What we learned at: SuiteWorld 2018
The NetSuite glitterati descended on Las Vegas to hear the latest news and releases from the cloud platform provider at its flagship SuiteWorld event this week.
Now operating in 199 countries around the world, NetSuite currently boasts growth figures that a startup would be proud of, but 18 months on from the firm’s acquisition by Oracle, customers and staff were looking for reassurance that its corporate parent would let it continue to grow its own way.
‘No intention’ of ditching the brand
Having started life as a cloud side-bet by Oracle founder Larry Ellison, one of the concerns around reeling NetSuite back into the the mothership was that the brand would be swallowed up like so many before it. Eighteen months on, customers and staff at SuiteWorld said that NetSuite DNA had so far remained intact.
During a Q&A session, Oracle CEO Mark Hurd said he was “ecstatic” at how the integration was working out and stated categorically that he had “no intention” of ditching the NetSuite brand.
“We’re leveraging Oracle’s strengths without applying its bureaucracy,” said Hurd, “particularly around leveraging our data centre footprint.”
In terms of product, the big announcement in Las Vegas was the platform’s upcoming multinational tax function, SuiteTax. NetSuite’s SVP of enterprise and international products Craig Sullivan told AccountingWEB the new function will handle indirect tax regimes in 140 different countries.
“It will bring huge benefits smaller businesses looking to trade internationally and will not just support key counties, but also more complex markets like China and Brazil,” said Sullivan.
International tax rates will be regularly updated and out-of-the-box reports will let users drill down to transaction level and see how the tax has been calculated. SuiteTax is anticipated in the UK towards the end of 2018.
A shifting customer base
Company EVP Jim McGeever told AccountingWEB that NetSuite had “added a layer below” its previous customer base.
“We’re selling to young customers transitioning up from products like QuickBooks - small, fast-growing mid-market companies,” said McGeever.
This success derives in part from NetSuite’s focus on high-growth tech businesses and expansion into new territories. In the years before the acquisition, however, NetSuite had begun to drift upwards towards clients traditionally served by Oracle. An alternative take would be that the current developments are simply a reset to the status quo.
Specific solutions for artificial intelligence
SuiteWorld saw NetSuite launch its first ‘intelligent cloud suite’ with new AI and machine learning offerings to help finance teams analyse past payment history with vendors and customers, enhance cash flow predictions and improve audit risk analysis. There was also a demonstration of tool’s new pivot function.
While artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning are top tech buzzwords, specific details on what they could actually offer businesses and their accountants are still fairly thin on the ground. NetSuite co-founder Evan Goldberg said he believed AI should not be deployed as a general purpose solution, but instead focus on integrated, specific applications, helping finance professionals spot things that might otherwise be missed, such as identifying outliers in expense approvals.
Move to cloud an ‘irresistible force’
Speaking at the event via satellite link, Oracle CEO Mark Hurd labelled the shift to cloud as an “irresistible force” and predicted that in just a few years the bulk of company workloads will be in the cloud.
Listing the main drivers behind the cloud juggernaut, Hurd stated: “It simply costs less. You get more innovation – constantly updating features as part of a subscription – and it’s more secure. Put simply, you pay less to get more.”
Accounting firm play
As NetSuite grows internationally, it is beginning to experience constraints from a shortage of expertise on the platform. In respone, the developer is turning to larger accounting firms to spread the word and act as trusted advisors to clients on technology as well as financial matters.
In an interview to follow next week, AccountingWEB spoke with RSM partner Roger Lovis about the adoption of technology consultancy services by accounting firms outside the Big Four.