Five lessons from the SuiteWorld16 conference

five lessons from the suiteworld 16 confrence

Our mission was simple: We were to investigate the potential for Klipfolio of NetSuite, a cloud-based suite of software services used to manage a business’s operations and customer relations.

NetSuite has, among other things, a service that supports office operations such as human resources, finance, orders, inventory, shipping and billing, and another that manages customer relations by supporting sales, marketing and customer insights. These services replace spreadsheets (which are error-prone) and management programs that operate independently of each other.

Are the NetSuite services right for Klipfolio? The company will eventually decide. But whether the company implements NetSuite or any other similar service, we learned some valuable lessons about how these services work; the lessons will be of use to any company looking to bring in new business management systems.

1. Get executive buy-in

It was made very clear to us that the company’s managers have to support the implementation of business management software if the project is to succeed.

We were told that there should be at least one vice-president championing the project. If not, a company may struggle to get all departments onside.

We were told that there should be at least one vice-president championing the project. If not, a company may struggle to get all departments onside.

Having a high-placed champion gives you the traction needed to push things through. The last thing you want, for example, is a cancelled or incomplete project because you couldn’t get enough time from your research and development people to make it work.

2. Look to the cloud

There’s a reason companies like NetSuite are having success with cloud-based products. A cloud-based system has a number of advantages, especially for smaller firms. You don’t have to manage servers, for example, and if the system goes down, it’s not up to you to fix the problem.

Data has also be accessed much more easily, by everyone in the firm. And because information is in the cloud, errors can be easily fixed. For example, if a missing invoice is found after month-end, it’s no problem to add it in and automatically generate an updated report.

So a cloud-based service can help a business grow without it having to build its own infrastructure. The onus is on the company you are paying.

3. Don’t let the data bog you down

“Grow big,” we were told, “but act small.”

In other words, use automated business processes to help yourself overcome growing pains, but don’t lose your agility.

In our case, we need more accurate and timely data to help make decisions as we see an increasing number of transactions, customers, employees and stakeholders. (We learned that from our recent pricing model change.)

We were warned, though, that even with a lot of solid data, it can be extremely difficult for big companies to make similar decisions because they are no longer nimble. So while automated business processes can help, they shouldn’t stop companies from being creative, innovative, and agile.

4. Start small

We were told that the clearest path to successful implementation of a business management system is to start small, usually with one department. Companies that try to do everything at once have a harder time succeeding.

Why? Because you have to establish a plan to migrate your data to the new system. That means mapping all your software requirements, business practices and processes. That is not easy to do. Once you have a workable migration plan in one department, it can be applied to others.

5. Consider the service’s partners

One thing we learned from SuiteWorld16 is that NetSuite has created its own ecosystem. In the same way there are apps designed to run with Apple products, so there are services designed to function with NetSuite. Within the expo hall, we saw 40 or 50 booths staffed by NetSuite partners that are provide add-on products, consultation services and implementation services. And not all NetSuite partners were present.

In NetSuite’s case, their partners provide services the company itself does not. So as we consider process management systems, we have to look at their whole ‘eco-system’ and not just the systems alone.

Those are the lessons we learned, but we have one other take-away from the conference – something that has particular meaning for us, but will be of interest to others.

Business management services generate data. Companies should get as much use as they can out of that data.

Klipfolio depends on data to generate dashboards. So it’s a sure bet that once we adopt an automated business process management service, we’ll be using the data the service generates to improve the way we generate our own internal dashboards.

Yan Kong is an accountant and guitar player. Patrick Begley is a business systems developer. When he’s not managing projects and integrating systems, he’s playing hockey, brewing beer and enjoying life.

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