Navigating the NetSuite Implementation Landscape - SystemsAccountants

Estimated reading time: 10 minutes Navigating the NetSuite Implementation Landscape

An ERP solution like NetSuite can secure new efficiencies and boost organisations’ performance. Yet implementing an ERP system is a major undertaking. The stakes are high, given the expense and time involved. In addition, a poorly managed implementation may mean the software fails to operate at its full potential.

Organisations can cut these risks with thorough planning, an understanding of how the system may change business operations, and a skilled, cross-functional team. A strong recruitment partner can also help by, among other responsibilities, working to ensure the project reflects the organisation’s goals and remains on track and within budget.

By contributing to the success of a NetSuite implementation and the organisation’s performance, employees can advance their own careers in two ways. First, they can free themselves up to perform high-value tasks such as data analysis. Second, they can develop valuable transformation expertise – much sought after in the job market.

Guidelines for Successful NetSuite Implementations

Most NetSuite implementations reflect the goals of the individual organisation, accounting for its size, industry, technology profile, and other factors. However, some attributes are common across many implementations.

  • Align implementation with corporate objectives

Successful implementations prioritise the capabilities that best support the organisation’s goals. For instance, an e-commerce retailer might focus on improving inventory management, while a manufacturer might look to boost its production planning capabilities.     

  • Secure executive buy-in

Support from the executive team is key to securing the resources required for an effective implementation. The executive(s) involved can also check that the project remains aligned with the organisation’s strategy and goals and address any employee resistance. For advice on how to secure buy-in for a transformation initiative, read our guide, How to win backing for your finance transformation.

  • Be agile and open to change

While a clear vision is important, implementation projects need to be adaptable to solve new problems and seize opportunities as they arise. “There’s so much you can do with the system. If you have someone who’s sitting at the top and they say, ‘Only what I say goes,’ then you’re not using it to its full potential,” says Kevin Schaffartzik, Managing Consultant at SystemsAccountants.

Steps to Successfully Implementing NetSuite

These actions are foundational to a strong NetSuite deployment:

  • Define the system’s requirements.

“Before proceeding with an implementation, organisations need to take the time to understand their business processes and the challenges they’re trying to solve, says Kevin Ramme, NetSuite Consultant and President of NetSuite consulting firm Rampart Enterprise Solutions. If these aren’t clear upfront, then success becomes a moving target.

By leveraging this information, the implementation team can develop relevant requirements for the system. The more detailed the requirements are, the better they can guide the project. It’s also helpful to identify what isn’t needed from the project. Then the team can avoid steps that add work but don’t benefit the organisation.

  • Develop an implementation plan.

This should outline the timeline and resources required, accounting for any necessary integrations to other systems, the degree of customisation needed, and the volume of internal resources that can be dedicated to the implementation, among other factors. 

  • Establish a change management plan.

Implementations can often fall short of their goals when employees don’t understand and embrace the changes required of them. That can be particularly true when the solution is as comprehensive as NetSuite. A solid change management plan will identify the communication and training tools that can address employees’ concerns, and that will help them learn the system and the reasons for its implementation. This information can boost their commitment to the system and capture their support.

  • Assess the trade-offs of implementing NetSuite yourself, through a NetSuite Services team, or with a recruitment partner.

Each option has pros and cons. A DIY approach tends to require a lower initial investment. However, if your organisation lacks the needed expertise, it’s probably not a realistic course of action.

NetSuite Services consultants are trained by NetSuite. They can provide practical recommendations, drawing from their in-depth knowledge of the software and experience working with many businesses.

An implementation partner can help identify the business requirements and guide any customisation and integrations with other software. A partner also can act as an advocate and check that all parties understand what licences or modules your company is purchasing, Kevin Schaffartzik says.

  • Identify other systems that will integrate with NetSuite.

NetSuite offers robust integration capabilities with other systems through its SuiteTalk API. This allows for seamless data exchange and automation across diverse systems such as CRM, e-commerce, and ERP. NetSuite also supports third-party tools which help streamline integration processes. Mapping what integrations will be necessary at the outset is a key part of the implementation process.

  • Assess whether any customisation is warranted.

Weigh the costs of customisation against the benefits it will bring, and remember these can be the immediate costs of development and the long-term costs of maintenance and updates. Consult with NetSuite professionals or implementation partners. These experts can provide insights based on their experiences with similar businesses and industries, helping you avoid unnecessary customisations and focusing on what adds genuine value.

  • Establish a budget.

A budget can protect against scope creep and keep the implementation focused on the company’s priorities. At the same time, it should allocate the resources needed for a solid implementation. Failing to do so—say, by skimping on training—may compromise the solution’s ultimate success.

Among other expenses, the budget should include contingency amounts, licensing and professional services fees, needed upgrades to the existing IT infrastructure, and any slowdown in operations while employees learn the new system.

  • Assemble the implementation team.

“With NetSuite, it definitely takes a village,” Kevin Ramme says. Teams often include a NetSuite administrator, project manager, business analyst, finance or accounting professionals, developers, and representatives from the business areas who can check that NetSuite supports their business processes.

A strong team is key, even when an implementation partner is engaged. “To leverage NetSuite to its full potential, even with an implementation partner, you want to be there from the beginning and understand the processes,” says Kevin Schaffartzik.

  • Develop and enact a data migration plan.

This step includes identifying the data that will migrate, as well as the steps needed to correct, archive, or delete inaccurate, unnecessary, or duplicate data. Once the data migration begins, regularly checking that the process is working as intended helps to head off problems.

  • Install, test, revise, and retest. 

Technical testing helps to identify any bugs, while end-user testing can check whether the solution is addressing the challenges for which it’s being implemented, and how well employees understand the new processes. The more testing that occurs before going live, the more it’s possible to address potential glitches before they escalate.

Employee Attributes That Add Value to a NetSuite Implementation

Gaining NetSuite experience can transform employees’ careers. Beyond a deep technical understanding of NetSuite platform, some key additional attributes can help employees add value.

  • Project management and leadership skills

This includes strategic awareness to understand the project’s goals, assimilating different points of view to reach decisions that drive the project forward, and possessing the ability to keep the project on track.

  • Communication skills

Along with communicating their own insight, team members will need to consider feedback from a range of perspectives and functions. They will also need to overcome potential resistance to change, and this can be achieved by effectively communicating the benefits NetSuite can bring.

For a more detailed analysis of the skills needed to excel in a finance systems career, read our report, Mastering A Career In Finance Systems.

The power of a NetSuite recruitment partner

A strong recruitment partner will understand both the NetSuite ecosystem and the organisation’s business. The partner can leverage this information to identify the resources and actions needed for success. They also establish and maintain relationships with both the companies deploying NetSuite and qualified candidates who can bring the needed skills and expertise to the implementation.

By taking a thoughtful approach and leveraging the necessary resources, organisations can improve the success of their NetSuite implementations. In doing so, they’ll streamline operations, gain more accurate and timely reporting, and improve customer service, ultimately enhancing overall business performance.