturing
- Wholesale Distribution
- Apparel, Footwear and Accessories (AFA)
- Advertising & Media
- Nonprofit Organizations
- Professional Services
For companies that operate in several business models, NetSuite distinguishes itself from all the other types of solutions available in the marketplace due to the breadth of offerings from a single application, platform, and database. For example, let’s take a manufacturing company that sells physical products both online and in brick & mortar stores. At a minimum this business will need the following types of software applications to support the operations of the organization.
- Accounting & Financial Management Software
- Inventory Management Software
- Warehouse Management Software
- Manufacturing Management Software
- Demand Planning / MRP Software
- Procurement Software
- CRM Software for Sales
- CRM Software for Customer Support
- Ecommerce Software
- Point of Sale Software
- Human Resource Management Software
That’s a lot of applications and integrations to contend with!
Let’s take another common example, a SaaS based software company with a professional services organization. In this scenario, the software company would need the following applications:
- Accounting & Financial Management Software
- Revenue Recognition Software
- Recurring Billing Software
- CRM Software for Sales (sales force automation & commission tracking)
- CRM and Issue Tracking for Customer Support
- Professional Service Automation Software
- Time & Expense Management Software
- Human Resource Software
In both of the examples above NetSuite natively supports each of these types of business models and processes with out-of-the-box functionality and requires zero integration.
If you were to go down the path of a best of breed approach for the examples listed above you would be faced with multiple system integrations and most likely require an iPaaS platform (e.g. Dell Boomi, Jitterbit, etc.) to assist in the management of the integrations.
For larger organizations this is nothing new, however for smaller businesses and even medium size companies looking to reduce complexity within their IT environment NetSuite can be a no brainer.
Pro: A leading ERP solution for many industries, sizes and business models.
But don't just take our word for it, NetSuite was Recognized as a “Challenger” in Cloud Core Financial Management Suites by Gartner for large and enterprise size companies in June 2017.
In addition, G2 Crowd, a leading business software review platform came out with their "Best Accounting Software" review this month that placed NetSuite in the "highest overall market presence" category for cloud-based ERP solutions aimed at the SMB and Mid-Market space.
Bottom line, NetSuite can compete and lead both in the enterprise space as well as in the SMB space across many types of industries and business models.
Con: Not Ideal for certain industries and deployment models.
NetSuite can be a great fit for many organizations but not all. Historically speaking, NetSuite has not aggressively poured R&D investments to support the following industries:
- Public and Higher Education
- State & Local Governments
- Banking & Insurance
- Architectural, Engineering and Construction (ARC)
While on-premise ERP solutions are going the way of dinosaurs, for some companies requiring an on-premise ERP solution or hybrid approach NetSuite is not a viable option since it is only deployed in a multi-tenant environment hosted by Oracle.
Chapter 3: Price - How Much Does NetSuite Cost
As with all ERP software, NetSuite is a significant investment, but the value derived from that investment can be a no brainer for many companies, especially those that have historically had a bad experience trying to integrate and manage multiple “best of breed” applications. A system consolidation can easily end up saving an organization a tremendous money and headache.
Let’s weigh the pros and cons.
Pro: Tiered & Modular Pricing for Companies of All Sizes
Let's start with the basics; NetSuite is commonly offered in three tiers for different size companies.
- Limited Edition (formerly known as NetSuite Small Business Pricing)
- Mid-Market Edition
- Enterprise Edition
Each edition is based on the number of user licenses and the total number of employees within your organization. For example, NetSuite Limited Edition is packaged for companies that need less than 10 license users while Mid-Market Edition is for companies that need to license between 11 and 1,000 users. Finally, Enterprise Edition is for companies that need more than 1,000 user licenses.
Each edition comes with foundational (CRM & ERP) functionality such as Customer Relationship Management, Financial Management, Procurement, Order Management, Item and Inventory Management and employee self service known as Employee Center.
In addition to the basic functionality, NetSuite offers several advanced modules you can license based upon your specific business needs. An example of these may include things like Demand Planning, Fixed Asset Management, Point of Sale or Warehouse Management.
You can add these advanced modules at any time during the length of your NetSuite subscription term and the cost of the additional modules varies by type.
Lastly, when it comes to licensing NetSuite some companies opt to just license NetSuite Financial Management (No CRM) or just NetSuite CRM (No ERP). The choice is totally up to you!
NetSuite Prices vs The Competition
NetSuite pricing starts at $999 per month for Limited Edition (designed for Startups and Small Businesses) plus $99 per month per user.
- Intacct – Intacct starts at $425/month
- QuickBooks Enterprise – Starts around $880 per year.
- FinancialForce - Starts around $9,000 per year
On the surface it appears NetSuite is significantly more expensive by a significant margin when compared to the likes of QuickBooks or Intacct however once you apply real world scenarios to the equation NetSuite begins to make a lot of financial sense, pun intended!
