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Hello, and welcome to our second installment of our Ask the Professor series.  This week our question comes from Royce.

Royce writes, hey professor we are in the process of evaluating NetSuite to replace an existing ERP system that we haven’t premises.  One of the concerns we have is if NetSuite will be able to flex with our business.  How customizable is NetSuite, and what gotchas will we face down the road, if we go with NetSuite?

So Royce, the short answer is that NetSuite is very customizable, and if we just stop there that make a very short show.  However to answer your question a little bit more in depth, and also answer the question about the gotchas you might face, let’s take a quick look.

So the first thing, let me tell you, you should actually talk to your salesperson about customization, and what types of things you are looking to do.  They should be able to provide you with information about what types of customization you would need, and provide some resources, and things like that.  Now as far as the customization of NetSuite goes, the way that you can customize NetSuite kind of fits into a number of buckets.  And there’s kind of look and feel customization, behavior customization, extra features, things that you can add-on, and then integrations.

So taking a look at these, the first and let’s tackle is the look and feel of it.  So you can customize the look of NetSuite, and if I go ahead and go to a recent record here, and I’ll go to this sales order.  This sales order has a kind of a look and feel to it, there are fields in specific places, things like that.  You can customize all of this, you can change the forms, you can move fields, move forms, things like that.  There are tabs down here, you can move these however you need to.  There are fields that you can repurpose if you need them for something else.

In addition you can also add your own fields, things like that.  Now you’d do that all underneath Customization, Forms, where you could customize the forms themselves.  And you could customize both the on-screen forms, as well as the forms that are printed, so if you were to print this sales order it could print in a certain way, which may be a little bit different than the way that it’s viewable on screen.  As far as changing and adding fields and things like that, you would add those up here under Lists, Records, and Fields.  You can add lots of different fields, and things like that, to your NetSuite instance to capture any information that you think is needed or useful.  If there is information that NetSuite maybe hasn’t thought of, so maybe you need to capture records let’s say for contracts as an example, you could do that by adding custom records, so that’s one of the things that you can add as well.  If you have other information that maybe NetSuite hasn’t really thought about, that you need that’s specific to your business, you can add those as custom records, as well as capturing them in specific fields.  So if the information relates to a record is already there you could capture it in a specific field, but there’s also custom records, and you’d want to work with a developer or designer to kind of tailor your instance to what you need to capture for your business.

You can also customize things like the work centers which is, you know, kind of how it looks up here as far as the menus go, and things like that.  If we go back to the home screen, you can easily customize the dashboard, and things like that, by adding these little blue widgetized areas that are called portlets inside of NetSuite.

And obviously lastly, which should go without saying but you can customize the users, roles, permissions, things like that, and you can do that by going to setup and then user/roles.  It makes sense you would be able to customize the users.  Roles you can setup so that certain roles have different things they can do, and you can group users by role.  So you’re not setting up permissions for each individual user, you’re setting it up for the role itself.  So that’s kind of the look and feel.

The next thing we’ve got is the behavior, and that’s how NetSuite works.  Now there’s a lot that NetSuite does out-of-the-box, but there are inevitably going to be businesses that need to use NetSuite in a way that’s slightly different than what it does out-of-the-box.  So for that we’ve got a few different ways we can control the behavior.  One of the most common ways is to use workflows, and so if we go to Customization, Scripting, and we can see Workflows down here.  Workflows allow you to visually edit, or visually create, process flows inside of NetSuite.  So you can have records do certain things, or when certain actions happen in NetSuite you can have something trigger.  And these are very visual, so I’m going to go ahead and open this in a new tab and we’ll take a look at a workflow here.  So I’m going to go ahead and open this one in a new tab.  This only has a couple of actions, but basically workflows have these kind of actions here or these process steps, that are squares here, and you can run through a workflow and cause certain things to happen inside of NetSuite.  You can very easily build these, they’re not incredibly difficult, and NetSuite has a full class on how to do that.  We hope to put a course on here soon about workflows as well.  But there are also a number of webinars that have been recorded in NetSuite’s support center that will help you to build those workflows or to understand what’s going on there.  So that’s one way to you can customize it.

The next way is with SuiteScript.  So SuiteScript is just JavaScript with some extra functions that are included.  That’s found under Customization and Scripting, and this is actually where you’d do the script deployments, things like that.  Writing the scripts is done typically in an eclipse style editor that NetSuite has branded, and it’s just really writing code it’s not an incredibly difficult thing to do, it’s just essentially JavaScript.  Now most JavaScript developers know that JavaScript, and we’re talking about web applications, runs in the browser, JavaScript actually can run on a server as well.  NetSuite runs Google’s Java v8 engine, and they use that to run JavaScript on the backend, so you can make modifications inside of NetSuite as well, so you can have things that run on the backend of NetSuite.  These can be scheduled scripts, or triggered scripts, they can run when certain things happen, there’s a lot of flexibility there.  So if you can get a developer to do it, there’s just a lot that you can do with NetSuite, and developers for JavaScript are fairly readily available.  Learning SuiteScript is not incredibly difficult either.

The last thing to kind of customize the way that the behavior of NetSuite works, is under Setup, and Company, Enable Features.  And in here you can change a number of different things that happen inside of NetSuite, the way that NetSuite behaves things like that.  And typically during your implementation, your implementation consultants will take you through all of these different tabs, and all the different things that you can setup here, and work with you to figure out how your business works, and how you need certain things to function.  I’m not really going to go into any specifics of them, but there’s things that you can do, you can determine how projects works, or you can go under accounting and determine how different accounting functions work, and things like that.

