Review: NetSuite 8.6

By John Taschek  |  Posted 2003-05-09 Print this article Print

Compared with other midmarket hosted CRM solutions, NetLedger's application is in a class by itself.

Compared with other midmarket hosted CRM solutions, NetLedgers application is in a class by itself—a position that opens it up to unrelenting attacks by its competitors.

NetLedger has evolved its eponymously named application from an accounting and math package to part of a fully functional CRM package: NetSuite, released last December.

eWEEK Labs tested NetSuite 8.6, which is actually a combination of three NetLedger services: NetCRM, Oracle Small Business Suite and the companys namesake accounting package.

In tests, NetSuite was very easy to use, although it has unpolished areas. These include import and export of data, a two- or three-step process in some cases, and reports, which force users to depart from the reports area to set date periods rather than handling the customization directly in the reporting modules. We also ran into several idiosyncrasies in the system, including NetSuites habit of pigeonholing data lists in areas that make only marginal sense.

To most users, this wont matter—theyll be working instead through NetLedgers dashboard area, a fully customizable portal into the entire NetSuite stack. NetLedger can house the entire front-office data, so the dashboard actually works (see screen). None of the other systems we tested has the same kind of tight module integration.

Its this tight integration that makes NetSuite so appealing for small businesses. NetSuite includes ties to Yahoo Inc.s Yahoo Shopping and some small-business payment brokers, as well as to catalog merchants. NetSuite is the only system that can publish a Web site based on a companys inventory, create lead management programs, accept payment through a payment broker, and credit and debit accounts automatically. NetSuite can also link directly to third-party catalog management packages by scripting URLs into the NetSuite system via the Web software development kit.

This integration is incredible to the mom and pop store, but it also gives NetLedger the smell of the small business. Dont be fooled, however: NetLedger can be used by departments within extremely large companies, although NetLedger focuses on extremely small companies. Larger companies can turn off the features targeted at the SOHO and small/medium business space.

The issue, then, becomes how NetSuite can be integrated with legacy and preinstalled applications. In this regard, NetSuite has some features that make it an extremely accessible front-office suite, such as the ability for IT administrators to get database table access, which is useful to connect into reporting systems, among other things.

As the director of eWEEK Labs, John manages a staff that tests and analyzes a wide range of corporate technology products. He has been instrumental in expanding eWEEK Labs' analyses into actual user environments, and has continually engineered the Labs for accurate portrayal of true enterprise infrastructures. John also writes eWEEK's 'Wide Angle' column, which challenges readers interested in enterprise products and strategies to reconsider old assumptions and think about existing IT problems in new ways. Prior to his tenure at eWEEK, which started in 1994, Taschek headed up the performance testing lab at PC/Computing magazine (now called Smart Business). Taschek got his start in IT in Washington D.C., holding various technical positions at the National Alliance of Business and the Department of Housing and Urban Development. There, he and his colleagues assisted the government office with integrating the Windows desktop operating system with HUD's legacy mainframe and mid-range servers.

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