advanced revenue management

Accounting Periods

What are Accounting Periods?

 

Accounting periods are an artificial method used to make it easier to organize financial records and allow comparison between different time periods. Organisations deal with accounting periods by detailing transactions on an ongoing basis, but compiling the figures into totals for the period. This compilation process requires the organisation to carry out an administrative task that effectively resets the ongoing transaction record before recording new transactions in the new accounting period.

The importance of Accounting Periods in accounting

 

An accounting system has three broad purposes:

  1. To record all financial (in the broadest sense, not just cash) transactions
  2. To meet all legal and taxation requirements
  3. To provide information to allow managers and/or owners to make business decisions.

Accounting periods are irrelevant for the first purpose because such transactions are on-going but they are essential for the other objectives.

There are several assumptions that accountants make when preparing financial statements and analysts make when reading the statements. These are considered fundamental principles of accounting, more so than the financial standards developed by an individual company. Some key assumptions include that the business is a separate entity, that it is actively trading, and that it uses a consistent monetary unit.

Another key assumption is that the company’s activities can be divided into even and individual time periods. This is artificial, as a company’s trading activities are continuous and ongoing but is necessary to make sure there are regular and comparable sets of financial statements. Most commonly, a company will produce annual accounts, but it may also produce quarterly or monthly figures.

In the UK, limited companies have to produce regular accounts that can be audited both for registration with Companies House and for HMRC for corporation tax assessment. They also need periodic registration of VAT due and paid to calculate net VAT due to HMRC.

In order to ensure that such official reports are accurate – and remain accurate – it is highly advisable to both use and close off accounting periods. This is to prevent the possibility that future transactions (including journals or perhaps changes in currency rates) do not impact earlier reports.

 

Using Accounting Periods

 

The use of accounting periods means that a company carries out procedures in a consistent and repeated pattern.

This consists of two types of cycle: individual transaction and closing period.

Individual transaction.

This usually involves the transaction taking place, the company preparing the relevant documentation like an invoice, the company valuing the transaction and listing it in a relevant journal like that for sales or purchases, and the company copying across the transaction from this journal to the general ledger that acts as a combined record of all transactions. Note that most companies use a double-entry system by which each transaction is recorded in two ways in a journal; for example, a sale is listed once for the receipt of money and once for the loss of the item from stock.

Closing Period

The second cycle is the set of steps followed at the end of each accounting period. This involves verifying that the two sets of transaction listing in each journal add up to the same totals, correcting any errors, copying the details from each journal to the general ledger, preparing financial statements, and posting closing journal entries. This means that although the various journals like sales records are ongoing, there are clear boundaries between the accounting periods, and it’s easy to see the current total for any particular period.

NetSuite Period Close Checklist

This checklist describes the standard required tasks in sequence. Restrictions contained by this sequence can be overridden with the necessary permissions.

  • To close a period, first lock out transactions that post to Accounts Payable and Accounts Receivable.
  • Review accounts and perform any necessary adjustments. These adjustments can include transactions generated by the system such as intercompany adjustments and foreign currency balance revaluations in OneWorld accounts. Also, if using NetSuite OneWorld, update consolidated exchange rates to ensure that consolidated financials are accurate, and eliminate intercompany transactions if using the Intercompany Auto Elimination feature.
  • Reconcile negative inventory, correct transaction/period date mismatches, and validate gapless General Ledger audit numbering.
  • If Multi-Book Accounting is used, each accounting book can be individually closed and reopened.
  • Close the period to exclude all posting transactions. Later, if additional postings are required, the period can be reopened.
accounting

New Revenue Recognition Standards – IFRS 15 – should you be concerned?

The new accounting standards for revenue recognition that has been agreed by both IASB (International Accounting Standards) and the US FASB (Financial Accounting Standards Board) comes into effect 1st January 2018 applying to accounts that commence in 2018.

You may think that revenue recognition only applies to organisations delivering projects with complex contractual and payment terms. But that is no longer the case with IFRS 15. It now applies to any circumstance where the invoicing does not coincide with the delivery of goods or services, with certain pre-defined exclusions.

The exceptions are:

  • lease contracts under IAS 17;
  • insurance contracts under IFRS 4;
  • financial instruments under IFRS9, IFRS 10, IFRS 11, IAS 27 and IAS 28
  • non-monetary exchange between entities in the same line of business to facilitate sales

You may think that your organisation only provides goods rather than services, so how could is apply to you? One example is that if a product e.g. a washing machine is sold with a three-year maintenance under IFRS 15 part of the price paid should be considered as applying to the maintenance and should therefore be recognised in the accounts as and when the maintenance is delivered.

Another example could be if you sell a product which requires a deposit. At what stage are you entitled, under IFRS 15, to take that deposit to revenue? How does IFRS 15 apply to distributors with ‘sale or return’ arrangements with their customers?

For many service organisations its implications are clear (even if implementation details require a lot of consideration). Project organisations of any size are probably familiar with accounting with revenue recognition but will have to adapt their accounting from earlier ones (which will depend on a number of factors). But now many organisations that charges an annual fee for a service – software licence, maintenance, internet hosting for example – will have to take account of IFRS 15.

Is your organisation affected?

Definitely yes if your organisation currently handles revenue recognition under existing non-excluded IFRS rules you will need to change to the new standards.

Currently no if your organisation only ever supplies goods and/or services that are invoiced (or paid for) in line with the supply of the goods and/or services (and intends to restrict business to such) or only supplies the financial products excepted from IFRS 15.

All other organisations should consider their situation and discuss with their auditor and/or accountant.

When should you consider IFRS 15?

