NetSuite is a robust, cloud-based ERP and CRM solution that allows manufacturers to tap into real-time data and make better business decisions. Bailey Hydraulics, a manufacturer and distributor of hydraulic components, decided to make the switch to NetSuite to become more data-driven. Bailey was also excited by the prospect of using one system to handle multiple functions.
While NetSuite has been a boon for the company, implementation involved a bit of trial and error. Along the way, Bailey learned a number of best practices that can benefit other manufacturers, too.
Best Practice #1: Balance Customization with Native NetSuite Functionality
Before implementing NetSuite in 2014, Bailey’s roughly 150 employees had been using AS 400, with separate systems for CRM and accounting functions. Then, as Bailey marketing analyst Jonathan Holley puts it, “We made a big leap into the 21st century with NetSuite.”
Rather than examining existing processes and optimizing them for NetSuite, though, Bailey customized NetSuite to work just as its previous system had.
“There were so many people who had been doing business in a certain way for so long that in upgrading to a new system, we still wanted to keep the same processes,” Holley explains. “We wanted to pull up a screen and have the information in the exact same place. In many ways, we tried to mimic what we were doing before.”
It’s a testament to NetSuite’s flexibility that Bailey was able to customize the system so extensively. But in the end, the customization caused Bailey to miss out on NetSuite’s powerful native capabilities.
“We customized to such an extent that we really handicapped ourselves. It was a tough lesson to learn,” Holley says.
As Bailey now realizes, NetSuite implementations work best when you re-examine processes and optimize them to work with NetSuite. Instead of extensively customizing NetSuite to support the way you’ve always done things, try tweaking your processes for the best results.
Best Practice #2: Consolidate Data in one Location
Prior to NetSuite, Bailey stored data in multiple systems, making it tough to get a complete view of overall business operations. Some data was in AS 400, some was in a CRM system, and some was in accounting software.
The company made a conscious decision to work entirely within NetSuite for ERP and CRM functionality, bolstered by third-party add-ons like iCharts. Because company data is now housed in a single repository, everyone has access to all data, and data can be used more efficiently.
“We weren’t able to use our data before with it being in separate systems. It was harder to analyze what we were doing,” says Holley. As he explains, Bailey wanted to become a data-driven company and make sound business decisions based on its data. Thanks to NetSuite, all of Bailey’s data is in the same place, and everyone in the company, across all departments, can make decisions based the same analysis of the same data, in the same system.
“We now make real-time decisions based on data, so our business is a little leaner and definitely faster,” Holley says. For example, Bailey was able to analyze sales volume, locations, and shipping times to determine where to open new third-party logistics (3PL) locations. Bailey also reconfigured its geographic territories based on heat maps drawn from NetSuite data.
Best Practice #3: Manage Data and Processes Effectively with Visualization
Holley jokes that the best thing about NetSuite is that it contains so much data, and the worst thing about NetSuite is that it contains so much data.
iCharts, a visual analytics solution that’s native to NetSuite, helps Bailey quickly analyze reams of data and translate it into easy-to-understand charts. Then the data is pushed it out to users in a way that’s meaningful to them so they can make real-time business decisions without having to perform their own complex data analysis.
“iCharts has given us the ability to create a nice visual of what our business is doing,” Holley says. “I can push [data visualizations] to multiple groups, and it’s all in real time.”
Instead of going through the time-consuming process of exporting data to build visualizations in Excel, Holley has automated the process with iCharts. He’s able to create a visualization once and set it up to automatically populate with real-time NetSuite data. By visualizing the sales pipeline, for example, the sales department can use real-time data to make decisions about the regions that need attention and the product types that deserve greater focus.
“iCharts gives them a true visual and makes their decision-making better,” Holley says.
Best Practice #4: Use Automated Reporting for Deeper, More Nuanced Business Insights
iCharts has allowed Bailey to automate much of its data analysis, so analysts like Holley no longer have to spend as much time running ongoing reports. Instead of exporting data to Excel over and over to run weekly and monthly reports, Holley has time to analyze the company’s data more closely. “Being able to standardize those reports has made my job a whole lot easier,” he says. “Now I can dive into that data and find little pieces that we’re missing that I didn’t have time to look for before.”
iCharts automation has saved Holley so much time that he’s now able to engage more intensively with the data and develop deeper insights that address underlying business needs.
Best Practice #5: Expand NetSuite’s Capabilities with Third-Party Modules
The more data you can draw into NetSuite, the more analysis you can perform. That’s what Bailey has learned while using NetSuite. And NetSuite’s built-in flexibility makes it easy to add additional capabilities.
In addition to ERP and CRM, Bailey runs e-commerce through NetSuite and uses Suite Commerce Advanced, along with e-Solutions for credit card processing. The company relies on Avalara for tax automation and iCharts for data visualization. In 2017, Bailey will begin using Bronto for email marketing and will upgrade to the iCharts enterprise solution to start pulling outside data sets into NetSuite.
“We’ll find ways to integrate our floor management system and jobs tracking,” Holley says.
By pulling so much data into the NetSuite ecosystem, Bailey can build a true 360-degree view of its business operations and make the best data-driven decisions possible.