NetSuite has announced enhancements to OneWorld. Normally I would pass on this kind of thing but on this occasion the company is sending a clear signal that it is abandoning the low end of the SaaS SME market and concentrating where it sees the long term growth: into the medium sized international enterprise where it can be comfortable offering a solution that runs $100,000 per annum and up.
The main changes come in four parts:
- Increased accounting compliance depth for territories like Austria, Switzerland and Japan. Related to that, NetSuite has simplified tax handling for German, Netherlands, New Zealand, Canadian, and Philippine based businesses.
- Improved inventory management and especially for those businesses that operate OneWorld in multiple subsidiary environments where inter company transfer eliminations are now much easier along with the ability to track transfer pricing.
- The start of single sign-on integration to Google solutions. On this pass the company has concentrated on GMail and Google Calendar. Google Docs will come in a future release.
- Enhancements to the user interface. NetSuite's UI had survived seven years and was due for an overhaul. This is always a dangerous change. However good or bad a UI might be, end users find ways to cope with limitations. Present users with something that's better but different and they can be thrown off course. Having walked through an online demonstration, NetSuite appears to have got the balance more or less right between simplification, ease of use and modern design. The proof though will come in the amount of support calls the company ends up fielding.
Speaking with Mini Peiris, VP Netsuite product marketing, she said: "We really concentrated on tightening things up, reducing un-necessary screen white space and trying to make it so that end user productivity is improved." Small but important touches like the use of underlines for field placings that become field boxes for example illustrate the extent to which the company has thought through what to some will seem mundane issues.
Ms Peiris said that the product roadmap will see NetSuite going deeper into vertical markets and improve the ability for third parties to easily develop add-ons via SuiteCloud.
More broadly, the company remains confident that its target revenue for 2010 will be met and that future international expansion will be enhanced as it fleshes out its VAR channel.
A common issue for SaaS providers comes in finding the right partners. Existing channles have deep investments in other products and their own add-on solutions. While these same VAR candidates realize SaaS is an important part of their portfolio, it has been slow going to persuade them to invest in SaaS.
I suggested to Ms Peiris that NetSuite has been relatively quiet on this topic: "We're picking up CPA firms and resellers OK. What's happening is that these larger VARs might find themselves losing a couple of deals to NetSuite and then inquire to see what we have on offer. In markets like Malaysia where we really don't have much of a physical presence, we're relying on well known local distribution channels like Sunway. Both strategies are working well."