There is less than eighteen months before the standard comes into effect. Of course if your accounts run from September, October, November or December you have at least two years before you are required to implement it. Note that IASB are happy for organisations to implement IFRS 15 immediately so there is no need to wait until the last minute.

I suggest you do two things right away:

  • discuss with your accountant/auditor whether you will be affected
  • find out whether your existing accounting system effectively handles IFRS 15 (Note that NetSuite with Advanced Revenue Manager has a fully integrated module that fully supports IFRS 15)

I further suggest that anyone considering a change to the accounting system adds full integrated support for IFRS 15 to their requirements. After all, do you really want your future business plans impacted by a lack of such support?

 

Keystone Data - Email Case Management Process w. Decisions & Pending

Defining your Customer Case Management and Support Process

As a software implementation and development company, we provide high level support to a wide range of companies. Along the way we have refined our process to meet our customer’s and our own needs. Practically speaking, it’s important your Support system provides the best Customer Service for your customers and the upmost visibility for your company too. A truly formalised process is the best way to create a structure that ensures a case is cared for throughout its lifecycle.

After implementing Support processes for ourselves and our customers, we thought it best to share some of the aspects we think many businesses should strive for.

Some Best Practices

Effective Logging

The best way to set the ship sailing in the wrong direction is by ineffectively or barely logging customer issues. The bare necessities should be a Contact, Problem Description, Unique Case Number and the Date and Time it was received. “Obviously” I hear you say, but without a formalised Case Capture form it can be very easy to simply trust yourself to remember. The ITIL model for Service Management suggests this is the role for a Service Desk. A single point of entry to ensure communication is streamlined and the case recipient’s first priority is to effectively log and manage the problem.

Could the first contact Support User take charge of the Case to manage it to completion? This can sometimes be a good way to ensure the case is chased once escalated.

Of course this doesn’t have to be a manual process, on systems like NetSuite, Cases or Tickets can be captured from customised Online Forms. This has always been a great way for grooming customer’s queries, with mandatory fields like “Nature of Enquiry” acting as a filter to route Cases in your Support System. If Cases can be classified before they are added to a Case list, the Case list is infinitely more manageable.

 

 

We also believe a Support system should share the same database as your Customer Records, not only to link Cases to Customers, but to provide your Support Agents with the information they need to provide comprehensive support. But even more than that, in a system like NetSuite, a Customer’s Service Level Agreement could automatically set a Case’s Priority or Due Date.

Responding

First of all, we would suggest the first response is a confirmation of query receipt. For emails this is a simple automated email, but phone queries are often neglected. We’d suggest logging all phone calls as queries, however appreciate this isn’t always logical or practical. However if the query requires more investigation or cannot be handled with a first contact resolution, an email detailing the conversation is a great way to leave an open line of communication with the customer and record the query for memory on your side too.

Secondly, we’d suggest growing your Knowledge Base by encouraging your Support Agents and Technical Staff to constantly contribute to it. In a basic sense, Knowledge Bases can often offer standard responses, but could also be extended memos so that the exhaustive research that went into a great response doesn’t disappear into the realms of Closed Cases. Arranged into topics, you can give your Support Team their own, industry-specific Encyclopaedia if done properly. (There is always a chance this could be shared with your customers too!)

Could the first contact Support User take charge of the Case to manage it to completion? This can sometimes be a good way to ensure the case is chased once escalated.

Are you ready to close the Case? If yes, it’s worth updating the customer of this status change too. More than anything, this communication ensures avoiding any skeletons in the closet appearing when a customer expected a response that never came. Generally speaking, it’s difficult to ever over-communicate but much easier to under-communicate!

Time Tracking

Not just for your benefit, Time Tracking can be a great help for the customer when managing their Service Level Agreement. The logic behind Time Tracking if you charge for Support Time is simple, but it’s also a great way to view where time is being exhausted. Seeing how much is spent on individual customers can be an enlightening experience, for example.

Reporting

As a smaller enterprise it can often be difficult to see how you’re doing when it comes to Support. A huge part of this reporting is using a system that uses assessable processes and has visual reporting capabilities. Thanks to NetSuite, we are able to access a huge range of visual reports such as: Service Response Times, Cases by Customer, Resolutions by Employee and many more.

Analytics shouldn’t just be reserved for the Sales side of things though. Does a persistent Customer need a more appropriate SLA? Do the Support Team need more training on a particular Product Group with questions slowing down response times? It’s often easy to think of Support as an open and closed activity, but often a lot can be taken from delving into the detail.

In Practice | Email Case Management

Case Management is often a difficult process to map out, with Case requirements varying vastly and Support being delivered by employees who have other primary functions. These difficulties apply to Keystone Data too, and in response we all try to work to a Support process that is time-efficient, promotes visibility and comprehensive for the customer.

The diagram below details out a general, simple Email Case process that we would frequently implement for our customers. Defining your own process is a great start for implementing a SaaS, but also for helping analyse and improve the process itself. In this example we are able to show a first contact response (in white), an escalated response (in grey) and how a Case can be reopened by a customer and start the cycle again.

Keystone Data’s Email Case Management Process | Manual process are defined with a solid grey line and automated processes with a dotted teal line. NetSuite processes are defined in Navy, standard Support steps in Teal, 1st contact responses in White and escalated steps in Grey.

Keystone Data are a NetSuite implementation specialist, for more information on Case Management or implementing Support for your company please get in touch.

Financial Reporting

Financial reporting and analysis with NetSuite

NetSuite provides a variety of ways to report on and analyse your organisation’s finances. Whether you are looking for the current up to date position, a comparison of how one period or a complex analysis showing how your organisation fared over a period of time – NetSuite can provide the appropriate tools.

