NetSuite adds ERP support for iPhone

Early users give the thumbs up but want more

NetSuite on Wednesday plans to unveil a new native application for the iPhone and iPod Touch that lets users of its on-demand ERP (enterprise resource planning) suite tap a number of key capabilities while on the go.

Capabilities include a dashboards for viewing company KPIs (key performance indicators), graphs, scorecards, reports and other data.

A calendar feature allows users to accept or decline events and denote completed tasks. Salespeople can tap various data, such as contacts, opportunities, cases and orders.

The application also provides features like "click-to-call" from NetSuite records that include a phone number.

NetSuite customers hailed the new application, but said there is room for improvement.

WhippleHill Communications, a Bedford, New Hampshire company that develops portal and content management systems for schools, switched to NetSuite after using QuickBooks, homegrown applications and Microsoft CRM (customer relationship management) software, according to company president and founder Travis Warren.

"We were excited about NetSuite but not thrilled with their mobile option. It didn't run well on our BlackBerries," he said.

However, in recent years, WhippleHill employees have been switching to iPhones. Apple's moves to ensure iPhone compatibility with Microsoft Exchange only boosted the 85-person company's enthusiasm for the device further, he added.

Warren, a beta tester on the iPhone app, is using it to gain quick and easy views into his company's performance, he said.

"I can see how much cash we have, our sales, tickets opened today. I get it all in one glance."

While he could always log into NetSuite and get the same information, it's much less cumbersome to use the iPhone, which "is always on," versus booting up a laptop and plugging in a Wi-Fi card, he said.

Warren also appreciates the fact that the iPhone app preserves the hierarchy and structure of his core NetSuite account, with no need for separate configuration.

"If I have five KPIs [set up] in NetSuite, I have the same ones on the phone."

But the initial application has its shortcomings, chiefly that users can't write back much information into the NetSuite system.

NetSuite customer Brad Kugler, CEO of Distribution Video and Audio, a Palm Harbor, Florida video distributor, has also been using the iPhone application and is hoping NetSuite will expand such capabilities.

"Being able to enter simple lead and customer info would be helpful," he said in an e-mail.

Kugler also wants access to more granular data.

"I think it would be helpful to be able to get snapshots of a particular inventory item, vendor or customer history (sales, units sold, profit, days behind, YTD info, etc.) at a glance," he said.

NetSuite's goals for the app's first installment was to provide executives with a "360 degree view" of their business, said Malin Huffman, principal product manager.

The company plans to boost write-back capabilities over time, he added. "It's definitely in our road map for the future."

NetSuite is making the initial iPhone application available for free.

"Down the road, it's hard to say what other apps and versions [will be developed], and if a different model makes sense," Huffman said. "With this, we want to get people engaged."

The application is available in English at first, but NetSuite is planning to add additional language support as well, according to Huffman.

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