Enterprise Apps

NetSuite Rolls Out SuiteFlex Customization App

NetSuite has introduced a new development platform that gives both users and partners deeper customization capabilities for their respective needs. Called “SuiteFlex,” the platform gives customers the tools to build their own workflows and user interfaces — for example, a billing application that reflects the multiple pricing policies the firm offers — within NetSuite.

Included in SuiteFlex is a tool set called “SuiteBundler,” which gives third-party developers, NetSuite partners and VARs tools to build their own industry specific applications. These microverticals will then be resold to customers in that particular industry — in effect, syndicating the NetSuite application.

NetSuite also announced that the SuiteFlex application and the process customizations developed through it can be shared as open source. Currently, more than 100 SuiteFlex extensions — contributed by NetSuite and some of its partners planning to resell the application — are already available at SuiteSource.

SuiteFlex’s introduction is the most significant release NetSuite has made thus far, Yankee Groupanalyst Sheryl Kingstone told CRM Buyer. Up until recently, Software as a Service providers have been unable to provide the robust customization capabilities that premise-based applications can. This is a key reason why few enterprise-sized firms have sought to deploy the SaaS model on a wide scale. “Applications like SuiteFlex are changing that dynamic,” she said.

Three Pieces

SuiteFlex is based on three core technologies:

  • SuiteScript – a JavaScript-based programming language from which applications — ranging from a completely new user interface to front- and back-end processing — are built and hosted within NetSuite. These applications can be scheduled, or user-event driven.
  • SuiteTalk – A host of Simple Object Access Protocol (SOAP), standards-based Web service APIs that extend NetSuite to other systems and third-party vertical applications, or build add-on capabilities. SuiteTalk provides the ability to use any programming language or platform that supports the SOAP standard in order to generate NetSuite business objects in that language, such as Java or Microsoft .NET.
  • SuiteBuilder – Point-and-click tools that provide deep personalization, configuration and vertical tailoring. New inline HTML fields enable in-record, embedded, dynamic mashups from public Web services, HTML content or Flash content.

The Micro Verticals

SuiteBuilder — as well as the line-up of partners poised to begin their own resell activities — positions NetSuite to gain greater market share in microvertical industries such as window and door distribution, or the floor care industry. The platform can be compared to Salesforce.com’s use of asimilar strategy with AppExchange.

The two firms’ respective offerings are not directly comparable, however. NetSuite’s solution is a suite offering, while Salesforce.com offers CRM functionality that is enhanced by third-party mash-ups. Not surprisingly, each firm espouses its own approach as the best.

Speaking to an audience of partners and customers on Wednesday, NetSuite CEO Zach Nelson scoffed at the idea of mash-ups and the related integration technologies firms must deploy in order to build process-to-process functionality.

Kingstone noted, however, that Salesforce.com offers a more sophisticated and robust range of offerings on its partner platform.

Nevertheless, NetSuite’s partner and customer ecosystem will clearly benefit from the new functionality in SuiteBuilder, she said. Users can either build from scratch what is needed to customize their application, or use the screens and other pre-built features in NetSuite — which are very intuitive and user friendly — as a guide.

At Wednesday’s NetSuite event, Terry Wynn, CEO of legal services firm Case Central, told the audience that the company was able to create a billing system using SuiteBuilder that took into account its 100 different pricing schemes. The system’s format, because of its simplicity, actually received compliments from Case Central’s customers, he said.

Resellers, for their part, are going to use this functionality to create their own industry specificapplications. One company that previewed such plans was Epiphany, a Houston-based NetSuite solution provider that is working toward a February launch of its own prepackaged, out-of-the-box NetSuite configuration for the floor care industry, CEO Brenda Brinkley told CRM Buyer. She has already identified her initial prospective leads: a 400-member association in her industry. She expects the launch to help double the company’s profits in 2007.

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