Earlier this week Oracle NetSuite, a platform integrating front and back office business applications, announced a flurry of innovations to help their customers adjust and succeed in the current environment, and beyond. And before the announcement I was able to catch up with Evan Goldberg, Founder and EVP of Oracle NetSuite, to learn more about the new developments, as well as to get his take on how his customers are adjusting eight months into the pandemic.
Below is an edited transcript of a portion of our conversation. To hear the full interview click on the embedded SoundCloud player.
Small Business Trends: How many of these changes in consumer behavior do you think are going to carry over once we get past this pandemic?
Evan Goldberg: I think some of these changes, they won’t turn back. I mean, we have a company, Bedford Industries, that made ties for bread packaging, and they retooled really quickly to make PPE. They were making it just to help local hospitals, et cetera, but they found that they had so much demand for it that they… and this is a B2B company, but they put up a direct to consumer website on NetSuite, in a few days, and suddenly they were selling PPE to the general public. I don’t know whether they’ll continue to do that, but I think that the fact that they saw that they there’s a channel there for them to sell direct to consumer is probably pretty interesting, and I think the eyes have maybe been opened for a lot of companies.
Small Business Trends: Talk about the power of the platform, because customer experience has never been more effected by things like supply chain management before, and if you don’t have that right, the effect it has on the customer experience can be tragic.
Evan Goldberg: Well, a lot of it, initially, were supply shocks, where they couldn’t get their supplies from Asia in particular, towards the beginning of the crisis. And now in some cases it’s flipped, that that’s the best place to order things from. So basically, these businesses have to be prepared for radical shifts in supply chain. They have to diversify. We have a customer, NadaMoo!, who’s a dairy free ice cream maker and they moved some of their supply chain from Asia to Mexico, sort of closer to home. But by doing that, they’re sort of diversifying and making themselves more resilient to shocks. A lot of what we work on at NetSuite is helping customers be resilient to changes in the supply chain. We announced in our most recent release a new supply planning engine that lets them plan based on anticipated demand, but then also can be rerun frequently as conditions change, as they inevitably do in this sort of turbulent time.
Small Business Trends: When you think about the term digital transformation, you’re hearing a lot of folks say that of course the pandemic has accelerated digital transformation, but how do you think the definition of digital transformation, what it means to your customers, how do you think that’s changed?
Evan Goldberg: Well, it’s a pretty all-encompassing term and our customers were using digital computers before, and so for our customers, it’s been really a cloud transformation. The other major transformation that we hear a lot of customers are really interested in is decreasing complexity. They have a lot of different systems that they’ve accumulated over the years and they really want to decrease that to just a few. So that’s where NetSuite comes in, because we can provide sort of a one-stop shop for a lot of your needs and your core operations, including HR, which is obviously critical for companies as they grow.
So we’ve been building up our Suite People capabilities, which is what we call the HR component of our integrated suite. We’re seeing increasing adoption of that as we add the capabilities that they need, onboarding better and more sophisticated payroll capabilities, performance management, those kinds of things. So, that’s really the big transformation I think that a lot of our companies are going through, is using the cloud and using it to simplify their systems.
Small Business Trends: And with that simplification of systems, does that also increase the opportunity for them to leverage newer technologies like AI and to be able to take that information coming from all these different systems and actually be able to use it in a way that can make the biggest impact?
Evan Goldberg: Yeah, that’s absolutely the case. One of the benefits we’ve had as becoming part of Oracle is we’re able to leverage their deep R&D investment in things like conversational UIs, which obviously uses natural language. You’re going to see increasingly in future versions of NetSuite that we’re integrating those capabilities. We’re announcing, this week, the NetSuite Data Analytics Warehouse, which uses Oracle’s powerful analytics engine and their Autonomous Data Warehouse, which is their flagship data warehouse capability, all delivered via the cloud, to allow customers to do things like snapshotting, to better be able to see trends, and then also to combine their NetSuite data with other data from other systems, to tie that together. So, just like in AI and machine learning, all this stuff, we’re leveraging the deep investments that Oracle is making, and we’re going to bring them to the fast-growing small and mid-sized business over the coming years.
Small Business Trends: I got a chance to check out that press release. There was a lot of stuff in there, going over a lot of things. Maybe you could give some of the other highlights of what’s going to be announced next week.
