NetSuite ERP review

NetSuite offers one of the best-known cloud ERP products: how does it shape up?

Overall Score 
Scalable; Powerful, role-based dashboards; Excellent asset management tool
Opaque pricing policy
Well designed and easily customisable, NetSuite is a far more powerful and scalable offering than standard enterprise accounting cloud apps.
Core solution (General Ledger, Accounts Receivable and Accounts Payable, Inventory, and Fixed Assets): approx $129 (£80) per user per month

Over the past 15 years, NetSuite has grown from a single, pioneering, online accounting app into an encompassing suite that promises to manage all aspects of a business.

It's probably best to think of its NetSuite ERP (enterprise resource planning) cloud application as a sort of back office to your business. Through a series of modules sharing the same database, its core offering mixes the sort of standard accounting features you'll find in dedicated accounting apps such as the Salesforce-compatible Aqilla, together with stock and fixed asset management. But ERP also offers far more, including customer relationship management, sales and marketing and time-tracking activities.

As with most cloud apps, the hub of NetSuite ERP is a compact, customisable, real-time dashboard. Sensibly, its content is determined by your role, reflecting the fact that people often wear more than one hat in their business. At the top of the dashboard a toolbar links to the separate dashboards of the main sections; you just hover your mouse over the section to select one of its activities.

A sales rep's home dashboard focuses by default on leads and opportunities, and features an ever-present sub-toolbar under the main toolbar housing one-click links to new opportunities or sales orders screens. A financial controller's home dashboard on the other hand presents the latest company financial ratios and links to financial reports. You can quickly switch roles – and dashboards – from a drop-down menu. On balance, this role-based approach is a good thing, although because permissions – and therefore views – are role-based, it could mean having to switch between roles to see different information.

You can customise dashboards by adding, deleting or rearranging the portlets and can also create custom portlets – for example adding bespoke RSS or Atom feeds from a company feed.

Given the wealth of information available through these dashboards, it's reassuring to see that steps have been taken to avoid the risk of overloading the user information.

Administrators – or others assigned sufficient permissions – can publish dashboards for particular roles, overwriting local variations. It's a useful way to ensure that everyone assigned the same role sees identical information.

Given the wealth of information available through these dashboards, it's reassuring to see that steps have been taken to avoid the risk of overloading the user information. Wherever we were in the app, we found ourselves turning to the toolbar's History tab with its drop-down access to your most recently-viewed screens. It's a simple, effective way to switch between sections. Even better is a search field at the top right that gives impressively speedy access to any record contained in NetSuite. You just type in the first couple of letters of 'ledger', for example, and a link appears in the suggestion box below to take you to the general ledger page.

Most dashboards feature a key performance indicators (KPIs) portlet, which compares several important business metrics across two time periods. Many of the performance indicators have small pop-up trend graphs attached. This isn’t just visual frippery: they allow a richer visual indication of performance metrics, and rather than a stark two-period comparison, this can show monthly or annual trends. In many cases KPIs can be displayed visually in a separate KPI Meter portlet. This shows a snapshot illustration of KPIs such as actual against forecast performance or overdue cold call leads.

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