NetSuite boosts global capabilities of its SaaS ERP software

Enhancements such as support for multiple currencies and tax laws are designed to appeal to larger companies with international operations

NetSuite on Wednesday announced a series of enhancements and offerings meant to make its on-demand ERP (enterprise resource planning) software more desirable to larger companies, particularly those with international operations.

Most of the new features concern NetSuite OneWorld, which wraps features such as support for multiple currencies and tax laws around the core suite. NetSuite has further fleshed out OneWorld's capabilities in the new release, which is now available.

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The latest version of OneWorld supports automated tax reporting for 42 countries, up from seven at the start of this year, said Paul Turner, senior director of product marketing. In addition, the system now supports 17 languages.

OneWorld's financials module is gaining more abilities with respect to the closing of financial periods. Accounting modules can now be locked "on a subsidiary-by-subsidiary basis, further improving controls and accountability during monthly and annual closing," NetSuite said in a statement.

Manufacturing customers now have a standard costing feature, which will be appealing to larger companies, Turner said. Customers can attach a standard cost to each inventory item and then compare those figures to actual costs as they go through a quarter. Any differences they spot could help them figure out ways to save money either during procurement or production.

NetSuite has also plugged in a fixed asset management system that allows users to track the lifecycle of their buildings, vehicles and equipment. That capability was recently acquired from NetSuite's partner, Nolan Business Solutions, and is already being used by many NetSuite customers, Turner said.

Other improvements center on analytics. Customers can use a new feature to slice and dice data within the system, rather than off-loading it to an Excel spreadsheet.

NetSuite is also boosting its security capabilities through a new partnership with CA Technologies. Under the agreement, CA's two-factor authentication technology will be applied on NetSuite's back-end systems and sold as an option to customers.

While NetSuite had already offered two-factor authentication, which couples the usual username and password with an encrypted token, the CA partnership takes the technology to an "enterprise" level, Turner said. Moreover, the cost of such a system would typically be quite burdensome for a midsized company, he said. "We can run this very, very efficiently."

OneWorld is now deployed in about 100 countries around the world, Turner said. While NetSuite isn't yet serving as the sole ERP provider of a major multinational corporation, OneWorld is making inroads in companies as large as education company Knowledge Universe, which has more than 40,000 employees.

Knowledge Universe is rolling out NetSuite's software now and will ultimately have "thousands" of subscription seats, Turner said. NetSuite is also targeting its products at large companies interested in "two-tier" ERP, where to save money and time, a third-party package like NetSuite is rolled out in a new foreign office or subsidiary and tied back into a core system from vendors such as SAP or Oracle.

NetSuite is trying to go upmarket as a growth strategy, said Forrester Research analyst Paul Hamerman. "They feel their core capabilities, particularly in financial areas, are competitive and meet the needs of multinational companies."

But NetSuite still has some missing pieces, Hamerman said. "They need to fill out the operational ERP components." While NetSuite has a variety of capabilities for procurement and manufacturing, "it's certainly not as comprehensive as an Oracle or an SAP."

That said, "there are a lot of types of companies that don't need a full-blown core ERP system for manufacturing or things like that," Hamerman added.

The CA partnership makes sense as well, he said. "One of the challenges NetSuite has is convincing customers SaaS [software-as-a-service] is safe. I think it is, but NetSuite constantly has to reassure customers they have industrial-strength capabilities around security."

It remains to be seen whether the new features give NetSuite a significant leg up on its competitors, which include Workday and SAP's Business ByDesign as well as on-premises software packages from companies like Infor and Epicor.

Chris Kanaracus covers enterprise software and general technology breaking news for The IDG News Service. Chris's email address is Chris_Kanaracus@idg.com.

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