A 13-Step NetSuite Implementation Guide
Here, we highlight the challenges that SaaS companies face in managing their financial and operational processes, and how NetSuite (especially when paired with Mosaic) can help them overcome these challenges by providing a comprehensive and integrated solution.
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Any substantial organizational change is daunting — and making the switch to NetSuite is no different. Implementation typically takes months and may come in multiple phases that extend the timeline to years, depending on the complexity of your data. But, NetSuite ERP implementation is the natural step for high-growth organizations that have outgrown QuickBooks Online or Xero and need a more robust accounting system of record.
Simplifying ERP adoption is possible, especially if you optimize your data-cleaning and migration systems — often the most time-consuming and draining task for your team. Follow this guide to make sure your NetSuite implementation goes according to plan. And if you want to hear directly from someone who just went through the process, listen to Ramp Controller Edwine Alphonse discuss her experience putting NetSuite in place.
Table of Contents
What Is NetSuite Implementation?
NetSuite implementation is the process of integrating and customizing NetSuite software to meet the demands of a growing company. Each company’s implementation process will be different, as each will have unique business needs, preferences, and circumstances. But most of the time, the NetSuite integration process includes migrating data and systems, customization, and user training.
While NetSuite, owned by Oracle, offers a wide range of solutions including CRM and e-commerce tools, the typical system that a “NetSuite implementation” refers to is the enterprise resource planning (ERP) platform. The main goal of implementation is to get full access to important business data, such as customer and transaction data.
Working with a NetSuite Implementation Partner
For many finance teams, working with a NetSuite consulting partner is necessary and ultimately reduces the overall cost (in money, time, and stress) of the process. Fifty percent of ERP implementations fail on the first attempt, but working with a specialist greatly increases the chance of success.
Your partner not only does the most technical aspects of the work — they evaluate the depth of your needs. And they can advise you about processes, systems, timelines, and best practices, which is why it’s highly recommended that you involve them early on in the process.
Look for an implementation consultant who has
- Experience implementing NetSuite in particular, not another ERP
- Industry experience and understands industry-specific needs
- Proven project management skills
The cost of professional services ranges across industries and locations, but you should expect a best-in-class implementation partner to charge upwards of $200 or $250 per hour.
When and Why a SaaS Business Should Implement NetSuite
While NetSuite promises to cover functions for any small, medium, or large business, a NetSuite implementations most commonly start at the mid-market startup phase when financial become increasingly complex. Yet, there are no hard and fast rules for NetSuite implementation. There’s only prioritization based on the needs of your business.
And with most SaaS companies, the cost-value of starting with NetSuite from the beginning doesn’t make sense. Accounting teams are not directly responsible for profit-generating, which “reduces the priority, especially if you’re in a scarcity situation,” says Ramp Controller Edwine Alphonse.
Many early-stage companies look at ERPs, such as Xero or QuickBooks, as their starting system. But growing startups will outgrow their systems, especially companies with more complex financial needs, like having
- High volumes of financial transactions in many states or multiple countries
- Several entities with compliance requirements to meet
And when your company begins to exceed the limitations of its current systems, it’s time to consider a new ERP — especially one that can handle larger sets of data. NetSuite isn’t the only solution, but it’s certainly among the most popular for high-growth companies in B2B tech.
But NetSuite has a real “save now, pay later” or “pay now, save later” tradeoff. The sooner you implement NetSuite, the lower your costs and time commitment. But you need the right in-house team, like an accountant or two in addition to a bookkeeper, to manage the process end-to-end.
Your bookkeeper can manage the (incredibly important) debits and credits flowing in and out of the company, ideally freeing up accountants to take a more strategic role in business leadership. As they understand and are closest to the financial data, they can guide the technical consultant in terms of what they view as priorities, limitations, and a suitable timeline to keep business going as usual.
The NetSuite Implementation Timeline
Your data, team, and organization size will greatly affect your timeline. But the basic stages of the process should follow this outline.
Stage One: Setting the Scene
The first stage is about setting yourself up for success. This is where you’ll:
- Get buy-in from executives and other stakeholders
- Set goals and identify systems
- Set realistic timelines and expectations
- Build your team
- Create a budget
- Develop a project plan
Depending on your organization and team, this may take a few days, a few weeks, or a few months. But remember that the sooner you start, the less data you’ll have to clean and migrate.