Now there are a lot of extra features inside of NetSuite, there are billable components, and modules, and add-ons, and things like that.  So if we go to Setup, Company and View Billing Information, and I’ll go ahead and click that.  We can see information about how NetSuite’s billed for us, but more importantly, we can also see add-on modules, and this shows us kind of what I’ve got, and you can see, there are a lot of other add-on modules you can add.  You can see you can add job costing an example, you can add advanced order management, things like that.  Now some of these do have a cost to them, some of them NetSuite provides without a cost.  There are also a number of plug-ins, we can view these by going to Customization Plug-ins, and we could setup plug-ins which are kind of like third-party software.

There’s also bundles which are similar to plug-ins, we go to SuiteBundler down here, and choose search and install bundles, and I’ll go ahead and give that a click.  And if we do a search in here, we’re going to see a lot of bundles that come up.  There’s actually almost 15,000 of them at the time of this recording.  Now a lot of these aren’t really truly software, the truth is there are probably a few hundred to maybe a couple thousand that are actually valid bundles, a lot of these are really testing.  But if you think about it in realistic terms, a couple thousand bundles is a lot of different software you can add to this.  Now some of these are free, things that come from NetSuite’s SuiteLabs solution group, so these can include things like pivot reports, which is similar to pivot tables inside of Excel.  It can include things like file drag-and-drop, to allow you drag-and-drop files directly to records that are inside of NetSuite.  You can add on functionality to connect NetSuite to Outlook, you can do things like add sticky notes which will allow you to create sticky notes in your records inside of NetSuite.  So there’s a lot of functionality you can add with bundles and things like that.

In addition there’s also actually a third-party, kind of a cottage industry, that’s even popped up to add things.  Now some of the companies that add functionality to NetSuite actually are listed here inside of the bundle repository.  But some of them aren’t, it depends on how they had functionality, because there’s a lot of different ways.

NetSuite actually has their conference, SuiteWorld coming up here, and so if we take a look at their website, we can see if we go down here to sponsors.  We can see some of the sponsors which can include consultants and things like that, but also companies that provide a lot of other value.  So Dell Boomi, for example, which provides connectivity to other systems, Adaptive Insights, Merchant eSolutions which provides credit card processing, Avalara which provide sales tax information, Jitterbit which provides integration with other products and integrations you can do yourself, Expensify for expense reports.  Just a whole bunch different things that you can add here, and we can keep scrolling down but you can go take a look at this if you’d like, it’s at SuiteWorld sponsors.  There’s just a lot of stuff that you can do here inside of NetSuite.

I also would encourage you to go ahead and go to SuiteWorld if you have a chance, just because you can get a lot of information about NetSuite.  How other people using it, things you can do with it, and companies that help to extend the functionality of it.

So those are just some of the ways that you can extend or enhance the functionality of NetSuite, or customize it.  In addition to that, there’s also integrations.  So hopping back over to NetSuite, if we hover over Setup, we can see this integration menu.  Now that is just kind of gives us information about web services, but NetSuite has web services, as well as ODBC connectors, so that you can connect to and get information into and out of NetSuite.  The ODBC connector is typically just for information flowing outward, but the web services use a RESTful service setup, and this is a standard setup inside the web world.  And it provides a lot of functionality, so you can connect this really to any other apps that you want to, and when I say any other apps, I do literally mean any other apps that will support that type of connection, you can connect to it.  So you could have a WordPress or Magento powered e-commerce site, you could connect that.  You could connect shop floor machines if they have an Internet connection, and can connect through web services.  There’s just a lot of stuff you do here.

In fact customization is such a big thing that they even have this Customization Manager that provides a lot of information, there’s also a Setup Manager as well so.  And I know they both say Setup Manager, they’re actually different things.  They provide a lot of functionality for setting up your NetSuite system.  So there’s just a ton of customizability that you can do with NetSuite.

Royce, to answer the second part of your question, about any gotchas.  That’s really difficult without knowing your business model.  That’s something where you would need to talk about business specifics, and especially things that are critical to your specific business.  You’d want to talk about those with your sales rep and your implementation consultants.

My other piece of advice would be, that if there’s any functionality that you know is 100% critical to your business, I would get that in writing, that NetSuite will be able to make that work.  It’s not a question of if they can, it’s typically question of how much time it takes.  So that may be a little bit of a gotcha, just because sometimes these things do take a little bit of time.  Taking time of course costs money.  Some of the add-ons cost some money.  Pretty much all of the ones from third parties have a price associated with them.  Some of the ones through NetSuite have a price associated with them as well, though some of them are free.

I guess the other thing that I could say is a gotcha, would be vendor lock-in.  Now pretty much every ERP system has vendor lock-in, and it’s not that they necessarily want to lock you in, and NetSuite’s no different, they don’t really want to lock you in either.  The problem really is that their data structure is going to be slightly different from anybody else’s ERP data structure.  And you’re probably going to come into this when you’re leaving your current ERP system, that it’s difficult to get the data out, and the data doesn’t match exactly how NetSuite wants it to be.  You’ll get that same problem if you move from NetSuite to another system as well.  It’s just a matter of the way that ERP works.  Everybody implements it a little bit differently, so their data structure is going to be different.

Those are the only real big things that I can think of, in terms of gotchas.  I personally think NetSuite is one of the most flexible ERP systems around, certainly one of the most flexible that I’ve used.  And the fact that you don’t have to worry about hardware, and things like that, or anything that’s on premise, just adds to that flexibility.

So Royce, I hope this answered your questions.  To any of our other viewers out at their, you can go ahead and send your questions to ask at  You can also visit us on the web at for more great training.  Or you can connect with us on social media with the links below.  Thanks for watching, and have a great week.

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