Quick example, let’s say you are a manufacturing company that offers both physical products and services and you are in the market for a cloud based solution to help you manage finances, projects and inventory.
If you choose a stand alone accounting system like QuickBooks or Intacct you’re going to need to establish a handful of other software vendor relationships to cobble together a complete solution which may look something like this…
- Financial Management: Intacct or QuickBooks
- Inventory and/or Warehouse Management: Fishbowl, QStock or Rootstock
- Project Management: Projector PSA or Asana
- HR & Payroll: Paychex or ADP
Once you factor in the dollars and time spent connecting these systems either technically through integrations or manually through spreadsheets and employees the total cost of ownership (TCO) starts to add up very quickly.
With NetSuite, its one platform, one database and one application no integrations necessary!
Con: You Can Expect Your Price To Increase Overtime
This should not come as a surprise but like most things in life they get more expensive over time. This is especially true with SaaS, because the intent is that the software vendor will provide you with incremental value in proportion to your increased investment.
Chapter 4: Extensibility - NetSuite Integrations
Often times prospective NetSuite customers have specific applications they want to keep as part of their overall NetSuite solution. Examples may include, Salesforce CRM, Shopify Ecommerce sites, in-house developed inventory or billing systems.
The good news is that in addition to being an integrated set of software applications, NetSuite is also a platform. This platform is referred to as SuiteCloud. The SuiteCloud platform provides the tools and framework to enable customers, partners and software developers to customize NetSuite to meet specific business needs, such as system integration.
Pro: Built from the Ground Up to Support Application Integration
There are some situations where an existing software application already has a native NetSuite integration because it is built on the SuiteCloud Platform. In instances where this is not the case there’s generally three approaches to NetSuite integrations.
NetSuite Connectors: Connectors are productized integrations to solve common use cases. Celigo, FarApp and others have developed connectors to quickly and affordably integrate NetSuite with other commonly used applications such as Salesforce, Shopify, ZenDesk, Magento, Amazon, Ebay and more. This type of integration is generally sold as a subscription and contains the “Built for NetSuite” badge which essentially ensures the connector has been thoroughly tested prior to the latest NetSuite release.
NetSuite Integration Platforms: Integration platforms, also referred to iPaaS enable the development, deployment and governance of data flows between applications. IPaaS makes most sense when companies are looking to tie multiple systems together vs just a single end point. Potential iPaaS vendors to consider for NetSuite include Jitterbit, Dell Boomi and Celigo IO.
NetSuite Integrations (Custom): Custom integrations are just that they are developed on a case by case basis to meet specific business requirements. SuiteTalk allows customers or developers to use any programming language or platform that supports the SOAP standard or lightweight REST-based applications.
Con: System Integration Adds Cost & Complexity To Your NetSuite Environment
While NetSuite very much supports system integration it’s easy to underestimate the potential for additional cost and complexity to your environment. For smaller organizations that dont have the manpower or budget to support multiple system integrations its advisable to leverage NetSuite’s native features where possible.
Chapter 5: Flexibility - NetSuite Customizations
Pro: Ability to Automotate & Customize Business Processes
Native NetSuite offers substantial depth and breadth however there are instances where your going to want to make minor or perhaps substantial changes to the way NetSuite works natively. In fact, I’d venture to say most NetSuite deployments have some level of custom configuration.
With SuiteScript users can create custom fields and forms, customized documents, simple or complex workflows, highly complex scripting and integration via NetSuite web services or restlet through NetSuite’s APIs.
Potential customers often ask, “can (insert phrase) be done in NetSuite”. The quick answer I generally give is that anything is possible with NetSuite pending your budget and project timeline. Of course this is an oversimplification but the reality is the sky's the limit when it comes to NetSuite customization.
Chapter 6: Ecosystem (NetSuite Support & NetSuite Partner Network
Within the NetSuite ecosystem there are two primary paths for all things NetSuite related.
The first, known as The Channel includes two programs: NetSuite Solution Provider Program and the NetSuite Solution Development NetSuite (SDN) Program.
- NetSuite Solution Providers (SP): Sell, implement and support NetSuite license customers. NetSuite Solution Providers are in essence ERP Resellers providing counsel to companies considering NetSuite for the first time.
- NetSuite Solution Development Network (SDN): Are NetSuite partners that develop software solutions designed to enhance specific functionality in NetSuite. These solutions are sometimes built on the NetSuite SuiteCloud Platform and in almost all cases have some form of integration with NetSuite either natively or with a purpose built connector.
Some NetSuite partners are both SP’s and SDN partners, for example Techfino is part of the SDN program with our NetSuite Archive & Purge application known as CleanSweep as well as a NetSuite Solution Provider helping new clients license NetSuite for the very first time. For a catalog of SDN Partners and solutions go to SuiteApp for further research.
The second path, is to engage directly with NetSuite Professional Services and Support organization. NetSuite has its own dedicated sales team, professional services and support organization, though since the Oracle acquisition NetSuite has scaled down its internal professional services organization and brought on more partners to help with professional services.
