THE INTEGRISUITE GUIDE TO EXECUTING A SUCCESSFUL* NETSUITE IMPLEMENTATION

*The devil is in the details.

NAVIGATING NETSUITE IMPLEMENTATIONS: A COMPREHENSIVE* GUIDE

*The devil is in the details.

Learn why misaligned incentives are a major risk factor for project success.

Understand how the dynamics between license procurement and professional services impact the quality of your implementation.

Discover the one critical success factor that will remove major pressure from your team during implementation and virtually guarantee the successful execution of your project.

NetSuite is a cloud-based enterprise resource planning (ERP) system that can help businesses of all sizes to streamline their operations and improve their efficiency.

Get the Netsuite Implementation Guide

Wouter Nortje Integrisuite

Wouter Nortjé (CA)SA

Senior Chartered Accountant (25 years) with 12+ years ERP implementation experience, developed the Netsuite Master Configuration Workbook below. It is what what he uses to do Netsuite Implementations. It is free to download and use for your Netsuite implementation (no email required)

The Netsuite Implementation Guide is an Excel file that provides you with the complete framework you need to configure your Netsuite implementation, before going live. The name of the file is “Netsuite Master Config Workbook“. There is also a Google Sheets version available.

Setting your expectations about a successful Netsuite implementation

Setting your expectations for a successful Netsuite implementation

If you’ve never been involved in a comprehensive data migration and ERP implementation project, you may be under the impression that things should work out well if you get the right implementation experts to do the work for you.

You may expect:

In this guide, we will show you why these expectations are not guaranteed to be met, and what you can do about it.

netsuite-stakeholder-expectations

Setting the right time, budget & commitment expectations with stakeholders

Once you embark on this journey of migrating to Netsuite, there are many stakeholders that will be affected by the disruption and change that it will bring.

How you set and manage their expectations will have a big impact on the post-implementation attitudes towards the system, productivity in using the system, and cost impact of the transformation.

Quote from Abraham Lincoln about prioritizing efficiency, applied to Netsuite implementations

Please consider:

  • These opaque areas are where scope creep and change orders originate.
  • To ensure the long term credibility (and cost control) of the project, get rid of all opaque areas before you pull the trigger. 
  • Is the vision for the project’s end goal the same in everyone’s mind? 
  • Is the project viewed as a business transformation project or as an IT project?
  • If seen as the latter, you will have a difficult time getting buy-in across the organization.
  • Is the transformation the implementation is supposed to bring about clearly defined?
  • Is there buy-in across the organization in terms of their implementation?
  • If not, how are you planning to manage and communicate the changes?
  • Is there agreement in the organization that the processes are optimal for the future?
  • If not, what will it take to get them optimized and mapped?
  • How will your proposed timelines impact financial reporting periods?
  • Is your migration plan granular enough so that every section or department will have clarity on how they will be impacted?
  • The more time you spend on perfecting your migration plan, the less painful the changes will be for your stakeholders.
  • Will they have time to make a meaningful contribution to the project given their regular work load?
  • The better the thinking is during implementation, the better the system is you will end up with.
  • Which departments will need to be involved in the testing?
  • How will you measure success?
  • Have you considered the cost of pre-implementation data scraping, processing and preparation?
  • Are you crystal clear on the time commitment that will be required from your team?
  • How will you build confidence in the new system, and reduce their reliance on the systems they know?
  • What can you do to create positive attitudes about the migration process?

YOUR GREATEST RISK: Misaligned incentives

There are two major external costs when you take on an ERP transformation project.

  1. The first is the licensing cost of the software itself. 
  2. The cost of the implementation consultants (professional services).

Often, these services are sold as a package by a Netsuite Partner. 

Watch out for misaligned incentives

When a Netsuite Partner is trying to sell you the Netsuite software, they would sometimes discount the professional services (or only list the bare minimum), to get you to sign the deal. 

They do this because the bulk of their revenue in the deal comes from the commission earned from selling you the Netsuite license.

They may promise a smooth implementation, downplay the complexity of it, assure you that they will develop a detailed migration plan, and ensure the data integrity of your business.

However, once you’ve signed the deal and the implementation starts, you may find that the expectations you had around all of the work you thought they were going to do is not part of the agreed scope.

It now falls onto you and your team to take on this work (while not being systems experts) or issue a change order ($$$) for them to do the work.

What kind of experts will you be getting?

The expertise of the consultant(s) assigned to your implementation will play a big part in the overall success of your project. 

