Next week sees me winging my way, albeit briefly, to San Francisco to take part in the annual NetSuite user conference, SuiteWorld. It will be the third time I’ve been to the event, and it’s always a great chance to catch up with colleagues, talk with NetSuite customers and partners, and take the temperature of where NetSuite is at. The agenda for this year looks excellent, the keynotes from CEO Zach Nelson and Founder and CTO Evan Goldberg are always entertaining – Nelson for his heavy doses of humor at the expense of the competition (generally SAP and Microsoft) and Goldberg for his ability to speak geek, but for a business audience. COO Jim McGeever rounds out the keynotes taking the spot on the final day.

I promised a look back to last year’s event so here goes. Broadly speaking the highlights for me were;

  • The announcement of a partnership with Yammer to embed social into NetSuite
  • The demoing of an impressive manufacturing offering built on top of NetSuite
  • A maturing ecosystem growing up around the company
  • Lots of customer success stories, the ultimate proof points

So, on to SuiteWorld 2012. Here’s what I want to see;

More Social Success Stories

White SuiteSocial was announced last year, I’m yet to hear the really compelling customer success stories about how it’s enabling better business. AT Salesforce’s DreamForce conference last year we all heard the CEO of Burberry was poetic about what Social Enterprise generally, and Chatter in particular, are doing for her business. Attendees at SuiteWorld need to hear a similarly compelling customer story for NetSuite’s social initiative if they’re not to lose mindshare to other vendors. Not only salesforce with Chatter but also Workday and Infor going social and more recently SAP, after acquiring the HCM provider, offering its Jam social collaboration platform to SuccessFactors customers.

More Platform

PaaS is the future of the cloud and in my view it comes in two flavors. Developer PaaS, typified by Heroku, that is aimed at enabling developers to deploy apps more easily and Business PaaS, typified by force.com which is more about giving business users the ability to highly customize point applications. Again it’s probably fair to say that salesforce has stolen a march on NetSuite, force.com is the most mature business-centric platform and again I’d be looking to see some announcements from NetSuite that show it’s strongly pushing its own platform as the place for business users to build their applications and tie them in to their NetSuite financial and customer data.

More Financial Roll Ups Stories

NetSuite has long been talking a two tier ERP notion with NetSuite taking the role of ERP for divisions or business units and more traditional players doing the corporate roll-ups. While that makes sense as a market entry message, in the past twelve months we started to hear more about NetSuite being used across the entire organization. I’m expecting to hear more about this and perhaps even some product launches that meet the needs of the largest corporate finance divisions, thus enabling NetSuite to hammer another nail into SAP.

A Compelling Mid-Sized Business Story

Last year I made specific mention of NetSuite moving up the food chain saying that;

While some might bemoan the shift in focus (NetSuite calls it a broadening of focus but I’m not convinced) away from SMBs and up the food chain, we can see that into the void comes innovative companies building offerings on top of the core NetSuite engine. Witness JCurve in Australia building a product that very much targets micro and small businesses – if NetSuite can replicate this sort of partnership elsewhere in the world, they look set to truly deliver on the promise of a consistent solution from the smallest, right up to some of the largest businesses.

I wouldn’t be at all surprised to see NetSuite broaden the JCurve initiative elsewhere, they could acquire JCurve and roll it out globally as an independent business unit or simply strong-arm and support JCurve to branch out themselves. Either way it makes perfect sense for NetSuite to own not only it’s current but also its future customers, a product aimed at mid-sized customers will do that.

A Complete Outlier

I’ve been saying for years that Larry Ellison should simply formalize the fact and acquire NetSuite outright – eh already has a significant shareholding and now that he’s no longer pouring scorn on all things cloud it makes even more sense. While it’d be a surprise to see it announced at SuiteWorld, I still think that at some point in the next couple of years we’ll see Oracle acquire the company outright.

Bring It On

SuiteWorld is always a fun event, characterized by some great conversations, some awesome wine and food and me wearing a suit for an unheard of three days running. It will be interesting to see how this year’s event differs from previous incarnations.

Disclosure – NetSuite comped my travel and expenses to attend SuiteWorld

Ben Kepes

Ben Kepes is a technology evangelist, an investor, a commentator and a business adviser. Ben covers the convergence of technology, mobile, ubiquity and agility, all enabled by the Cloud. His areas of interest extend to enterprise software, software integration, financial/accounting software, platforms and infrastructure as well as articulating technology simply for everyday users.

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