Pro: Free of Charge
NetSuite offers basic support free of charge when you subscribe to any of NetSuite’s software solutions. This support option is limited to on-line case submission and during local business hours.
Con: You May Require Premium Support
For customers that desire to talk with a NetSuite Support rep 24x7 you will need to purchase NetSuite Premium Support along with your NetSuite license contract.
NetSuite Support via Solution Provider
In a perfect world NetSuite users should utilize their NetSuite Solution Provider for NetSuite Support related issues and questions since they will have the most context about your NetSuite environment and potential customizations and/or integrations.
Con: May Cost More
NetSuite Support is a fixed cost based upon your license agreement. There’s no limit to the number of support calls you can make. Whereas with a Solution Provider it's generally based on a consumption based model.
Pro: Large User Network
You will find NetSuite User Groups located throughout much of the US.
For example, there’s the
- Florida NetSuite NetSuite User Group
- New York NetSuite User Group
- Atlanta NetSuite User Group
- Rocky Mountain NetSuite User Group
- San Francisco NetSuite User Group
Pro: Large NetSuite Partner Network
NetSuite has hundreds of NetSuite Solution Providers in North America and many more globally. Being able to leverage the vast network of consultants and developers ensures your never left on your own to maximize your NetSuite investment.
Pro: NetSuite Conference (SuiteWorld)
NetSuite hosts an annual conference called, SuiteWorld, that allows customers, prospective customers, partners, vendors and all involved in the NetSuite ecosystem to come together for the better part of a week for education, networking and executive keynotes regarding the direction of the business entity and application.
Pro: Oracle Acquisition
The Oracle acquisition of NetSuite will only bolster the partner network of Solution Providers, SDN partners and overall investment into the infrastructure around these programs which will end up benefit the greater NetSuite community.
Chapter 7: NetSuite Competitors
As you might expect, a powerful ERP system like NetSuite requires a significant investment. In response to the higher sticker price of ERP software, small business leaders have attempted to cobble together their own version using a variety of applications, connectors and tools in the market that “cost less” individually. The nickname for such a system is known as “the hairball”. NetSuite use to get a lot of mileage out of this slogan in the last few years.
Truth be told most companies today run a mish-mash of systems for various departments. The cloud has only exacerbated this situation with all types of freemium and low entry / high value SaaS applications aimed to solve common challenges.
Once companies scale to a certain size this approach starts to provide diminishing returns. After you factor in all the vendor relationships, maintenance, updates, integration issues and custom development you suddenly find yourself in a place where your data is all over the place and Excel and headcount becomes your duct tape solution.
The ERP space has many product offerings but those products come from only a handful of software companies like SAP, Oracle, Sage, Microsoft and Infor.
In the last year alone there has been some substantial acquisitions by Oracle (NetSuite) and Sage (Intacct) which has caused even greater consolidation among these vendors.
The NetSuite comparisons below represent common software products companies evaluate when considering NetSuite.
Intacct vs NetSuite
In terms of pure financial management capability for a small single entity, you can’t really go wrong with either software – both are viewed as solid alternatives for companies outgrowing QuickBooks.
However for many companies that have needs beyond accounting, like inventory & warehouse management, project management, point of sale, ecommerce, project management, HR, etc. NetSuite is the more likely choice.
Read the full Intacct vs NetSuite review here: Intacct vs NetSuite Ultimate Comparison Guide.
NetSuite vs FinancialForce (FF)
Both FinancialForce and NetSuite have capabilities around financial management, project & resource management and billing management and both easily integrate with Salesforce CRM. However this is the extent of the overlap. Once you get outside of the Professional Services industry FinancialForce may have trouble competing especially in areas of wholesale distribution, manufacturing, retail and ecommerce.
Read the full NetSuite vs FinancialForce review here: NetSuite vs FinancialForce Comparison Guide.
NetSuite vs QuickBooks
Handsdown QuickBooks is the undisputed champ when it comes to a accounting solution for startups and small businesses and meets many of the users needs right out of the gate.
However, overtime as the company scales and needs expand, QuickBooks begins to run out of steam. Once a QuickBook user has a need for the following features it's time to seriously consider NetSuite…
- multi-subsidiary intercompany transactions and consolidation
- multi-book accounting
- fixed assets management
- recurring / subscription / usage based billing
- revenue recognition
NetSuite vs Microsoft Dynamics
Depending upon the Dynamics product you are considering (AX, GP, NV, 365) the story is generally the same. Essentially all of Microsoft ERP products got here due to acquisition and they generally contain a similar theme...rigid, difficult or impossible to customize and expensive to deploy and maintain.
Now, Give it a Test Drive!
Now I'm sure you are thinking it all sounds great in theory, but the only way to know what we’re really talking about is to give NetSuite a try for yourself. Talk to us here at Techfino and we’ll help you set up a free 15-Day unlimited trial of NetSuite and walk you through how to use it to achieve your business goals.