Evan Goldberg: We have a lot of, I don’t know if I’d call them meat and potatoes, but features that customers are demanding now, and increasingly people want really deep integration with their banks, so that all that is automated. Automated reconciliation, so you know your exact cash position at any time. And so we’re doing that. We’ve added smart bank integration for banks all over the world, not just in the US, because we have a global customer base. So I think that’s one of the most exciting things.
As I said, the NetSuite Analytics Warehouse, for some of our more sophisticated customers. It’s just things that customers can use now. On the commerce, or I guess customer interaction front, we announced expanded capabilities in what we call our My Account feature, which is basically for all types of customers to allow their clients and their customers to have a portal, to see information about their account, pay their bills. If it’s a subscription company, which increasingly, obviously, new businesses are, they can manage their subscription, add capabilities, upgrade, et cetera. Certainly, during this time, our customers really are keen on features that let their customers interact with them in the kind of 24/7, 365, anywhere, anytime manner.
Small Business Trends: Are you seeing more of these companies think outside the box and add and do things differently than before?
Evan Goldberg: Yeah. I mean, we’ve seen a trend for several years where there’s not as much of a clean divide between product companies and service companies. Product companies want to deliver some of their goods as subscriptions. I mean, we see that all over the place with these subscription services for clothes and things like that. And service companies sometimes want to deliver products. I mean, we see that with some of these exercise companies that have both a product and a service. So these sort of hybrid business models require something like NetSuite that can handle both sides of the equation.
I think you’re right that AI and ML and those kinds of things are increasingly important on both sides. So one of the things that we’re doing for both service companies and product companies is predicted risks. If you’re a product company, it’s all about, are you shipping your goods on time and satisfying your customer in that way? They want the right product at the right time. So we can predict risks based on past shipments to particular areas using particular carriers and giving you early warning that you might need to ship something out earlier to get it to the customer on time.
Similarly, on a services side for project-based businesses, there’s project risks. And again, looking at history, applying AI to identify projects that might need a little extra TLC before you start losing money, or worse yet, losing clients. So that’s where we’re taking a broad view of where you can apply AI and machine learning to really help customers now.
Small Business Trends: But what do you expect to see? What are you expecting the climate to be like? What do you expect your customers to be facing at that point?
Evan Goldberg: Right. Well, I’m not Nostradamus, so I don’t actually know exactly what the… I think there’s a lot of speculation that is just that. It’s very clear that, as we talked about, some of the things that are happening are going to continue, even when you can walk around and see people and go to parties and watch basketball games and all that good stuff. And so I think historians will write how the world changed as a result of the pandemic in a few years, but I definitely think that many of the changes that are happening are really positive.
I mean, why do you have to fly all over the country all the time for meetings that can effectively be done remotely? That doesn’t mean all meetings. There’s definitely meetings that you absolutely want to do face to face, but companies being able to be a little more judicious about when they need to fly people around, I think is going to help with productivity. It’s going to help with employee satisfaction. I mean, some employees like hopping on planes, but it gets tiring after a bit.
So I think a lot of these changes are going to allow a business to operate more efficiently. Definitely reaching their customers online in new ways, that’s going to stick, because that’s what customers want, is just easy access at any time when they want to interact with you.
Small Business Trends: I think it was at the last Suite World, there was an analyst/media kind of thing, and I asked you a question about voice and where does it fit into enterprise applications?
Evan Goldberg: Yeah. I think voice is huge. I tell it to my team on the product development side all the time, how important I think it’s going to be. It’s not for all interactions with your application, but it’s for a lot of them. I mean, some people say, “Well, in offices, is that realistic?” Well, we have call centers right now, so obviously people can talk in offices. I think it’ll be weird maybe for a while, but I think it’s a very, very efficient way to communicate person to person. It could, in a lot of cases, be a very efficient and natural way to communicate person to computer and computer to person. Especially person to computer. I mean, the ability to just ask for what you want in English, and it’s going to be faster than typing. I mean, my wife beat the typing teacher, but she also talks really fast. So even she talks faster than she types. So, I think it’s huge.
This is part of the One-on-One Interview series with thought leaders. The transcript has been edited for publication. If it's an audio or video interview, click on the embedded player above, or subscribe via iTunes or via Stitcher.