Reporting with NetSuite & ClicData
In a perfect world, you wouldn’t need multiple applications to accomplish what you need. In a perfect world, all screws would use the same screwdriver, all electrical plugs would use the same plug, and you would never have to apply updates on your phone.
And when it comes to software, a perfect world would be an application that could run your entire business without the need to purchase any other application, module, or add-on. It would do everything perfectly and fit your business model like a glove.
NetSuite is as close as it gets to a full-featured enterprise solution. There are not many applications other than SAP that reach the level of completeness of NetSuite, as it can handle ERP, CRM, e-commerce, financials, HR, warehouse, logistics, and much more. It is highly customizable and configurable to meet your business needs and accommodate the business rules in your industry.
So why is it that many customers look for third-party solutions when it comes to Business Intelligence? And where does ClicData fit in?
The Right Tool for the Right Job
Despite having many modules and lots of functionality, the one thing that NetSuite is not is a full-featured Business Intelligence application. NetSuite does come with an analytics and reporting module of sorts, but it has only limited capability to report on all of NetSuite’s functionality, especially if you’ve configured NetSuite with custom fields, tables, business rules, and so forth.
Additionally, NetSuite is made for transactions, whether they’re financial or inventory, product or sales, marketing or customer-based. It is a powerful transactional application relying on an Oracle database, also owned by Oracle, which bought NetSuite in 2016. Oracle provides an excellent relational database, which is ideal for record-level views, additions, updates, and deletions.
But NetSuite is not ideal for reporting and analytics because databases need to process aggregations of rows—not individual rows—to produce reports and analyze data.
Business Intelligence, and in particular, data visualization in BI, is very graphical in nature, yet NetSuite, although certainly capable of displaying charts, was not designed or built for multi-dimensional analysis and visualization of data.
One (Highly Configurable) Application to Rule Them All
NetSuite is a large enterprise application serving many aspects of countless businesses spanning multiple industries and countries. Part of the reason that’s so is that it was designed to allow you to customize business rules and content across most of its modules.
But this configuration comes at a cost. Any data you customize outside of what NetSuite comes with remains unknown to NetSuite, so it does not know how to report on it. Its reporting module is designed for its common functionality; anything outside of that will require external tools. This is part of the reason NetSuite customers also purchase other BI tools such as ClicData.
A Suite of Multiple Applications
If your business can run solely on NetSuite, then that is a great achievement for your business team, which is able to model processes that work as NetSuite works, as well as your IT and integration teams, which can configure NetSuite to fit those processes.
Also, NetSuite was not built from the ground up as a single application with multiple modules that “talk” natively among each other. In many cases, NetSuite was built through software acquisition; they’d sometimes use different technologies and integrate them the best way they could.
What that means is that NetSuite is, well, a suite of applications from multiple vendors that were acquired over time and integrated to work as one. It also means that the intervals on how each module works might not be the same or consistent across NetSuite, once again requiring external reporting tools to deal with the differences between data structures and content. That’s where our ClicData connector for NetSuite comes in handy.
Best of Breed
Another reason NetSuite customers might choose to implement a BI tool too is that although NetSuite has a complete set of modules, it might not provide the functionality that the business needs. Or, it might not be as good as another tool in the market, leaving the user with two or more software applications.
It is not unheard of for customers to use NetSuite for the financial side of their business and use another tool such as Salesforce or SugarCRM for the sales/CRM side.
Finally, some users already have a warehouse/inventory management system in place and do not want to replace it, so they simply interface it to NetSuite.
This is where a BI solution comes in, especially one, such as ClicData, that features an integrated data warehouse. By employing a data warehouse with integration tools, you get to build an interface between all those applications and centralize all data so that you can build reports and dashboards across the business instead of across the business units or functionality.
Configuration is not Customization
When NetSuite is configured to enhance the business process by adding custom columns and data, it loses control over the new entities that are created—it no longer knows what those columns mean or what they do, or how to report on them.
For example, if you add a custom column to the Journal entries and want to do a custom report using that new column, at best, you will only be able to export it since most of the functionality is not aware of that new column.
Because an external BI tool starts with the premise that all data is new to it and it does not know how or when a user wants to report on it, it is a great fit for custom data as well as standard data from NetSuite. A BI platform such as ClicData ensures that all columns are equal when it comes to slicing, dicing, and aggregating. This allows you to create custom views and metrics on the data.
Externals are Users, Too
Here’s one last item that some of our customers who use NetSuite have told us. The benefit of having an external data warehouse and reporting system is that you sometimes need to share data with suppliers/vendors, external sales teams, partners, and others. But purchasing NetSuite licenses for all of them and managing their security can be a tremendous and costly effort.
By offloading some of the reporting access to a third-party tool, you get tighter control on security and license costs. You can also enhance your reporting with data from outside of NetSuite, so you can fulfill business requirements specifically tailored to those third-party tools.
In Summary: Combining NetSuite with a BI tool helps you to make better decisions
NetSuite is an all-around and complete ERP solution, ideal for small and medium-sized businesses. It is highly configurable and can fulfill most businesses’ most demanding financial, sales, marketing, and logistics needs. It comes with a built-in reporting system that can satisfy most needs, but it is lacking in flexibility and customization and can only handle data that it’s made aware of through its own configuration.
By adding a data warehouse along with a Business Intelligence platform that includes a set of data visualization tools, any business can start reaping the benefits of their data and use it to make smart, targeted, profitable decisions.