These tools are designed for regular users, powers users or developers. Regular or power users would benefit from appropriate training to maximise their effectiveness in using the tools.

I suggest that when first using NetSuite clients agree with their specialist implementers the necessary reports and other analyses they need and allow the specialists to undertake the customisation on their behalf. The next phase is that users become more familiar with the NetSuite interface and (perhaps after some basic training) start to customise certain aspects.

Any power users (including administrators) would benefit from training (from NetSuite or a Solution Provider) in their particular specialisation.

Experienced developers will usually be able to learn how to use NetSuite’s advanced tools via manuals and help facilities (and trial and error), but NetSuite do offer courses targeted at them so they can get up to speed as quickly as possible.

I shall describe those tools in five sections depending upon what customers have contracted for:

  • those that come with basic NetSuite ERP
  • those that come with the additional module Advanced Financials
  • those available with OneWorld
  • the additional SuiteApp NetSuite Financial Planning (also known as Adaptive Planning for NetSuite)
  • options for extracting data to import into excel or other spreadsheets or any other applications for further analysis

Tools with basic NetSuite ERP

KPIs

Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) synthesize raw data into critical business metrics that can be shown on the dashboard in user-defined formats. They are particularly relevant for providing the latest information on key areas of the business – which may be to do with costs, revenues or cashflow for example depending upon what areas are most important at any point in time.

NetSuite includes over 75 pre-packaged KPIs (most of which have are either directly or indirectly connected with financial data) based on NetSuite standard reports, including summaries of forecast, pipeline, orders, cases, and financial data. Pre-packaged KPIs can quite straightforwardly be used by all users with minor customisation – such as which period is being used (this month, this quarter, year to date etc) and which period it is to be compared with (last month, the equivalent month of last year etc).

Power users can create custom KPIs, based on custom saved searches.

The following types of dashboard portlets are offered to display KPIs:

  • Key Performance Indicators portlet. This portlet displays a simple summary line for each selected KPI, with clickable links that drill down into each KPI’s underlying data source.
  • KPI Meter portlet. This portlet displays a visual representation of KPI data, a semi-circular meter providing comparison, date range, and threshold values at a glance.
  • Trend Graph portlet. This portlet displays a line graph of KPI data values over selected time intervals. Popup trend graphs are also available from clickable icons in the Key Performance Indicators portlet and the KPI Scorecard portlet.
  • KPI Scorecard portlet. This portlet displays a performance scorecard that can include complex comparisons among multiple KPIs over multiple date ranges or accounting periods. Scorecards also can include Excel-like formulas with KPIs and functions in their expressions.

KPIs are role-based and feature-based, meaning the KPIs that you can choose to display depend upon the role you used to log in to NetSuite and the features that are enabled.

Reports

NetSuite provides over 75 pre-packaged reports that can be easily customised by end users, alternative ad-hoc reports can be produced to meet specific needs by power users.

These reports can be shown on screen, printed, emailed or exported to .csv, .xls, .doc or .pdf files.

Most organisations produce certain reports regularly for example profit and loss reports monthly and maybe balance sheet quarterly and these regular reports can be set up with standard criteria to run automatically and made available to relevant staff or other board members.

Other reports are likely to be needed from time to time in response to a particular situation or demand for information.

Pre-packaged

The pre-packaged financial reports include all statements required by international and national accounting standards such as balance sheet, income statement, cash flow statement and statement of changes in equity. Other financial reports include: Banking/Budgeting, Sales, VAT/GST, Purchases, Customer/Receivables, Revenue, Vendors/Payables, Cost Accounting and Forecast.

Customisation of these reports includes adding new columns, totals or other generated figures. When customised in these ways a new version of the report is created that can be given a name and can be made available to other users with the necessary access control.

When running a pre-packaged report (whether or not it has been customised) the user has a number of options for example the dates covered by the report or whether to summarise totals or show details.

Ad-hoc

In developing ad-hoc reports – which would typically be undertaken by power users (or NetSuite specialists) – there are a series of predefined steps to be undertaken.

Firstly the user selects a metric e.g. ‘Amount of sales and return generated by a campaign’ or ‘Cost of goods that have been sold’.

Then a series of decisions must be made about what fields are to be included, what should be in each column and if totals and subtotals were needed, what they are to be.

These ad-hoc reports can then be customised in the same way as pre-packaged ones.

Searches

Searches are less limited in terms of the fields they can access than reports. The only limitation is that the user should have the authority to ‘see’ the fields in question. Having accessed the specific fields, they can be manipulated in a number of ways

NetSuite provides a variety of search tools including searching for a single record by keywords or returning a set of records that match defined filters. The results can be displayed in a choice of ways, exported to other applications, emailed to other users, and the search definitions saved for reuse.

The following methods can quickly find specific records:

  • Global Search. You can enter keywords in the Search field, located at the top of every NetSuite page, to search your entire account for matching records. Prefix your keywords with the first few letters of a record type and a colon to narrow results.
  • Quick Find Links. You can click a Quick Find icon in the header of many individual records to quickly find a record of the same type.
  • Quick Search Portlet. You can add a portlet to your dashboard, where you can enter keywords to return records with matching names or IDs.

The following methods return a set of records of a selected type, with values that match defined filters.

  • Simple Search. You can open a search page by clicking a Search task link. On this page, you can filter retrieved records by one or more field values.
  • Advanced Search. You can shift to advanced search mode by checking the Use Advanced Search box on a search page. On this page, you can filter records by formulas containing SQL expressions, and by join field values in related records, and you can sort results and group them into summary calculations.

You can save simple and advanced search results to a .csv, .xls, or .pdf file, and include these results in email messages. The output of these searches can also be manipulated to create totals, averages, comparisons etc.

