SuiteWorld Reflections

I spent this last week at SuiteWorld, NetSuite’s first ever global user conference, a melting pot of accents, customer stories and NetSuite partners shopping their wares. I’ve got a few posts to write about different things I saw and heard – I’ll ruminate over them in the coming weeks. First though something of an overview of the event.

It might seem unusual that NetSuite, a 12 years veteran in the space, only just got around to holding a user conference. In contrast to salesforce.com, whose DreamForce events have been the stuff of legends for many years (30k attendees last year), NetSuite has taken a more measured approach and decided to incrementally move towards this point – that’s neither a good nor a bad thing, although part of the reason for this may be the fact that whereas salesforce sells primarily into the CRM space (think salespeople amped up and handwaving), NetSuite, with its ERP focus, speaks to a more reserved audience that likes to “see the numbers”. NetSuite has waited till it’s been able to pony up with numbers before holding this event. And how do those numbers look? How’s this, from fellow attendee Dennis Howlett;

  • We avoided $275,000 in costs – Redbuilt
  • We went live in 10 locations in 2 months’ – Jollibee
  • We improved reconciliation efficiency 50% – Wasserman
  • We increased sales revenue 10x – eSet
  • We save $150,000 per year in IT infrastructure – learning3.com
  • We save $250,000 annually in IT overhead – SuccessFactors
  • We manage 10x more relationships – Prudential Locations
  • We increased sales by 30% and web traffic by 40%

Those same cautious financial types will be buoyed by the overt statements from NetSuite about moving up the food chain. Indeed a feature of the Day 1 keynote was seeing Mark Hurd from oracle, and NetSuite CEO Zack nelson absolutely enraptured with each other. While some commentators on the floor found this a little strange – it makes perfect sense to me. NetSuite announced a global partnership with Accenture, along with a new bigco offering, Unlimited. In order to minimize the concerns of decision makes within those fortune 500 companies, a strongly stated partnership with Oracle makes perfect sense. As an aside, there was some discussion amongst a few of us of the fantastic position Oracle is in – after all, as they are wont to state, they power much of the web – even if NetSuite is successful in ramping up sales of SaaS ERP, it still sits on top of Oracle kit – win/win?

This deep partnership extended so far as to result in a select group of analysts being invited to Larry Ellison’s home for dinner on day 1 – a nice gesture, but more importantly one designed to leave us in no doubt that, despite Ellison’s well known tirades against the Cloud, Oracle is firmly in bed with NetSuite.

I have some specific reflections on some things I saw at the event – but a brief overview;

  • NetSuite is partnering with Yammer to bring social to NetSuite users – this is, as an aside, a big deal for a Yammer somewhat caught off-guard by the mass roll-out of salesforce’s Chatter product. My medium term pick is an acquisition of Yammer by NetSuite
  • eBIZnet demo’d a truly impressive manufacturing offering built on top of NetSuite – not only was it exciting for its own sake, but it signifies NetSuite realizing customer stories of yet another software or hi tech company mean less in the real world than stories of real businesses doing “real stuff”
  • In a private briefing with the team responsible for building the third party developer ecosystem, we talked at length about nurturing the partners, and the fact that sometimes partner products end up being built by the mothership and included as core offerings. I got the impression that NetSuite really does “play nicely” with its partners and has open and frank discussion about what it does, and does not, see as core functionality

I’ll reflect on these points in some depth moving forwards but overall I was well impressed by the NetSuite event. While some might bemoan the shift in focus (NetSuite calls it a broadening of focus but I’m not convinced) away from SMBs and up the food chain, we can see that into the void comes innovative companies building offerings on top of the core NetSuite engine. Witness JCurve in Australia building a product that very much targets micro and small businesses – if NetSuite can replicate this sort of partnership elsewhere in the world, they look set to truly deliver on the promise of a consistent solution from the smallest, right up to some of the largest businesses.

NetSuite is in a very healthy position – growing well, with a positive band of partners, developers and customers and with a technology roadmap that is impressive. The next few years are certainly going to be a ride.

Disclaimer: NetSuite comp’d my travel, food and stay during the event.