About this time every year I look forward to heading to Oracle NetSuite’s annual user conference, SuiteWorld, and speaking with its EVP and founder Evan Goldberg. But for the second year in the row we had to do our conversation virtually. And just like last year’s conversation, this year finds sellers trying to navigate a holiday season under a pandemic, we’re still doing that but with an even different situation with a worldwide logistics situation adding even more to the equation.
Below is an edited transcript of a portion of our conversation. Click on the embedded SoundCloud player to hear the entire conversation.
Brent Leary: What are we facing now, how does it differ from last year, and how did some of the things that you have put in place and are putting in place as of today going to help with what businesses are going to be faced with when it comes to fulfilling people’s shopping, and hopefully getting their stuff on time for Christmas this year?
Evan Goldberg: Now we have a combination of supply and demand both going in the opposite directions. And one of the things we’ve been pioneering for a while is this capability called the supply chain control tower. That’s what you need to make sure you don’t have a collision. Unearthing where orders have risk, giving a score card of a vendor’s ability to deliver to you so that you can rank them to be able to shift some of your purchases, if needed.
We always try to do at NetSuite is give you this great visibility into all the things that are impacting your ability to deliver to your customers, which is obviously what you want to do. Get them the right product at the right time, and at the right cost to you.
Brent Leary: How do companies make sure that at least they explain and have enough information to be able to set customer expectations? Because it feels like it’s going to be a big issue, at least until next year.
Evan Goldberg: We’ve added capabilities in NetSuite to do predicted delivery dates – what’s the earliest delivery date. That gives your salespeople, for example, when they’re talking to a big customer real visibility based on current demand and expected delivery of goods, or manufacture of goods, depending on what type of company you are. What your customers can expect, because at the end of the day, that’s the most important thing is set great expectations. Obviously you’d like to under promise, only to the degree that they can tolerate that, and then over deliver.
The other aspect of it is you have to really understand your product lines… For the longest time, everybody was moving was just in time (JIT) inventory, right? But that’s just not going to be possible in a lot of cases now, so you’re going to have to figure out based on your entire product line which things are most important for me to have excess supply of, and which things can I tolerate some delays. Certainly your most profitable items or the items that your customers are most relying on perhaps are the ones you may want to prioritize for sort of more of a just in case inventory strategy, and this is where, really for product companies of all different types have to think about this.
Brent Leary: If I can encapsulate what you said this year and last year, it’s all about automation, insight, and agility. This seemed to be kind of the themes that are coming out of this year’s SuiteWorld. How did the definition of these three things change because of what’s all going on right now?
Evan Goldberg: I think there’s some degree to which it’s not as easy to automate now, because there’s these constant shocks. But to the degree you can, it’s more important than ever. Most companies are dealing with a labor shortage, with the great resignation, where they’re having to go out and find new people and train them, and you’re just working with limited resources. And you don’t want your people working on manual, mundane tasks that the computer can do faster and better and cheaper. Have them working on the strategic projects that add more value to your business. And that’s how these three different things work together.
Automation, things like our Suite Banking capabilities, which get rid of a lot of the drudgery of dealing with cash management, to then free you up to spend more time sort of strategically looking at insights. What’s happening in my supply chain? What’s most important to me, and how do I make sure that I can deliver as well as possible for my customers, and then have the ability to pivot based on these new plans that you make from really looking at the data, and those are how those three different, we call them super powers, work together to make you a true superhero.
Brent Leary: Well, I think we all could use a superhero in our life with all that’s going on right now. How have your customers fared during the pandemic, and how ready are they to take these super powers and actually put them to use?
Evan Goldberg: We have so many really interesting stories of companies that made pivots that may have looked temporary but are turning permanent. Certainly dealing with a hybrid workforce, I mean it was all remote. It’s starting to shift to some remote, some in person. How do you keep that collaboration level going, and the collaborative tools look like they’re going to have a lot of legs to them, because you’re just going to have a more diverse workforce in all ways. I think a permanent trend. Selling through new channels, sometimes disintermediating how you really thought you were going to be delivering to your customers.