An optional Pivot Reports BETA facility enables users to turn searches into polished reports.

I would define any user able to use the search facilities to facilitate any significant analysis or produce a reliable, readable report would be defined as a power user and probably have undertaken some kind of training (including using NetSuite’s free on-line training facilities).

Budgets

The budgets facility provides estimates of income and expense for a specified period of time, and are used for financial planning purposes. In NetSuite, each budget covers a year and permits the entry of an amount, per account, for each accounting period in the year. With basic NetSuite the types of accounts for which a budget can be set include: income accounts, expense accounts, income and expense accounts (to include all Income Statement accounts), or balance sheet accounts (to include assets, liabilities, and equity).

Budgets can be created for specific customers or projects, items, departments, classes, locations or any combination of these criteria. They can be set up within NetSuite or use the CSV Import Assistant to import budgets from external systems. Budgets can be based upon a previous budget or on a previous year’s financials.

SuiteGL

SuiteGL was introduced in 2014.2 with breakthrough capabilities for the general ledger component of NetSuite cloud ERP that can enable businesses to tailor general ledger processes to their unique business needs.

With SuiteGL, NetSuite customers and NetSuite Solution Provider partners can now transform the general ledger from a static subsystem into a dynamic business asset that is more adaptable to specific business requirements and changing conditions that automatically carries forward with every upgrade

Custom GL Lines Plug-in

Use the Custom GL Lines Plug-in feature to create custom GL impact lines on standard transactions, such as invoices and vendor bills, across single or multiple accounting books, eliminating the need for manual journal entries. You can also use this feature to add general ledger impact to custom transaction types.

The type of logic that you can define in an implementation of the Custom GL Lines plug-in depends on the accounting features enabled in your NetSuite account.

Custom Transactions.

Use the Custom Transactions feature to create transaction types designed for your specific business needs. This feature enhances your ability to efficiently define how each of your business processes affects your general ledger. You can name your custom transaction types to reflect your business logic. As with standard transactions, each custom transaction type can have its own numbering scheme, permissions, and workflow logic.

Custom Segments.

Use the Custom Segments feature to create custom classification fields similar to class, department, and location. You can create an unlimited number of custom segments, define possible values for each segment, and add the segments to specific record types. NetSuite users can then use the segments to classify records appropriately, allowing filtering and grouping of data based on categories specific to your business.

Additional tools with Advanced Financials

Multiple budgets

Customers who subscribe to advanced financials can create multiple budgets for the same time period and combination of criteria. For example a company may define a ‘best’, ‘worst’ and ‘expected’ budget.

They can also enter budgets for statistical accounts – see below. Budgets can be created for departments, classes, locations, items, and customers or projects. For example, you can enter a budget for the headcount statistical account that specifies the number of new employee requisitions for the Sales Department in the upcoming financial year. You can then compare the budgeted amount against the number of new employees by customizing the Budget vs. Actual report.

Statistical accounting

The Statistical Accounts feature, part of the Advanced Financial module, enables the tracking of non-monetary data which can then be used on reports and income statements. Its relationship with the financial activity can be examined.

Users who would find this feature valuable include those responsible for accounting maintenance and period close activities, journal entries, cost and revenue allocation, and financial reporting using ratios such as EPS (Earnings per Share). Statistical journal entries can be made manually or auto generate them through a saved search run by a statistical schedule.

Users who manually make statistical journals can also record an absolute statistical balance in lieu of tracking detailed changes. This is valuable for those users who capture periodic reports on statistical non-monetary data. For example, you receive a monthly report from your Operations Department that provides the square footage of office space used by each department in your organization. Rather than track the periodic differences in used office space, you enter the absolute value that overwrites all previous values. The absolute value is then available to you through reporting.

If the Dynamic Allocation feature is enabled, users can assign any statistical account to an allocation schedule. The weight for the allocation, based on the balance of the statistical account through statistical journals, is dynamically calculated at the time the allocation journal is generated. This is useful in advanced costing such as Activity Based Costing and Usage Based Costing, and when you are running cost centres and profit centres. Users can also use an absolute value in dynamic allocation schedules.

To run multiple dynamic allocation schedules in a specific sequence, users can create allocation batches. Commonly referred to as the step-down allocation method in cost accounting, users define the sequence where the result of the first allocation is the source pool of the second allocation and so on. Users can include up to ten allocation schedules in a batch.

There are several methods users can employ to monitor the balance of a statistical account. From the chart of accounts, users can view a specific statistical account register. From the saved search assigned to a statistical schedule, users can access the details of each statistical journal associated with that schedule. Users can search for statistical journal entries. Users can customize the Income Statement to include statistical account data, and then examine its relationship with their financial data.

Additional tools with OneWorld

For customers who use OneWorld (mostly companies with subsidiaries, whether in the UK or globally) there are some differences in financial reporting and analysis. Some of these differences are subtle variations on standard reporting but there is one feature that is only available with OneWorld which is multi-book accounting.

Multi-Book Accounting

The Multi-Book Accounting feature provides the ability to maintain multiple sets of accounting records based on a single set of real-time financial transactions. This enables businesses to support different managerial and regulatory compliance needs, such as:

Deliver different financial reports to serve different purposes

A company that maintains its primary accounting records according to United States Generally Accepted Accounting Principles (U.S. GAAP), for example, can add accounting books to generate different versions of financial reports and statements that are mandated by local governments or industry regulations.

Provide detailed transaction-based reports for each accounting book

Transaction-level reports can be generated for individual accounting books to satisfy managerial reporting requirements and provide detailed transaction level audit trail to book specific financial statements. Saved searches and KPIs also support display by accounting book.