Stage Two: Data Migration
For teams that outsource the heart of implementation work to specialists, the data migration stage will be the most taxing on your internal team. Plan to designate a significant portion of work hours — 10 to 20 hours per week — to get your data ready for implementation.
Stage Three: Implementation
For most teams, you’ll be handing off the baton during this stage. But you will be in constant contact with your implementation team. They will ensure that migration to the NetSuite cloud ERP is correct and complete. And they’ll ensure you have every NetSuite solution your team currently needs without implementing unnecessary add-ons that may confuse the end-user (that’s you and your team).
Stage Four: Go-Live and Follow-up
Going live with NetSuite is a multi-step process. You’ll need to train and test your ERP software with your team to ensure it meets all your business requirements. Essentially, you’ll try to break your processes a bit to see if any NetSuite customizations are needed.
Your consulting team will also provide post-go-live support to you and your team members. They may also have advice for future NetSuite development.
The 13 Steps of NetSuite Implementation
Every startup and every accounting team has different needs when it comes to implementation. So consider the ordering below a general guideline, not a strict ordering of events.
You should also keep in mind that these steps aren’t necessarily linear. They often overlap and require touchbacks. Consider executive buy-in: you need it early, but you’ll also need it often. Updating your stakeholders should be a regular part of your process.
1. Get Buy-In from Executives and Other Stakeholders
This may or may not be your first step, but at some point in the early stages, you’ll need to win support from your stakeholders. This will be easier if your team has spent considerable time analyzing whether now is the right time for ERP implementation and why NetSuite is the right tool for your organization.
2. Set Goals and Identify Systems
NetSuite implementation is a large and often ongoing process. Some companies, including Ramp, see their implementation in multi-year phases. That’s why defining your project scope early is so important. This will help you create timelines, set expectations, and create a realistic budget.
This is also a good time to identify systems needed for the implementation process to ensure you can connect all necessary data with the NetSuite platform. Your consultant may have additional recommendations.
3. Set Realistic Timelines and Expectations
This cannot be overlooked — 50% of ERP implementations fail on the first attempt, and 27% of successful NetSuite implementations run late according to NetSuite.
4. Build Your Project Team
Unless you have experience implementing NetSuite yourself (or someone on your team does), you’ll need to hire an experienced consultant to do the technical work of connecting your systems with NetSuite. It’s okay to invest in the right support to get it done.
This is when you also want to decide who will have access to the tools, such as administrators and other end-users like department leaders.
5. Create a Budget
You may create a budget sooner than this point, but this is where you can go no further without one. Or without relaying your budget to executives and getting sign-off from your team.
You should include costs for
- NetSuite pricing
- Hiring NetSuite professionals
- Pricing for additional systems needed to link data
Be sure to include wiggle room for unexpected costs.
6. Data Migration
Data clean-up and migration generally coincide or overlap each other. This is where you transport data from your legacy systems to NetSuite.
7. Cleaning the Data for the Team
This stage requires the most hours from your team, as it’s generally only the in-house team that can review and clean company data. The team at Ramp spent around 20 hours a week for nearly three months cleaning data and working with their specialists to sync it to NetSuite.
8. Setting Up Regular Updates to Monitor the Implementation
Once the data wrangling is complete, the main work of implementation is taken on by your team of specialists. Your workload decreases, but you’ll still need to make space on your schedule for checking in.
9. Team Training
Your ERP will need administrators and users, and everyone who uses or plans to use NetSuite, to be fully trained. NetSuite provides a free course — Basic Usability for User Acceptance Testing (UAT), that has two modules and takes a little over an hour to complete.
Testing occurs throughout the process, but in the later stages, you’ll be able to see the larger payoffs of collecting and connecting the data to your ERP. As you test, look for holes in the system. Try to break it (a little). Test its functionality. Try out the NetSuite report builder.
Then present your findings and notes to your consultant team.
Here’s where the ball officially starts rolling. At this point, data should be free-flowing between your systems.
12. Ongoing Monitoring and Tweaking
Once you’re live, you’re still not finished. Set times to follow up with your in-house team and experts to review how the implementation is working and make any necessary tweaks.
13. Future Phases
Depending on the size and complexity of your company’s data, you may need to start planning future implementation phases. If so, it’s a good idea to review the implementation process with your team to reflect on what worked well and what didn’t.