A fair assumption would be that your assigned experts will not only be Netsuite systems experts, but that they will also be financial experts with the insight required to map all of your historical data (potentially from various sources) as line items into Netsuite.

You will be surprised to learn that often, this is not the case. We’ve seen various instances where the assigned experts did not have the financial acumen to do this, instructing clients to simply import trial balances for every account, leaving historical data in the legacy system.

This then creates the scenario where the legacy system can never be retired.

Alternatively, they may have the expertise, but the work is excluded from the scope, because it requires many hours of data processing, which, if included in the initial proposal, may have lost them the deal.

So, due to misaligned incentives, you may be compounding the complexity of your world.

  • Need to do a query on historical data? Back to the legacy system you go.
  • Want to do a trend analysis? You are back to Excel, importing data from two systems that are not connected.
  • Need to prepare a long term audit report? Good luck with that.

Will my team be empowered to look after the system (post implementation)?

The ideal situation (post implementation) for any business is that their own employees:

  • Feel confident that they understand how the system works
  • Know how to set up or amend process flows by themselves
  • Are able to do minor troubleshooting and fix small problems themselves

Unfortunately, if your team is not mentored and trained during the implementation process, they will not have the confidence to do these basic things for themselves, which means that you will be forever tied into support contracts, as your team would have been sold on the idea the Netsuite is a “magic black box” can only be operated by “the experts”.

What we’ve often observed is the following: 

“As long as the customer doesn’t ask questions about it and they get the required result, we have no obligation to tell them anything else. They don’t need to know.”

Misaligned incentives will always leave you with the short end of the stick. Netsuite is fairly easy to navigate, if you take the time to teach people how to do it.

Timing of Netsuite module activation & user onboarding

Chances are that you don’t need all the modules active and all the users live on day one, paying the full license fees for resources that are not being utilized.

A good implementation partner will advise you on when you need to take certain modules and users live

This may seem like a small consideration in the bigger scheme of things, but may lead to substantial savings on license fees due to the fact that you only start paying for modules when you actually start using them. 

There is no need to pay for everything in bulk, up front, before you need it.

These savings alone could off-set the bulk of the implementation cost.

Netsuite license discounts

Very few people are aware of the fact that there are various strategies that can be used to negotiate a discount on your Netsuite license fees. 

Obviously, if you’re trying to negotiate these discounts with someone who is primarily motivated to give you as little discount as possible, you are not necessarily going to get the best possible deal.

Separate the procurement of the Netsuite license from the procurement of the Professional Services

There is no rule that says you have to buy your Netsuite license and the professional implementation services from the same company. When you split these two services, you are creating the conditions where the balance of power swings in your favor

This is typically what happens when you appoint a client-side consultant.

YOUR SECRET WEAPON: A Client-Side Consultant

What is a Client-Side Consultant (CSC)?

Put simply, a CSC is a Subject Matter Expert whose incentives are aligned with the client’s desired outcomes. They sit on your side of the table, advising you on the best way forward for your Netsuite implementation.

They typically have deep knowledge and experience about the subject matter and can help you navigate all of the complexities and nuances of a complicated software migration and implementation. 

Why appoint a Client-Side Consultant?

A client-side consultant will do the bulk of the work, only relying on your team to guide them as far as company data & business processes are concerned. This will relieve a lot of the implementation pressure on your internal team.

A good CSC will do the following for you:

  • Check & verify your current process maps
  • Map your current business processes onto Netsuite.
  • Develop a customized and comprehensive migration plan for your implementation.
  • Migrate all data per line item from your legacy system
  • Mentor and train your team so they are empowered to take care of the system themselves
  • Help you negotiate the best possible rates on your Netsuite license

What do the experts say?

Research done by Gartner in 2010 (cited by just about everyone) claims a ERP failure rate of up to 75%. More recent studies, cited by Netsuite, show that the picture is not quite that bleak.

Be that as it may, the reasons for failure are consistent with our experience of doing Netsuite implementations for the last 15 years.

PEMECO Consulting cites two main causes for failed ERP Implementations:

The #1 Cause: Ineffective Project Teams
The #2 Cause: Inadequate Testing

A GENECA Study claims that a failure rate of up to 75% is due to:

  • Lack of confidence in project success: 75% of respondents admit that their projects are either always or usually “doomed right from the start.”
  • Rework wariness: 80% admit they spend at least half their time on rework.
  • Business involvement is inconsistent or results in confusion: 78% feel the business is usually or always out of sync with project requirements and business stakeholders need to be more involved and engaged in the requirements process.
  • Fuzzy business objectives: Only 55% feel that the business objectives of their projects are clear to them.
  • Requirements definition processes do not reflect business need: Less than 20% describe the requirements process as the articulation of business need.
  • Lack of complete agreement when projects are done: Only 23% state they are always in agreement when a project is truly done.