Automate posting to multiple accounting books according to pre-defined accounting rules

You can create different revenue recognition and expense amortization rules for different accounting books.

Adjust financial results on a per-book basis

Manual journal entries, including intercompany journal entries, can be posted for individual accounting books.

Ensure data integrity across multiple accounting books

The system automatically maintains data synchronization for parallel transactions in different accounting books to ensure data integrity.

Enable customization to leverage the Multi-Book Accounting context

SuiteApps and customization can be implemented to yield book specific financial results.

The Multi-Book Accounting feature includes options for chart of account mapping, foreign currency management, and revenue and expense management to address these needs.

NetSuite Financial Planning

Adaptive Planning is from Adaptive Insights, a market leader in cloud-based budgeting, forecasting, and reporting. It is fully integrated with NetSuite and offered as NetSuite Financial Planning. With comprehensive financial planning, self-service reporting, analytics and more, Adaptive Insights complements NetSuite with a powerful cloud solution that accelerates budgeting and forecasting cycles and improves accuracy. Tight integration with NetSuite means automated import and export by subsidiary, department, location, class, item, and customer. Move between financials and plans with a click of a tab!

Key Benefits

  • Reduce cycle time by up to 90%
  • Decrease errors and improve data integrity with automatic aggregation
  • Improve transparency with audit trail, version control, and analysis tools
  • Enhance business support with integrated workflow and process management, driving more accurate budgets and forecasts

 

Completely Unified with NetSuite ERP

Together, Adaptive and NetSuite deliver a cloud-based end-to-end solution for financial management, accounting, and corporate performance management. •Accessible as a tab directly in NetSuite, so it’s a seamless transition for end users

  • Full integration means you can drill back to the detail in NetSuite
  • Drill all the way down to the transaction level

Comprehensive Financial Planning

Adaptive provides the planning capabilities you need to model your entire business – revenue and sales, capital assets, balance sheet and cash flow, headcount, expenses, and more. Managing global operations is easy too, with automatic currency translation and the power to report any data in any currency. •Incorporate drivers and assumptions to plan expenditures

  • Integrate with NetSuite for real-time sales data to drive planning and forecasting
  • Link model elements for dynamic, integrated financial statements

Extend NetSuite Reporting

Extend the power of NetSuite and empower business users with self-service reporting across all subsidiaries, departments, and locations. •Generate HTML reports for real-time analysis

  • Gain fast insight by drilling down into underlying details
  • Publish presentation-quality reports for board books and other packages

Analytics Drive Agile Plans

Analytics and planning together is the combination that makes you best-in-class. Visualize your historical actuals with interactive graphical dashboards that make it easy to identify trends, then update your forecast in real-time. •Use what-if scenario analysis directly on dashboards and drill down by any dimension

  • Improve business agility and use your actuals to drive plans for greater accuracy
  • Share knowledge across Finance and Accounting with annotations that are directly linked to metric data for a specific time period

Collaborative Budgeting & Forecasting

Annual budgeting, quarterly review, and monthly forecasting should be a team sport, so we provide powerful process management to get your LOB managers on board. •Optimized for mobility and collaboration to increase accountability and involvement

  • Monitor processes with incredibly easy functionality, simple usability, and ease of management
  • Define deliverables, assign them to users, monitor their status, and track their closure
  • View task statuses with at-a-glance graphs that automatically update

 

Options for extracting data for further analysis

There are options for extracting data to import into excel or other spreadsheets or any other applications for further analysis. Reports and the results of searches can be extracted via csv to excel or similar spreadsheets for further analysis.

SuiteAnalytics Connect

This additional module is suitable for developers and NetSuite offers a choice of training to help them get up to speed quickly. It is used by many SuiteApp developers including Adaptive Insights.

SuiteAnalytics Connect feature, formerly known as ODBC Connections for Advanced Reporting, gives technical users the power to access your organization’s NetSuite data by leveraging the familiarity and flexibility of SQL. This feature allows NetSuite data to be archived, combined with external data, and analysed or visualized leveraging third-party archiving, data warehousing and BI tools.

To support a broader set of tools for NetSuite data access, Version 2014 Release 2 introduced new drivers: a JDBC driver, an ADO.NET driver as well as 32-bit and 64-bit ODBC drivers for Windows and Linux. These new drivers enable access to NetSuite using any mainstream database connectivity standard.

To make it easier for technical users to quickly put the ODBC drivers to use, the ODBC drivers’ installers leverage a customer’s NetSuite account information to streamline the setup process.

1024px-Balanced_scale_of_Justice.svg

Comparison of NetSuite with Microsoft Dynamics Nav

Potential clients will often consider NetSuite and Microsoft Dynamics Nav when determining which ERP or business management software to buy. They are widely available and installed and offer a similar range of business functions but there are differences that can help clients determine which is most appropriate for them.

 

Mobile availability

NetSuite is available from any device from anywhere in the world that has access to the internet. This is because it is a true web-based solution. Alternatively clients can use the phone apps that NetSuite offers to connect into NetSuite. Microsoft Dynamics Nav requires a rich client software on the user device which restricts which devices can access it and any phone apps are provided by third parties rather than Microsoft.

Upgrades

NetSuite has been developed such than any customisations must be outside the core code and created using the range of customisation features. This means that upgrades to any client’s instance can be made easily by NetSuite without the need for client specific intervention. Clients can thus be assured they will on the latest versions as soon as they become available able to take advantage of new functionality or have any bugs or minor problems resolved quickly.

With Microsoft Dynamics Nav many customisations are undertaken by hard coding such that the Microsoft Dynamics Nav  code itself is changed. This means that a client must be careful when upgrading as the Microsoft Dynamics Nav  code that has changed in the new version may also be the area where the customer (or vertical market) specific change has been made. Because of this it is quite common for Microsoft Dynamics Nav clients not to take upgrades when they are available which means they cannot take advantage of new features and may have to live with software bugs.

