Technology hasn’t been a faithful servant to the small and medium businesses that are the backbone of the Australian economy. Staffed with anywhere between three and 300 people, SMEs (Small to Medium Enterprises/Businesses) have been left to look after their own tech support and do their own implementations. Worse still, they haven’t had access to the tools that keep the big boys on top of their game — integrated customer relationship management, inventory management, employee management and business resource planning.
This could soon change. NetSuite, founded in 1998 by everyone’s favourite software titan, Larry Ellison (of Oracle fame), aims to give SMEs access to high-end planning technology at a reasonably low-end price, starting at $99 per user per month.
There are two planks to the platform. It’s hosted, so the business doesn’t need to worry about the technology issues, and it’s built around a dashboard that is customised to give everyone from the managing director to the warehouse floor manager an overview of the business in real-time.
Big business users will be familiar with the dashboard concept. It’s somewhat analogous to flying an aircraft: all the systems are laid out in front of you, so if something changes, you’ll know about it. Unlike an aircraft flight panel, however, the dashboard is customisable by the user.
A sales manager, for example, gets to see leads and customer records. They can take a peek at how their sales staff are performing, see who’s writing orders, where the orders are, and when they’re likely to be fulfilled. Sales staff can see historical data about their customers, and can find out whether there are any problems preventing an order being filled. Customers also get their own customised log in, enabling them to see where their orders are and to place new orders via the Web.
Upper management has access to deeper financial performance data, giving them an overall view of the company, bank balances, best performing reps, outstanding orders and red light areas, e.g., delays in shipping orders to key customers.
NetSuite is also applicable for services — a medical practice can customise entries so that ‘clients’ appear as ‘patients’, and so on, while consultancies, which sell services rather than goods, can use the employee resource management features for time sheeting, service follow-through, and so on.
Implementation takes two to four weeks, with seamless data import from CSV and XML files. NetSuite distributor Net Return says it will assist customers with data in other formats. It’s locally hosted, and built atop an Oracle database.
At press time, Net Return was unable to provide local customers as reference sites. It does, however, point to 7000 US-based customers and claims an average return on investment of 600 per cent in the first year.
The idea of a dashboard is an intoxicating concept for a business manager (see here for a screenshot). Simply being able to see the state of the business at a glance should lead to better management and better business performance, and that alone makes NetSuite well worth checking out.
In brief: NetSuite
The hosted model makes this a powerful, flexible option for SMEs at a low-end price, but users need to weigh up the cost of being tied to a service provider.
Price: From $99 per user, per month
Distributor: Net Return
Phone: (02) 9779 0100