Crestwood Associates identify these 7 pitfalls:
– Inadequate involvement of key business leadership
– ERP implementation treated as an IT project
– Internal resources not sufficiently allocated to project
– Inadequate ERP system testing
– Focus too much on functionality and too little on people
– Don’t spend enough time and money on training
– Not enough organization-wide communication

8020 Consulting identifies 6 pitfalls specifically related to Netsuite:
Pitfall #1: Ignoring Employee Fear of Change
Pitfall #2: Failure to Dedicate Appropriate Resources
Pitfall #3: Choosing the Wrong Implementation Partner
Pitfall #4: Lack of Preplanning
Pitfall #5: Data Migration Issues
Pitfall #6: Not Having a Project Manager With Full Oversight

Anecdotally, an old client for whom I did an implementation in 2009, recently invited me to lunch. 

He wanted to share with me the absolute disaster of an implementation he was involved in subsequent to our engagement. The company he was with, went the “normal” route of trusting the Netsuite Partner with the implementation, and just about every risk identified above came to bear.

He affirmed that the CSC route is the best way to go for companies looking to limit their implementation risk.

What all of this research confirms is the following:

  1. There are many and varied reasons why a project might fail.
  2. If you don’t know what you don’t, best get an expert in your corner from the beginning.
  3. Appointing a client-side consultant whose incentives are aligned with yours  to lead the project, greatly reduces your risk of failure.

Who we are

The idea of Integrisuite [Integrity of data in Netsuite] was developed in 2012 in Australia. Wouter Nortje is your client-side consultant.

Our comprehensive pre-configuration workbook (developed over the last 12 years) forms the foundation of every engagement we take on.

We have also developed a comprehensive library of video tutorials to help people perform the basic configuration and setup on Netsuite.

What our clients say about us

Let me help you clarify if having a Client-Side Consultant is the right approach for your project

Wouter Nortje Integrisuite

WOUTER NORTJÉ

B.Com (Acc) Honors, (CA)SA
CHARTERED ACCOUNTANT

Netsuite Implementation Guide

Use this Netsuite implementation guide to discover all the phases and typical obstacles of a successful Netsuite implementation.

Beware:

Some of the biggest blunders we’ve seen, occur when companies buy the Netsuite license as the first step in the process.

  • From the moment you buy the license, the clock is ticking
  • Pressure is on to go live
  • Compromises are made at the foundational level
  • These compromises become part of the company’s SOP, because it becomes too painful to revert back.

Implementation Checklist

The eight steps below form the basis of this Netsuite implementation guide. 

netsuite-implementation-steps
Netsuite-implementation - Process Maps

VERIFY CURRENT PROCESS MAPS

The purpose of any ERP system is to provide an organization with a holistic view of its operations. 

Often, when the business processes of the organization are not well defined, organizations look to the ERP system to provide them with a process framework. The organization then (in effect) becomes a slave to the ERP.

Business processes are optimized to fit the default ERP processes, while anything that does not “fit” is maintained in a spreadsheet on the side.

The way to ensure that this does not happen to your organization when implementing Netsuite, is to map out all of your processes, and then to pre-configure Netsuite to reflect the reality of your organization.

Netsuite-implementation - Pre-config

PRE-CONFIGURATION OF NETSUITE SETUP

Once the processes are clear, you should start “mapping” the environment that you want to create.

Just as in the real world, where navigating an unfamiliar terrain is easier when you have a map, so it is with Netsuite. Creating a map of the implementation will make the actual implementation much easier. You need to consider the following domains when building your Netsuite implementation map.

  • Bundles & Modules
  • Company Information
  • Entities Setup
  • Support Preferences
  • Sandbox Configuration
  • SuiteApp Preferences
  • Interface Preferences
  • Chart of Accounts
  • Accounting Periods
  • Accounting Preferences
  • Advanced Billing
  • Advanced Financials
  • Advanced Revenue Recognition
  • Advanced Subscription Billing
  • Charge-based Billing
  • Multi-book Accounting
  • Subscription Billing
  • All Form Setups
  • Training Preferences
  • Testing Protocols
  • Opening Balances
  • Personalization
  • Workflow Development
  • Campaign Preferences

Over the last 12 years, we have developed a detailed master pre-configuration workbook, which we use in all of our client engagements.