 Full integration

NetSuite includes a feature rich CRM system which is fully integrated into the ERP system with a common interface. Microsoft Dynamics Nav offers a CRM which is not fully integrated and therefore does not synchronise all records nor allow automatic flow between Microsoft Dynamics Nav  and Microsoft Dynamics CRM.

Further, NetSuite includes fully integrated project management and service resource planning modules whereas to have access to such features in MS Dynamics clients must contract with a third party. NetSuite also offers a fully integrated eCommerce platform whereas if using with Microsoft Dynamics Nav the client must use a third party product and integrate it with Microsoft Dynamics Nav.

Support for multi-national organisation

NetSuite provides a strong multi-national offering, allowing clients real-time consolidation across the organization. With Microsoft Dynamics Nav the consolidations are ‘batch’ mode.

Support for multi-locations

Whilst both systems support multi-location, only NetSuite supports multi-site inventory management.

Real time analytics and reporting

NetSuite provides all analytics and reporting in real time, whereas Microsoft Dynamics Nav  is mostly off-line with analytics requiring MS Excel or complex products like SQL Server and Analytic Services.

Workflow

NetSuite includes an integrated workflow module (SuiteFlow) that can be used to tailor business processes whereas Microsoft Dynamics Nav requires a development environment like .NET and custom programming.

 

Total Cost of Ownership

When considering cost of ownership, NetSuite is easier for a prospect to identify over a period of years whereas there are a couple of areas where Microsoft Dynamics Nav is hard to quantify over time.

The first is in the area of end user devices which with Microsoft Dynamics Nav need to be able to run the Microsoft Dynamics Nav rich client software (see Mobile availability). This is likely to mean that all such devices must run Windows and from time to time may need to update their version of Windows to support the latest version of client software. Such upgrades can be expensive in terms of both likely hardware enhancement and support personnel time, as well as being disruptive for end users.

The second area is in the costs of upgrading to the latest version of Microsoft Dynamics Nav (see Upgrades). Because specific Microsoft Dynamics Nav instances often include hard coded changes they are more difficult to upgrade so that the cost of such an upgrade is hard to quantify.

Summary

In summary when deciding between NetSuite and Microsoft Dynamics Nav , assuming that either system (with or without third party additional software) can support any specific functionality required there are some specific differentiators that would lead to the choice of either.

Why choose Microsoft Dynamics Nav

  1. If the client is fully committed to Microsoft products and has easily available access to SQL Server, .NET and other Microsoft product skills.
  2. If the client is committed to an on premise based solution

Why choose NetSuite

  1. If the client requires a genuine fully internet based SAAS product that can be accessed by any internet-connectible device anywhere in the world
  2. If the client requires a fully integrated CRM/ERP solution with a common interface – perhaps an organization that sells mostly to existing clients and wants to use the CRM system to manage the relationship across the organization with those clients
  3. If full multi-location inventory is needed
  4. If a strong fully integrated multi-national solution is required with real-time consolidation
  5. If the client is likely to want a range of user defined analytics and reporting that change over time rather than a pre-defined set of analytics and reports that can be built by a specialist to the user requirement
  6. If the client is (or is planning to grow) in the service business so that a fully integrated project management or service resource planning are required – or may be required in the future.
businessman hand working with new modern computer and business s

What KPIs should you have?

KPIModern ERP or integrated business systems like NetSuite offer a range of standard KPIs (Key Performance Indicators) plus the ability for a fairly competent user to design their own very quickly. What’s more the results they give reflect up to the minute information.

If you have a range of ‘best in breed’ or bespoke business systems you will probably have to extract data from various sources, massage it via a spreadsheet and present it in the form of a report. If you are lucky the data will be almost up to date.

But taking the case of a modern ERP or integrated business system how do you decide which KPIs to choose?

The first point to recognise is that you should not be ‘stuck’ with whatever you have chosen. Make sure you (or someone easily available to you in your organisation) know what KPIs are delivered with your solution, how to change them and how to develop new ones. The information that is critical to you today may be of minor interest in six months’ time. For example today you may be concerned about cash flow whereas in six months’ time growth or profit may be more important.

The next point is that the KPIs of most importance to you depend on what your responsibility is within the organisation. A finance director is interested mostly in a wide range or finance indicators whereas the sales director is probably more interested in the pipeline and sales forecasts and the support manager is outstanding support cases or time to close cases.

A recent study undertaken by SL Associates of NetSuite customers also indicated that whilst certain KPIs were considered important by most organisations, different types of organisations benefited from tracking different KPIs. For example non-profit organisations were interested in Cost of Servicing the Mission and Cost of Servicing the Mission, manufacturing companies were concerned with Production Efficiency and Obsolete Inventory Carrying Costs and Service companies Availability and Utilization of Resources.

All the organisations were interested in 360° Visibility & Actionable Insights and measuring the improvement they had experienced in implementing a modern fully integrated ERP or business management solution.

The overall message seems to me to be: the KPIs your organisation will need will vary across the organisation and over time. These variations are driven by the differing needs of the stakeholders of the organisation, the issues that are most critical at any time and the type of business – which may change over time if your business expands into providing service or decides to outsource its product manufacture or warehousing.