Common NetSuite Implementation Challenges
NetSuite poses big challenges to bootstrapped finance teams. It doesn’t come configured when you purchase it, meaning you’ll spend three to six months switching between legacy processes and NetSuite. And there are lots of hurdles to overcome.
Let’s go over a few of them every team will face.
The cost of implementing NetSuite is two-fold. First, there’s the pricing of the service, the specialist team, and possible additional costs to connect all your data to your new ERP. But then there’s also a cost in time and stress on your team. The accounting team will spend the most time on this project. But all stakeholders must devote some time to reviewing and commenting on the plan and its execution.
Size of Data
The larger your data pool, the more complicated and time-consuming the implementation process. Generally speaking, when we reference data pools, we’re talking volume of transactions. Startups hustling for a few years have thousands, potentially hundreds of thousands of transactions. Managing the data to ensure it’s complete and accurate is no small task.
Startups are small, and accounting headcounts tend to lag behind other teams that more directly influence the bottom line. Nothing is wrong with that, but it has important implications on how account teams manage big organizational questions, like when to implement a new ERP system.
So when considering internal capacity, ask yourself three questions:
- How many hours can your team spare for this project?
- Do you have someone on your team with experience implementing NetSuite?
- Do you have a data specialist?
Don’t be afraid to look for support outside your organization. Hiring a specialist is often the right call, as few CFOs or accountants are data specialists. A specialist with direct experience with NetSuite will come with a fountain of knowledge about best practices and common pitfalls. They’ll also be able to advise you on how to plan and manage expectations accordingly.
Planning the Process and Managing Expectations
This is one challenge that collaboration will easily solve — if you do it correctly. You need to set the right expectations upfront with the executive, product, and engineering teams. NetSuite implementation takes a long time, and there may be bumps along the way. Collaborate with teams before bringing the timeline to the executives, share where you suspect any limitations and how you can work around them, and ensure every conversation ends with clear guidelines and expectations.
You’ll also want to be strategic about when to take on this project. The first quarter of the year is full of auditing and tax processes. So it’s best to place this project during a quieter time of the year, like a week after your auditing processes wrap up.
How to Implement and Integrate NetSuite Using Mosaic
Mosaic integrates with NetSuite (and legacy ERP systems) to bring it together in one place. Our tools automatically consolidate multiple instances of data, which in turn can simplify the process of moving your financial data into NetSuite.
Once your data sets are integrated and NetSuite is live, our tools provide real-time visibility and host your data in one place where your team can explore and play.
Deeper Knowledge, Faster — with Mosaic
We know we’re not the only ones aware of the deficiencies and shortcomings of ERPs. These tools were revolutionary at conception, but they’ve failed to keep up with the needs of the modern CFO. Accounting teams need to manage and connect the dots between vast amounts of data from all areas of the business. While an ERP can order some of the chaos, it doesn’t complete the most important finance workflows: interpreting and translating the numbers.
That’s where a Strategic Finance Platform like Mosaic fits in.
Mosaic functions as a system of record for all financial and operational data. Mosaic doesn’t replace your CFO tech stack — it enhances it and provides the mycological highways between each system. Mosaic simplifies workflows so you can turn to deeper work — like extracting meaning and understanding from the numbers. And because Mosaic links to your source systems, you can gain deeper insights into your NetSuite Salesforce integration or NetSuite HubSpot integration through prebuilt templates and dashboards that bring your CRM and ERP insights together in various metrics and visualizations.
Modern finance has outgrown the ERP. Mosaic can serve as your new nucleus and a guiding light in the dark. Request a personalized demo to see how Mosaic can help you dive deeper into your data today.
NetSuite Implementation FAQs
Can you implement NetSuite yourself?
That depends on two primary factors. First, do you have a large enough team that will allow you to take on the extra hours it will take to implement NetSuite at your business? Second, do you have the technical experience and knowledge to support that implementation process?
If you haven’t answered “yes” to both of these questions, you likely need to hire a specialist with NetSuite implementation experience. It’s okay to invest in the right support to get this job done — and generally, it’s better to put the investment in upfront to ensure the project is done correctly and on schedule. In the end, a specialist may save you time and money.
How much does NetSuite implementation cost?
Is NetSuite easy to implement?
Is there a way to delay ERP adoption?
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