All eyes are on how we can improve visibility across companies and create centralized sources of truth for the entire customer lifecycle from lead, to quote, to order, to cash and then to revenue recognition. Many of the companies we speak with are struggling to maintain an accurate source of truth for the most important financial metrics like AR aging, total receivables outstanding, profitability by client, product, and project, and overall margin. These “wartime metrics” are critical today, and we’re leading the charge to enable companies to make data-driven decisions well into the future. Our cloud platforms of choice are Salesforce and Netsuite. We have partnered with these companies because both offerings are the industry-leaders in each of their respective arenas. If you are a customer of one or the other, or if your organization has a well-operating internal competitor to these platforms, this article is not meant as a sales pitch or marketing ploy. Our professionals have implemented many CRM, ERP, and integration projects but the reason we chose these platforms are because they simply work together in a way that delivers the best long-term outcomes for our clients.
TL;DR: Pick the right tool for the job.
As a channel-driven organization, we get this question a lot from our partners at Oracle NetSuite and Salesforce. The answer simply boils down to this: We advise clients to select the best and most proven tool for the job. It’s also important to select the platform that does what you’re looking for as it’s primary function. Salesforce and Oracle are two cloud titans that spend an immense amount of money on marketing. In the world of SaaS, I’d say we can all agree that it’s safe to assume that your company will allocate product dollars in a way that somewhat closely aligns with marketing dollars, right? Well, Let’s hear from the companies themselves were they spend their marketing dollars assuming that product development follows. If you were to Google search Salesforce and NetSuite respectively, you would be met with a very simple way to see each company’s primary focus:
As the undisputed leader in CRM by any Gartner Quadrant or software review website you search, Salesforce knows exactly what they do better than any other company, and that’s their stock ticker (CRM). Of course, they have entered many new arenas through the acquisition of many of the world’s greatest companies in marketing automation, analytics, and quote to cash (to name a few) but this still should not take attention away from the fact that Salesforce’s most revenue-generating product is still Sales Cloud.
We’ve also had experience implementing other ERP and cloud accounting platforms that are built “on-platform”, meaning that these software development firms build their ERP suite of products on top of Salesforce’s underlying data model to create the utopian dream of having your ERP and CRM be the same system. Unfortunately, this exposes a lot of underlying issues. Primarily, the issue that you’re effectively stripping Salesforce platform of what it was built to do and re-architecting from the ground up. You are thereby relinquishing all of the years and money Salesforce has spent developing their industry-leading product and putting your trust in the hands of far smaller and less capable vendors, and also pitting them against the technical prowess and industry expertise of any other ERP giant like Oracle, SAP, or Microsoft. With this logic, it’s pretty easy to deduce that you’re likely not getting the most innovative cloud ERP just because it is hosted on the Salesforce platform.
NetSuite has recently gained a significant amount of notoriety through acquisition by Oracle back in 2016. However, it’s important to note that NetSuite has long been an immensely powerful and credible platform that was developed around the same time as Salesforce, only it’s sole focus from day one was ERP instead of CRM.
Today, Oracle NetSuite has a deep product portfolio ranging across the entire suite of financial management, professional services, and accounting solutions from Advanced Revenue Management (ARM), Suite Billing, Professional Services Automation (PSA), SuiteCommerce, Resource Planning, and more. Similarly to Salesforce, there are many 3rd party organizations that have created CPQ and other tools for Oracle NetSuite touting the dream of an “all-in-one” solution, but not accounting for the fact that this solution was not, infact, developed by the collecting product development powerhouse of Oracle NetSuite, but rather, a much smaller and less capable organization.
When our clients require integration between any two systems, the framework for our scoping process always begins with a functional, not technical, discussion. We need to start with why the integration is beneficial to our business objectives and what our desired outcomes of integrating the two (or more) systems are. Desired outcomes could be workflow based, for example: Post-deal-win process demonstrated here:
Salesforce: Close-won Opportunity with Primary Quote Selected
NetSuite: Create customer record, transfer products from Salesforce Quote to NetSuite Sales Order, and creation of Invoices to the contract schedule specified in Salesforce. For professional services firms, this is when the project in NetSuite is created. For Manufacturers, this is where the build order is created. Software, the subscription is created, and so on.
It could also be KPI-based, like unlocking reports that you’ve never been able to capture in one place or surfacing data where it’s most relevant. Take for example, a few of the most important reports that you can visualize in your CRM if your ERP is directly integrated:
AR Aging By Client: Average # days to pay invoices by client
Profitability By Client: Your company’s profit per client (or per project) after baking in your financial overhead and fully-loaded cost to deliver the service.
There are many great pre-built connectors that will charge an annual or monthly recurring licensing fee in exchange for a host of pre-built and low-code integration tools. This is a common and reliable method that many companies choose for it’s relative simplicity and reliability.
Common ETL providers include: Mulesoft, Boomi, Celigo, Jitterbit, and Informatica
Potential Drawbacks: Although ETL is a relatively simple and drama-free integration method, it can come with a hefty recurring price-tag depending on the amount of endpoints required and the frequency of data sync. For certain organizations with complex integration requirements, this method may not be the most economically viable option for companies regardless of their size.
For companies who prefer to build versus buy, this option is for you. Even for companies who don’t usually build, this may still be the most cost-effective option because it removes the need for additional expense incurred by an ETL software provider. This method would ensure that your specific integration needs are met through a custom-built API connection between the two systems. Since this is a custom solution, we can define down to the field level which components sync which way, or bi-directionally along with the frequency of each.
Potential drawbacks: Due to the fact that a point-to-point integration is built custom for almost each use case, any changes would require the modification of the codebase that was built for it’s intended purpose. This means that beneficiaries of this integration will not be able to edit or otherwise customize the integration without an in-house systems administrator or a relationship with a solutions integrator like us to maintain and modify the build. From a cost/benefit scenario, this could very well still be the more economical solution, but it’s important to note that this is by no means an only one-time cost.
Here at Plative, we’ve integrated Salesforce to NetSuite both ways, and there is no clear-cut answer that works for each company. That’s why we welcome you to contact us today to schedule a CRM and ERP integration consultation.
Partner and Chief Revenue Officer