Note: We can provide copies of the SL Associates KPI e-books if you complete our contact form. They are available for Wholesale & Distribution, Manufacturing, Retail, The Non-Profit Sector, The Services Sector and the Software Industry, just let us know which are of interest to you and we’ll email them. A General Business one is due to be released soon.

custom_frequency_528

Ecommerce Downtime and how to avoid it

I often get asked how much you should expect to pay to host, for example, a Magento Website. As with many similar questions the answer is “it depends”…. A range of factors will drive your decision in terms of the appropriate environment for your Magento build including traffic volume, integration with external systems, volume of products and number of concurrent users you expect to support on the Magento Admin System to name a few.

Although it’s difficult to put a figure on this I would say that the old adage “you get what you pay for” is often very true. Although what you need will vary this is often an area where companies look to save money, which I believe can be a big mistake.

Two major considerations which are often not given sufficient focus when selecting a provider in this area are uptime and performance. Performance is often given a great deal of focus by business owners, however I would argue uptime is just as important, this is why.

Uptime Guarantees

For many years I have been creating service level agreements stating our targeted uptime for client sites. On many occasions I have drawn up agreements which offer uptime guarantees of anywhere between 99.5% and 99.9%. These metrics sound great at face value and when most companies hear their service provider is agreeing to provide uptime of more than 99.5% they think “problem solved as long as they are hitting that” and move on.

Those companies would be well advised to look at these guarantees in more detail, both in term of how the downtime is measured and what the effect of the downtime on revenue will be.
Lets take for example a medium ecommerce business turning over £3 Million online (average daily revenue £8219) via their website. The following table shows the downtime and associated lost revenue with this downtime (assuming the downtime occurs during a period of average sales).

Percentage Uptime Downtime hours per year Direct revenue loss
99.9% 8.76 £3,000
99.8 17.52 £6,000
99.7 26.28 £9,000
99.6 35.04 £12,000
99.5 43.8 £15,000

This should make those who feel comforted by the fact that they have been offered 99.7% uptime on their website take notice and take this metric as seriously as site performance.
Clearly the actual lost revenue is likely to be higher, particularly in cases where downtime relates to inadequate resources on the server as downtime is more likely to occur when the server experiences high traffic.
Another important note is that downtime not only causes lost revenue, it also reduces your Google ranking and damage customer loyalty.

Want to work towards 100% uptime? Here’s what to do

On server monitoring

drill-down-on-stats-300x180

There are plenty of hosted services and open source installable products to choose from such as Zabbix or Copper Egg.
I particularly like Copper Egg and the hosted model for monitoring, this requires less maintenance on your server and is very powerful and fairly simple to set up. These monitoring tools provide a whole range of metrics such:
– Disk space
– Memory Usage
– CPU
– File system access
– Metrics relating to database activity.
You can also set up customer performance monitors to keep a check on metrics such as the responsiveness of API’s.

External monitoring

External monitoring services such as the popular Pingdom service are an essential tool and are often used to calculate uptime stated on this blog post.

When setting up external monitoring some things to consider:

– Don’t just use a ping check, use semantic monitoring. This means setting up the monitoring system to actually load site pages and check specific content is present. If you just do a ping check the site could be registered as up but be delivering a blank page instead of the home page.
– Consider Real User Monitoring.
– Something else I have done in the past is to set up Selenium checks which complete key processes such as placing an order and schedule these processes to run on regular intervals. This is worth it if you have time as remember loading the home page every 1 minute tells you nothing about whether the checkout is online and payment gateway is operating (anyone who monitors payment gateway services and the banks 3D Secure services will tell you these services regularly have downtime issues)

Cross reference log files, external monitoring and internal monitoring

This is really the key in tuning your hosting environment and moving forwards toward 100% uptime. When you experience downtime cross reference the error logs, site traffic logs and on server monitoring to establish the cause of the downtime.
This will allow you to make changes to avoid recurrence.

Best practice in deployment of changes and site updates

A great deal of downtime is caused by developers deploying changes which have not been properly tested or deploying changes too frequently.
Ensure your developer has good practice in terms of setting up a development and staging environment.

Staff training

Providing staff with administrator access to a large hosted application such as Magento poses a considerable risk to a business. Staff are able to install plugins if they wish, turn on and off caches, back up databases, upload corrupted data etc.
Staff training in these areas is an important part to play in avoiding site downtime.

5 Key Business Intelligence Tips For Retailers

Retailers face a significant challenge when it comes to effectively managing and leveraging the volumes of structured and unstructured data across the gamut of customer interactions. The data is coming from many sources, both internal and external, is high volume, and needs to be processed quickly in order to deliver meaningful insights that sales associates, marketers, managers, and customer service representatives can leverage to make better business decisions.

 

1) Treat external data as if it were your own

In order to derive the most meaningful insight, retailers need to be able to accommodate and leverage not only internal data, but external data as well. By external data, I am primarily referring to third-party market data, vendor data, social media, and demographics.

Retailers need to integrate basic data, such as transaction history and purchase frequency, with external data, and be able to harness information in multiple ways, from structured databases and distributed predictive analytic systems, to mining unstructured data.

2) Don’t just think of BI in terms of reporting…it’s much more than that

Reporting is certainly a piece of what constitutes BI, but it’s not the only piece. When we talk about BI for retailers, we’re really talking about analytics. It’s not just about running reports to provide users with a historical and current view of the business; it’s more about giving users the ability to recognize that there is a problem, know why they problem occurred, and then solve the problem immediately without leaving the BI application. Examples of actions to “solve the problem” are triggering a workflow to order more stock, or running a promotion based on certain events. Your BI software partner should be showing you how they support this “insight to action,” instead of just showing you how to execute reports.