The three day IntegriGate workshop (where we do the pre-config) usually brings a lot of clarity to the implementation team, and builds their confidence about their ability to execute a successful Netsuite implementation.

Netsuite-implementation - Demo Build

DEMO BUILD OF NETSUITE IMPLEMENTATION

Once your implementation is mapped, it is time to see how it translates to the real world, while not impacting the organization’s operations. This is the value of doing a demo implementation before going live.

Translating what was mapped in step 2 into a real implementation is not a straight-forward process, and the value of this becomes apparent during the demo implementation phase.

This phase is primarily used to test assumptions, workflows and system logic. Any configuration errors can be fixed at this point, without any risk to the business’ live environment.

Netsuite-data migration plan

DEVISE DATA MIGRATION PLAN

Once the team is confident that the demo implementation reflects the true nature, processes and desired outcomes of the organization, it is time to come up with a plan of how data will be migrated from existing systems to Netsuite.

Consolidation of disparate spreadsheets, legacy accounting, CRM and low-level ERP systems are the norm.

Ask the following questions at this point:

  • Are we in agreement about which data source best reflects the actual “truth”?
  • Are there any duplicates in the different sources?
  • How will we clean up the duplicates?
  • Is there agreement on the starting balances?
  • In which order will we be populating the legacy information to the new live environment?
  • How will we manage expectations during the transition?
  • How will we define success?


The last question may seem obvious, but while you are in the process of going live, it may not be as clear as you think. It is therefore important to agree upfront what success looks like.

Define it from the C-Suite perspective, because as global stewards of the organization, they will be the final arbiters of the value they get from the system.

Netsuite-licenses

PURCHASE NETSUITE LICENSES

Now that you have clarity on the exact modules that the organization will “actually” require, it is time to purchase your Netsuite licenses.

The Netsuite licensing regime is complex. Take your time to understand the different options, and find the happy medium between what your really need NOW and what you want to grow into in the future.

The more defined your implementation is after steps 1-4, the easier it will be for you to make a good decision at this point.

Netsuite-implementation-guide

NETSUITE IMPLEMENTATION

Once your licenses are activated, you can start to set up and implement Netsuite in your live environment. Use the templates created during the demo setup phase to set up the live environment.

This will save you a lot of time, and ensure that you get the maximum value out of the license fees that are now running against the clock.

A formal project plan, devised during steps 3 and 4 will go a long way to ensure your live implementation goes as planned.

A user acceptance testing (UAT) process and quality control process rounds out this step.

Netsuite-implementation-guide

GO LIVE

Your go-live event should be when you are able to demonstrate the success parameters that you have defined in step 4.

Once the system is up and running, it is time to onboard users, get them familiar with the new system, and help them to transition their default behaviors to a new way of working.

Getting people’s buy in is critical to the overall success of the implementation. If people feel left out, you will have a lot of internal resistance to adopt the changes.

Netsuite-optimization

NETSUITE SYSTEM OPTIMIZATION

An ERP implementation is never “done”. As things change in the market, or in the regulatory environment, so the organization must adapt.

Ensure that you have a clear change management process in place so that you can ensure that your Netsuite implementation always reflects the current reality that the organization finds itself in.

How to course-correct if you find yourself in the middle of a Netsuite implementation that is going off the rails

  1. Take back control of the project from the Implementation Consultant.
  2. Go back to the last place in the process where things were still making sense.
  3. If you are able to figure out where things went wrong, you may bring the project back on track with some minor tweaks.
  4. If it seems that the issue is too big to resolve with the current Implementation team in place, you would be best served by getting rid of the Implementation team and finding a Client-side Consultant to take over the project.

How we can help you

Depending on where you are in your project, we can help you in various ways.

  • If you are in the ERP Review and Selection Phase, we can provide you with a fresh perspective about what to be cognisant of for implementations in your industry.
  • In the Netsuite Implementation Partner Selection Phase is where we prefer to get involved, as this is where we can add the most value. 
    • We can help you negotiate discounts for Netsuite licenses
    • We can advise on the optimal module activation timelines (saves cost)
    • We can take on the project lead role for the implementation and execute your project 

 

If you have already signed a contract with a Netsuite Partner, we can come in as a Client-side advisor and make sure that all aspects of the project  are executed with your best interest in mind.

What our clients say about us

LET ME HELP YOU CLARIFY IF CLIENT-SIDE CONSULTING IS THE RIGHT APPROACH FOR YOUR PROJECT

B.Com (Acc) Honors, (CA)SA
CHARTERED ACCOUNTANT