Last week NetSuite announced OneWorld, new technology that enables multi-national companies to manage their finances. If you are not a financial person, the distinction that the new offering provides may be lost, but let me tell you why you might want to care.
Multi-national connotes bigness — big company operations, offices, factories and personnel — working at different locations all over the planet. In fact, this connotation is valid, but it applies to smaller companies too. In fact, these days success for an emerging company is often closely coupled with the speed at which the company can achieve distribution in many geographies at once.
To complicate things, people in different places have their own currencies, work habits, laws and regulations and these differences represent a significant barrier to success for small companies. The same company might operate in English and use pounds sterling (and drive on the wrong side of the road) in one part of the world and use Kanji and Yen (driving on the same wrong side of the road) elsewhere.
Meanwhile, if the company has headquarters in the US, there are obvious language, currency, regulatory, and driving differences. Managing a company that has operations in all those places and then some can be a real challenge whenever the CEO wants to get a sense of the company’s health.
Not being much of a financial expert, I thought most companies had that consolidation and reconciliation problem figured out, but NetSuite CEO Zach Nelson likes to refer to it as a giant hairball. And people with direct experience in running multi-national companies just seem to smile and nod knowingly.
This all got me thinking the other day that for several years, NetSuite has been playing the part of the tortoise from Aesop’s fable. This isn’t the company that comes first to mind when you think about brash CEOs or mind-blowing new technology. But the company has assembled quite a track record in its short life of listening to customers and delivering products that help them run their businesses. NetSuite is the only on-demand company that I am aware of that offers ERP/accounting, CRM and eCommerce all in one pre-integrated deliverable.
What’s remarkable to me is that NetSuite has maintained its position as a solution for small and medium businesses, rather than climbing the ladder to enterprise computing. By doing this, they have avoided direct competition with SAP and papa bear’s other company, Oracle. There’s plenty of opportunity at this end of the market, made obvious by how many companies keep trying to shrink their products into the space.
One thing that might be a yellow flag for any small company implementing enterprise-wide software is complexity. There is not a lot anyone can do about it. Whether your are a ten million dollar company or a five hundred million dollar one, it takes work to set up all the applications you need to operate. So my advice to small companies thinking about enterprise-wide solutions — whether it’s NetSuite or something else — is to make a plan, engage outside assistance and set realistic goals. It’s a slow and steady approach and it works pretty well, just ask NetSuite.