3) There’s only one version of the truth

Ensure multiple versions of the truth are eliminated by making decisions based on a single, centralized data repository. When your BI software vendor starts talking about all of the features and functions within their BI solution, make sure they also tell you about their data warehouse. Retailers need a BI solution that works with a data warehouse to easily combine and analyze data maintained in different applications, creating a single, comprehensive source of the truth. And something else to definitely consider is whether the vendor offers a Software as a Service (SaaS) model for their BI solution. A SaaS solution can not only deliver a single source of truth, but with no infrastructure costs and a rapid ROI.

4) Think cross-channel!

It is no longer acceptable to understand buyer behavior from only one channel. Every aspect of a retailer’s operations needs to be dynamic to respond to the ever-increasing demands of the consumer, across all channels. In order for retailers to understand what motivates the customers at each stage of the buying process, they need to leverage cross-channel analytics that provide a 360-degree view of the customer.

5) Emphasize usability and extensibility

In the early days of BI, users had to have deep technical skills to be able to create reports and understand the true meaning of analytics, and they were restricted to working from a designated terminal on a closed network. Today, information can be accessed on almost every mobile device, from cloud-based netbooks, or via in-store portals. Retailers need to ensure a common infrastructure for producing and delivering enterprise reports, scorecards, dashboards, and ad hoc analysis while empowering end-users with real-time, 24×7 access to self-service BI, mobile BI, and the ability to create their own BI content and personalized dashboards using a simple, easy point-and-click interface. Make sure that your BI software vendor can fully support the concept of “model once deploy anywhere.”

Logistics and Sales: Trends and Moving Averages

There are two ways to do planning:  you can use some kind of analytical software or take an educated guess, based upon your experience.  If you saw the Brad Pitt movie ”Moneyball” then you know that making a projection based upon one’s experience does not always work.  In the movie, Brad Pitt has come to Oakland to coach the A’s baseball team.  He hires a recent Harvard graduate who has some ideas about how one can use statistics to gain an advantage on the field.  This logical approach to baseball does not sit well with the old hand, tobacco-chewing, foul-mouthed, seasoned baseball scout.  His job is to scout the minor leagues and universities looking for new talent.  The scout says of one fellow, ”He can knock the ball out of the park.”  The newcomer from Harvard asks the more important question, ”Yes, but does he get on base?”  For those in UK, who might not know much about baseball, getting on base is what matters.  The coach listens to the statistician and not the scout.  The A’s turn around their dismal record, come in 2nd in the national tournament, and the old-time scout is shown the door.  (Note:  this blog writer does not care much about baseball either, a sport where 25 seconds of excitement are follow by 4 hours of boredom spent watching grown men spit and scratch their groin.)

This same thinking can be applied to business.  Analytics software is supposed to be the oracle (meaning prophet, not the database with a capital “O”) that looks at one’s data and tries to pick out some pattern to make a projection about the future.  These are commonly called forecast and trends.  But the software is only of any use, if you understand what you are looking at.  A misinterpretation of the data is like listening to the foul-mouthed baseball scout.

Here we provide a brief description of what analytics means.

There are several ways to spot a trend.  One is to use a moving average.  The other is to do what is called regression analysis.   You can do both in Microsoft Excel.

Suppose you want to know if your business is growing over time or a recent uptick in sales is just a fluke.  Your sales appear to be going up in a linear fashion.  But can you call this a trend or just a run of good luck?  Let’s see how we can project future sales given past ones.

Take a look at the sales data in the chart below.  Here have sales by week and average weekly sales by month.  We have taken the first four months of the year. The idea of a moving average is you can move the average along the calendar.  For example, it might be more relevant to your business to look at the past three months rather than the whole year.  So you maintain the data in a spreadsheet, but them you adjust the formula to include, say, January to March one measurement and then February to April for the next, thus keeping a three month window or three month moving average.

 

A B C D
1 week January February March
2 1 100 75 66
3 2 200 230 214
4 3 100 124 124
5 4 150 100 175
6 average 138 132 145

sales by month

F G H
2 January 138 1
3 February 132 2
4 March 145 3
5 April (forecast) 136 4

The average shown on row 6 of the spreadsheet is the weekly average sales for each month.  The data in column G is the same average shown up and down instead of horizontally.   (Note: We have plotted average weekly sales by month in a pivot table and shown it in the graphic above to make the data easier to see.)

Now we want to forecast sales for April.  We can use the Excel statistic function =trend to calculate this.  We give it two arrays:  (1) the month expressed as a number (H2:H4) and (2) average weekly sales during the month (G2:G4).

In the cell G5 we enter the function =TREND(G2:G4,H2:H4). This says take the month in column H and the sales in column G and then project the next month. If sales are increasing in linear fashion the you would expect the value for April to be higher than March. It is not. But this is too little data to make a positive declaration about the growth in sales. You would have to repeat this exercise over time to see if the sales are trending upwards.  Hence the idea of a moving average.

This is not the best example of how to apply regression analysis to a business problem. The whole point of regression analysis is to show how one value is related to another: from the statistical point of view, the month number and sales figure have nothing to do with each other.  To understand what we mean, consider another example.  This one model that does determine the relation between two inputs. Consider advertising dollars spent versus customer inquires to judge the effectiveness of your advertising campaign. The basic technique is the same as with the sales projection, except you would want to use the function =linest to plot a line that shows the relationship between advertising dollars and customer inquires.  That could give you a formula you could use like: customer inquires = ((0.023)(dollars spent) + 0.003).  Then take this to your ad agency and complain about their lack of good ideas.

One problem with our model is it does not take into consideration seasonal variation. It does sort of, in that the point of regression is to make an estimate given some series of values over time. By definition, this is an average that would toss out any large variation from the average, e.g., seasonal variation. Large variations can affect the average and, thus, the projection. So there is a need to build into our model seasonal variation, especially for a business that is seasonal, such as manufacturing sporting goods. We will discuss how to do do that in another blog post.