Managing software hairballs NetSuite style

Some NetSuite customers are seeing order of magnitude value delivered to their business. Here's what happens.

NetSuite likes to poke fun at competitors. That doesn't always sit well with analysts and I can see why. Many of the jibes are little more than industry insider swipes that have little meaning for prospective customers. Estaban Kolsky says:

STOP, stop, stop putting others down to highlight your product: you are failing to make a comparison; you are just looking petty.

Want to tell prospects how good your product is?  Do it, not by comparison – but by highlighting the hard work that got you to where you are and the power of your product to deliver results they need.

All vendors are guilty of doing this.  All of them.  Stop it.

On the flipside, watching Evan Goldberg, co-founder NetSuite poke fun at himself and the company's principle backer Larry Ellison, CEO Oracle in an introductory video and then announce: "He, I'm Evan Goldberg and I'm an egomaniac" was a masterful piece of South Park inspired self deprecation. All that was missing was the obligatory destruction of Kenny's alter ego for the metaphor to be complete.

But in the evening of SuiteWorld's second day, we were treated to what NetSuite calls the Annual Hairball Awards. It is, in their words, a light hearted way of honoring the company's best customers. As a comic device it works brilliantly. But there is an altogether serious purpose behind the fun.

As each winner is announced, Jim McGeever, COO NetSuite, who is clearly having the time of his life, talks about customer achievements. This is what the crowd wants to hear. It reinforces the message that NetSuite can deliver enterprise class value but more startling for me, it indicates the scale of improvement that some customers achieve. Check out the short video I shot which starts with the corporate comic video that explains the hairball awards, shows comic out takes and finally showcases a couple of customers and their achievements. This all serves to reinforce the messages on placards we see as we arrive at the keynote hall.

As examples:

  • We avoided $275,000 in costs - Redbuilt
  • We went live in 10 locations in 2 months' - Jollibee
  • We improved reconciliation efficiency 50% - Wasserman
  • We increased sales revenue 10x - eset
  • We save $150,000 per year in IT infrastructure - learning3.com
  • We save $250,000 annually in IT overhead - SuccessFactors
  • We manage 10x more relationships - Prudential Locations
  • We increased sales by 30% and web traffic by 40%

It would be easy to downplay those results by saying that any business upgrading a QuickBooks or mess of spreadsheets to a NetSuite is bound to achieve an order of magnitude improvement. But if the Hairball Awards winners are a true reflection of a more general reality, then we are talking something else.

Nearly all of those cited on the podium were Microsoft Great Plains replacements. That is saying something truly remarkable about the value that cloud solutions can bring. That is the message the market and customers need to hear. Not once a year but at every earnings call. Adding a touch of humor only serves to cement the memory into the minds of those who see these events and that's a good thing.

Looking back over the two days I spent with NetSuite it is that hour of hearing about customers in a fun setting I remember above all the keynote speeches, announcements and analyst sessions. I wonder if it is the same for those who saw the hairball awards?

As a side note and away from the main conference, it was clear to me that NetSuite customers share an enthusiasm and excitement you rarely see from ERP customers. It doesn't scale to the evangelical heights of a Salesforce event but then we're talking about software that manages the whole of the business and not a small fraction. Reinforcing that, I heard from video producers who told me they were amazed at just how much good material they were getting from specific customer shoots. I may get some of that from post production for later publication.