April 15, 2013
Living as I do smack bang in the middle of a wine producing region, I’m always interested to see smart software being applied to the viticulture industry. Primary product is a very honest industry, but when that primary production is all about selling a product that is often differentiated on perception, brand and fine levels of quality differential, any advantage that technology can offer makes sense. So given all that, I was interested to get an email from SVP at NetSuite Mei Li (disclosure – I’ve done a small amount of consulting to NetSuite and the company customarily invites me to their annual user conference) telling me about a new solutions targeted specifically at this sector.
Essentially the crux of the announcement is that NetSuite and eWinery Solutions are partnering in an effort to deliver an end to end business solution for wine industry companies. VinSuite aims to be the first truly integrated cloud application that runs the end-to-end business of wine – including in person, telesales, B2B and B2C selling of the product. eWinery is well established in this sector – they were founded in 2003, and they recently merged with Napa Valley POS, a company delivering POS software targeted to the wine industry. Between them they provide services to over 550 clients both, with more than 75% of all wine produced and sold in the US being produced by companies who use eWinery Solutions-Napa Valley POS software
It has to be pointed out that the announcement is one that talks about a product that is yet to come and, as such, runs the risk of being seen to be simply vaporware – but as a case study in how vertically specific back office and commerce solutions can be built – it’s one to explore.
The rationale for the combined product, to be called VinSuite, is logical. Like other industries in traditional sectors, wineries traditionally use multiple disparate systems – this causes slippage as data gets misplaced between systems and, if nothing else, is a sure fire way to reduce the efficiencies at which a wine operation works. Given the hyper-competitive nature of the wine industry, and the fact that Old World wine producers are increasingly engaged in a battle royale with producers from the new world – and it makes sense that a solution that ties together the different parts of the operation makes sense.
VinSuite will, once it is built, run a number of different business operations for wine operations – from tasting room point-of-sale (POS) systems, wine club membership and program management, to allocations of inventories, order management, customer relationship management, and omnichannel sales including tasting room, telesales, B2B and B2C eCommerce and global expansion. VinSuite, to be built atop the SuiteCloud development platform, will combine the power of NetSuite’s ERP, CRM, and eCommerce alongside eWinery’s vertical domain knowledge.
I spoke to Ron Scharman from eWinery solutions about the partnership – he assured me that a product is currently being built and will be available, at least in beta, at NetSuite’s SuiteWorld event in May. Plans are to launch the product in the first quarter of 2014. I suggested to Scharman that wine businesses need a solution that actually spans the entire process from growing to manufacturing to sales. He let me know that the company is actually close to signing an agreement with a cloud based winemaking software solution which will then be integrated into VinSuite – that starts to sound compelling as it truly allows a small-scale producer to cover off their end-to-end requirements from within one product suite.
The promise of this solution sounds really compelling. It does trouble me a little that the companies are announcing the product when it is still little more than a partnership agreement. While it may be de rigeur for software companies to announce partnerships only to have them fade into the ether – in the cloudy world it’s about delivering real solutions of value to customers. VinSuite should be able to do that but I’d rather have seen at least a beta product alongside this announcement. In response to this criticism Scharman said that they really wanted to come out early and inform the market of their intentions. I guess we’ll see in a few months whether the market was justified in sitting up and taking notice of the announcement.