You may have delivered through retail stores, well that obviously wasn’t going to work for a while, so let’s start selling direct to consumer. And lo and behold, that’s proving for a lot of companies to be very effective. And as stores come back, of course they still want to be in those stores and they still want to utilize those channels, but as a result of their having increased sales online direct to consumer, they’re like, “I’m going to now diversify my sales.” Makes the business more complicated, and again, that’s where we think that NetSuite can really help.
Brent Leary: It’s been several years since Oracle acquired NetSuite, and I think I saw as part of your Keynote, where your customer base has gone from 11,000 to 27,000 or thereabouts since that acquisition. So you’ve got a significant amount of customers, more customers, and they seem like they’re spread out all over the world, so you’re definitely more global than you were before the acquisition. How has being a part of Oracle changed the relationship you have with your customers?
Evan Goldberg: When we became part of Oracle we started something called advanced customer support, which is a service where someone can be consistently there to help you get the most out of NetSuite. We’ve done that long enough that we have developed these playbooks for the big transitions that companies make, whether it’s going international, entering the public market, different kinds of supply chain… again, adding direct to consumer to your mixed channels. We’ve seen this enough times that we can kind of bundle it up and provide best practices, and do it more efficiently for us and more effectively for our customers. So that’s certainly one of the things that the scale has provided us with.
Oracle itself has great technology that we can leverage. We obviously leverage Oracle’s database technology. We’re leveraging their infrastructure. One of the things we’ve been able to do is go global really quickly in terms of where we operate NetSuite, so we have new data centers in Europe and North America and Asia, so that’s been great. And then we have products that we provide customers that really were only possible because of our close relationship with our colleagues at Oracle. So one that we announced this week is the NetSuite Analytics Warehouse, which is based on Oracle’s data warehouse technology, which allows you to take your NetSuite data and sort of mash it up with other data that’s important to your business. Could be data from your website, could be data from your own operational systems. I mean, companies are awash in data now, but actually leveraging that data. That’s what we’re talking about with insights, seeing behind this data.
And we have great examples of customers who are doing this already. They’re taking their Google Analytics data from their website, and figuring out how people browse the website impacts or is impacted by various things that are in NetSuite, and tying those two different sources of data together. So that’s been a great result of the collaborating with Oracle.
Brent Leary: I’ve heard the term customer 360 used by a lot of different vendors in a lot of different kind of contexts. But for the first time, I heard you talk about it recently. What does customer 360 mean from a NetSuite perspective?
Evan Goldberg: We feel we have a lot of credibility there, because our whole mission has been to provide a single place for all your key business and information. One place you can go to know what you need to know and do what you need to do to grow your business. And so we have this rich set of data about customers, and if you adopt a significant portion of a suite, you’re going to have financial data, sales data, service data, web data, and tying that all together on an individual customer basis is sort of what that’s all about. Getting all the news that’s fit to show on the screen about that customer. What’s happening lately with that customer, what are some of the top headlines, are they a profitable customer, are they a growing customer, are there issues that a salesperson needs to know about in terms of shipping or other things so that when they call that customer they’re really knowledgeable about it? And so it’s really just a reimagined user experience around the data that sort of has always been in NetSuite.
Brent Leary: And when you talk about all the different kind of pieces, data pieces that you have from a variety of perspectives that go beyond just kind of what people traditionally think about when they think about customers, how does that help NetSuite help your customers even more?
Evan Goldberg: Regardless of what your role is in the business, if you’re a person who interacts with customers, the more knowledgeable you are about the entire customer journey of the customer that you’re dealing with, the better you’re going to be able to empathize with them, the better you’re going to be able to provide great service. And ultimately, I think the biggest leverage point that companies have to create that lifetime customer loyalty are those interactions, those personal interactions you have with the customer. And you can turn around in a heartbeat a soured customer relationship if handled correctly, and definitely to handle those situations correctly, you need to be armed with all the information that is behind whatever your customer is sort of feeling about you at that particular time.
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.