NetLedger Debuts New Product, New Name

By Kevin Newcomb | Posted September 19, 2003

NetLedger today debuted a new product release and a new company name, launching version 9.0 of its flagship NetSuite mid-market enterprise resouce planning (ERP) and customer relationship management (CRM) product, and changing the company name to NetSuite Inc.

"The NetLedger name was great when it was created, but the goal was always to build this integrated ERP/CRM solution," NetSuite CEO Zach Nelson said. "We were thinking of changing the name last year when we introduced the NetSuite product. We've been out there with the NetSuite brand now for a year on the product, and most of our marketing has been focused on NetSuite. Now the transition from NetLedger to NetSuite is going to be pretty straightforward for us and for our customers, most of whom are using NetSuite."

The changes to the product focus on functionality and usability, with enhancements to the code base that supports the NetSuite and Oracle Small Business Suite products as well as NetERP and Net CRM modules. NetSuite is also introducing a high end product with advanced features aimed at companies who distribute products, including wholesalers, distributors and larger e-commerce companies.

"We're able to segment the market a little bit and offer functionality at a price point that makes sense for different sizes of companies," Nelson said. "It's all one product, we're just turning on and off different things. All of our customers are on the same code base."

Second to None
From a functionality standpoint, NetSuite has added features that Nelson said are "first and only" for an application service provider (ASP) product. "This is the first time any of this stuff has been able to be done online. Things like serialized inventory for people who track inventory, for example, are important in product companies. Pick, pack and ship inventory process now available in an online form. Bar coding is now available for both scanning and generating bar coding labels."

Other features aren't even available in installed software for the mid-market, according to Nelson. Matrix Items is a feature that allows companies that have items that have multiple attributes to keep track of the items as a single item with multiple attributes rather than as multiple items.

An example is clothing, which comes in various styles, sizes and colors. Without Matrix Items, each variation would be listed in the company's inventory, and in turn on their NetSuite-enabled Web store, as a separate item. With only a few different attributes, the number of variations easily reaches into the hundreds.

"When you start talking about hundreds and thousands of items, that becomes very challenging," Nelson said. "What Matrix Items allows you to do is create a matrix of shirts, color sizes, logos, and it generates all the items for you in a matter of seconds, with SKU numbers and everything else."

Since NetSuite can be used to generate a Web store from real-time inventory, this feature also plays a role there. Now, when a customer is shopping on a company's website and wants to buy a T-shirt with a certain logo, color and size, they don't have to look through every variation to find what they want, he said.

"It will just show them T-shirts with a pick-list next to it to let customers pick the variety, color, and size. They can essentially design their shirt online and then that goes back and tells the inventory in NetSuite which item that is. That has a very positive effect on the shopping experience," Nelson said.

Pick, Pack and Ship
The other major feature — which Nelson said is not available in any other software product today — is the integration of the entire UPS shipping application program interface (API) into the product.

"Only Amazon.com has had access to this," Nelson said. "Some companies have had UPS shipping through something called UPS Online Tools, but nobody has been given the right to integrate the entire UPS shipping API into the product."

In addition to automatically calculating shipping rates and times, NetSuite can automatically generate the tracking number from UPS, verify the address via UPS, and allow the customer to generate the barcode label that goes on the package from their own printer. Previously, customers had to buy a separate device from UPS to print the label, which was called UPS WorldShip.

E-Commerce has always been a large part of NetSuite's user base, because of the ability to have all transactions automatically go into the accounting and CRM packages, and the Wholesalers and Distributors category was the company's top industry. So features like matrix items; serialized inventory; pick, pack and ship; and other inventory features serve two of NetSuite's largest customer bases — which was by no means an accident, Nelson said.

"We made a conscious effort this time to go deep into features that they need and deep into features that larger wholesalers and distributors and e-commerce companies need. That was how we prioritized the features for this release."

Dashboards and Portlets
The second area the new release focuses on is usability, Nelson said. The "dashboard" user interface has been improved to include drag and drop functionality and inline editing of lists. The dashboard, which is the start page that every user works from, can be completely customized by dragging and dropping information "portlets" anywhere on the screen.

What NetSuite calls "Xtreme List Editing" is a feature that is common in Windows desktop products, but unavailable in a Web-based product, Nelson said. With this feature, customized lists can be edited right from the user dashboard, without having to enter the actual record or form being modified.

"You can have a list of customers to be called and instead of drilling into each record, you change it right there on your dashboard. So you never have to leave your dashboard now to do your job," Nelson said. "That's really important from a usability standpoint, especially with sales applications. From a Web application standpoint, it helps us, because each time you click a link, you have to load a new page and the user has to wait. So it's also a nice performance feature we can offer customers."

Pricing Details
Pricing for the Oracle Small Business Suite and NetSuite remain the same. The entry-level Oracle Small Business Suite starting at $1400 per year for 1 user, with additional users added for $50 per user per month. NetSuite starts at $4800 for 2 users, plus $75 per user per month.

These products will get the usability features in this release, like editable lists and new dashboard technology. NetCRM and NetERP are separate modules, which will also get the appropriate features in the new release.

To house all the advanced shipping and receiving, inventory, matrix items and commission management features, the company is creating a higher-end product, called NetSuite Pro. NetSuite Pro starts at $9000 per year for 3 full users, plus an additional $75 per user per month.

Adapted from ASPnews.com.

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