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What to Look for in a NetSuite Consultant – Top 10 Checklist

10 Questions to Ask a Potential NetSuite Consulting Partner

NetSuite is the world’s most successful software as a service (SaaS) ERP system, and has been built to be as flexible as possible for as many types of businesses as they can. As a result, NetSuite is a powerful platform that can automate many business processes and run companies efficiently. Out-of-the-box, however, NetSuite is not particularly well set up for any specific company, and a great deal of customization is required to get the most out of NetSuite.

NetSuite companies have a lot of the same kinds of problems

Fourth Wave consulting has worked with quite a few small and medium businesses over the years, and we have found that once a company has been on NetSuite for a few years, they face the same kinds of issues. For example:

  1. Problems crop up for older scripts, and the consultant who wrote it is no longer around.
  2. Over the years, their NetSuite account gets more and more customized with an increasing number of workflows and SuiteScript, none of which are particularly well documented or written by the same people, making issues harder to troubleshoot.
  3. Vendors and consultants can engage in finger-pointing, blaming others for a technical problem, and no one in the company has a firm enough grasp on the technical details to determine the source of a problem.
  4. When a NetSuite upgrade rolls out, a customization or script that worked previously now has an issue, and the person who wrote it isn’t available to help.

By hiring consultants for piecemeal work, often looking for the lowest bidder, many companies harm themselves by not fully appreciating how important the consultant relationship is for NetSuite. It is a complicated platform that needs ongoing maintenance and support to stay fully functional. Not to mention the large savings that can be had by ongoing customizations, workflows, and other task automation.

The Solution: A NetSuite Partner You Can Trust

Even for companies who can afford to hire full-time staff to support their NetSuite account, is very hard to have all of the relevant NetSuite experience in-house. Optimizing NetSuite covers a lot of ground, and requires a vast array of skills; it is very hard for any one person to master all areas of NetSuite. Bringing in the right NetSuite consultant for the right projects can make a huge difference, and will more than pay for itself. Here is my top 10 list of things to evaluate in a NetSuite consultant:

  1. Ask them about their areas of expertise. Even with a large consulting firm, you will be dealing with a relatively small number of people. Ask the team to grade their expertise (1 to 10 scale) in the following areas:
    1. Web Site related – not all of these may be relevant, and other people may be brought in to cover gaps if necessary:
      1. Website usability
      2. Information architecture (the science of organizing content for a website)
      3. Copywriting
      4. Graphic design and layout
      5. Search engine optimization (SEO)
      6. Website analytics
      7. Multivariate or A/B split testing
      8. Multiple web sites in NetSuite
      9. Third party software integrations (like reviews, analytics, product recommendations)
      10. SuiteScript Server Pages (SSP)
      11. SuiteCommerce
      12. International & multi-currency related issues
      13. Pay per click or other online advertising
      14. Social media and social networking optimization
      15. Microdata tagging
      16. Video creation and promotion
      17. Link building, press releases, and other forms of promotion
    2. SuiteScript
    3. SuiteLets
    4. Custom Portlets
    5. Workflows / SuiteFlow
    6. Form Customization
    7. Task Automation
  2. Saved Search customization – Saved searches are the core of information retrieval in NetSuite, and in the proper hands, can provide incredibly useful data.if you’re consultant has limited skills in this area, it will limit the thinking and possibilities. Here are some major skill areas for NetSuite saved searches:
    1. Grouping results to show summary data
    2. Alerts and scheduled saved searches – these are great for catching certain triggers, like credit card fraud detection.
    3. Regular expressions – these can be used to perform advanced search and replace text operations.
    4. Case statements – terrific for summarizing data into groups.
    5. Script-created or -controlled saved searches. SuiteScripts can create and run saved searches, which opens up all kinds of possibilities.
    6. Filters – by adding filters to the footer of a search, you can easily use one search to provide a lot of different information, by simply selecting different filter criteria.
  3. Reporting – NetSuite reports can be quite useful, although are less flexible than saved searches. They do have a number of number of useful features:
    1. Excel Web query – You can export the results I’ve a report to a special Excel file, which can refresh the data into the Excel spreadsheet with a click of a button.
    2. Formulas – These work differently in reports than in saved searches, but can be quite useful.
    3. Filters – Similar to criteria in a saved search.
  4. Script or workflow documentation – It is crucial that any customizations be fully documented, at least for the ‘hit by a bus’ scenario if nothing else. Good documentation will have at least:
    1. Business case and purpose – the why
    2. Overview of technical solution, including the purpose of each script, workflow, or other customization
    3. Bugs and workarounds – sometimes a limitation makes it necessary to build the solution in a certain way, and that needs to be well documented.
    4. Change log with details – rarely does a script get launched and never changed, it is important to keep track of how and why things are changed after launch.
  5. Code Commenting – Someone with a scripting background should be able to read their scripts and follow along with the logic, using their comments.
  6. Ease of making changes it shouldn’t cost a lot to make simple changes.
  7. Pre-NetSuite upgrade testing – Any important customizations should always be tested in the beta before a NetSuite upgrade and goes live.
  8. Responsiveness to support questions – How does their tech support work? Is there an email address or online form to fill out? What is their average response and resolution time?
  9. Communication and new ideas – NetSuite is complex, and good communication skills are required to provide enough information to business owners to allow them to make the important decisions. The biggest gap I see for most NetSuite companies is that they don’t know what they don’t know. It is your consultant’s job to help you learn more about what NetSuite is capable of.
  10. Are they a thought leader? – How do they participate in the NetSuite community? Do they regularly contribute to the knowledge base through blog or other articles?

At Fourth Wave Consulting, our goal is to establish long-term relationships with NetSuite companies for whom we can add a lot of value.
We have been supporting and building solutions for NetSuite since 2005,
and in that time have customized nearly every aspect of NetSuite. We offer the first hour of consulting free of charge, to get to know your business needs and answer any questions you might have. We want to be more than just a support partner – let us up teach you what you don’t know NetSuite can do, and as we learn more about your business we will bring suggestions to you for projects that can pay for themselves several times over. Contact us today to begin the conversation.

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I have been working with computers and web sites for 20+ years, and have enjoyed mastering many areas of technology. I have been building websites for about 15 years, and working with NetSuite for more than 10. I have worked with dozens of small and medium-sized companies in that time, helping them to understand and leverage the latest tools to grow their business. My business is all about helping you to maximize your business, and I prefer to establish long-term relationships with clients who are dedicated to embracing smart ways to optimize and expand their business.
2 comments… add one
  • John-Scott Dixon April 17, 2013, 8:15 am

    David – thanks for putting this together. I will use it to shore up those areas where we are light. It also shows me that we could pass muster in many areas – important as we’ve elected to focus 100% on marketing for NetSuite-based businesses.

    I’m especially keen on advancing our Saved Search capabilities – we’ve performed many of the searches mentioned in #2 above, but have a ways to go to meet your standard.

    Thanks again – see you on Twitter or Linkedin – maybe?

  • Joe Son April 24, 2013, 10:45 am

    Great posting David. Folks who are trying to hire NetSuite consultants should really ask these questions. For those aspiring to provide the Service should really understand above points.

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