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NetSuite Adds Customization Features

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Posted December 15, 2003 By Kevin Newcomb     Feedback

NetSuite customization is a major breakthrough because it solves two problems facing the small businesses using hosted applications. NetSuite eliminates 'one size fits all' solutions and enables upgrades of customized applications.

NetSuite, maker of Oracle's Small Business Suite, this week countered a common criticism of hosted applications by launching new customization technology that makes its online applications as customizable as traditional, "self- managed" applications.

NetSuite enables small- and mid-sized companies to manage all key business operations in a single, integrated system, which includes customer relationship management; order fulfillment, inventory, finance and product assembly; e-commerce and Web site management; and employee productivity. In addition, NetSuite is delivered as an online service, so there is no hardware to procure, no large, up-front license fee, and no complex set-ups.

NetSuite has always offered advanced configuration capabilities, such as user-defined dashboards and the ability to add an unlimited number of custom fields. But these new customization features go much further, at least according to Sean Rollings, NetSuite senior director of marketing.

"We're not just talking about advanced configuration or setup. We're talking about the true hardcore customization capability. We're allowing people to fundamentally alter the underlying application architecture and logic," Rollings said. "We're doing this in two ways — allowing customers to create entirely new record sets, and to be able to add custom logic to forms.

NetSuite also addresses a major shortcoming of traditional application customization by automatically carrying forward customizations with each new release. Traditional application software has the major drawback that once customized, it is very difficult to upgrade to newer versions of the business application when they become available, Rollings said.

Because NetSuite manages all software releases and upgrades for all of its customers, the company architected the features of NetSuite so that upgrades would carry forward all customizations in every account.

"We've really successfully overcome the 'one-size-fits-all' stigma that's been associated with online solutions," Rollings said. "Because of the ability to carry forward upgrades with simplicity, taking out the complexity, this is probably the ideal solution you'd see with anybody."

NetSuite Custom Records allows companies to extend the database structure of NetSuite to support complex data relationships unique to each business. With this feature, businesses can define their own custom record sets that can then be related to standard records within NetSuite in a one-to-one or one-to-many manner.

For example, using NetSuite Custom Records, a company could create defect- or issue-management records with custom fields that track severity, status, defect details, and resolution details. These defect records could then be linked to standard support cases in a one-to-many data model. As another example, a company might gather customer survey data via a custom record exposed as an online form, and then link the responses to the survey to each customer record in a one-to-one data model.

NetSuite Custom Code allows businesses to programmatically define validation and business rules that operate client-side on data forms. To make custom code simpler and more cost-effective to implement, NetSuite uses industry standard JavaScript. NetSuite Custom Code can be used to perform simple field validations, such as enforcing that phone numbers are entered in a particular format or much more complex business rules, such as enforcing sales methodologies.

Particular steps within the methodology could be implemented via custom sub-tabs and custom fields on the opportunity which the sales representative uses to indicate their progress. Custom code would then enforce that an opportunity status can not be moved forward to an 80% probability of close with a status of "In Negotiation," for example, without completing the "Presented Value Proposition" step.

With these customization features, a company could easily incorporate the processes, industry requirements, and personalization it needs. Taking that a step further, NetSuite also unveiled Account Cloning, a new capability that allows Solution Providers to configure and customize NetSuite to meet the needs of a particular industry segment, and then replicate that account as they sell it to multiple companies within that target market.

"We've worked to develop a tool and a process for our solution providers where they configure and customize to industry requirements, creating an industry template — a solution for a specific industry where they can leverage their vertical expertise and be able to create a new way to go to market. They then replicate this template through NetSuite Account Cloning and take that standard to multiple customers. It's a detailed, highly configured and customized solution for the industry that they can replicate easily," Rollings said.

Solution providers are able to use standard tools to take their vertical market expertise to multiple customers in a cost-effective way. "That brings them more revenue, greater profits because this is a higher-margin approach to doing it, and they also become a foremost leader within that vertical," Rollings said. "We've talked to our solutions providers, and they've said this is a 'customize once, sell often' approach."

For customers, they now have access to a robust, affordable solution that is specific to their industry and meets their specific needs. In addition, they can still further customize the solution to their specific company needs.

"They have all the industry requirements they need, but they can still tailor down to the company, department and personal level for the individual users. All of this is carried forward seamlessly with every upgrade," Rollings said.

Adapted from ASPnews.com.

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