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Effectively leveraging ERP for success in the middle market

INSIGHT ARTICLE  | 

Matt Kenney has spent his career helping organizations implement enterprise resource planning (ERP) systems. Today he’s the national leader for RSM’s NetSuite practice. In this Q&A, we asked him a few questions about how ERP solutions can help support the success of midmarket companies.

Question 1: We’re moving toward a tighter labor market, where many companies will be investing more in cloud technologies. How does a firm like RSM help outsource NetSuite functions to lighten the load of the IT accounting burden for these companies?

Kenney: Well, that’s a good question because there’s a labor shortage, and it looks to become increasingly challenging as we move forward. It is particularly difficult to find good NetSuite resources. As a multi-award-winning and leading NetSuite partner, we have something of an advantage in attracting NetSuite talent to our organization, and we can make that available to our clients. That’s important because it can be tough for one of our clients to attract and retain a NetSuite engineer or a NetSuite administrator to help them manage the system, and we can supply that talent on an as-needed, outsourced basis.  

We also provide application-development support to our clients. NetSuite is a great platform to extend, enhance and integrate with other systems, but that requires a certain degree of technical knowledge. I advise our clients that once they start making custom changes to the platform, they’re in the software business. So they’re happy to outsource to us, and in return, they receive the benefit of not only the labor that we can attract but the rigor of full software development life cycle management, including  backup and testing at a level that most clients are not going to do internally.

Question 2: There have been multiple examples in which companies using NetSuite have switched to a new partner. What is causing them to move to partners such as RSM?

Kenney: Well, there are several reasons. Companies start with other partner organizations but feel like they’ve outgrown them. It can happen after some years or in the middle of an implementation. They come to RSM because they want that national or global coverage. They want to work with a firm that can do requirements gathering and configuration, as well as data migration and custom development, and integration with other systems. Often, they want one partner that delivers all those services.

We also see clients moving to RSM after they start working with NetSuite directly and discover they’re just not getting the level of consultative guidance, business guidance, or in some cases, the responsiveness that they expect from their provider of NetSuite services. We assign a lead consultant to work with them, understand their business, and learn about their particular NetSuite instance and its configuration. These are some of the other reasons that we see people moving to RSM for ongoing support, optimization and assessment projects.

And sometimes moving to RSM is just triggered by the fact that something in the business has changed. They made an acquisition, they have a new CIO, CFO or CEO, and they have some bigger ambitions for the coming years. We see those folks coming to RSM for assistance also.

Question 3: Why would a company that is interested in NetSuite choose to work with a partner versus the software provider?

Kenney: First, clients are understandably concerned that software publishers are primarily interested in promoting their solutions. Partners provide objectivity. They focus on understanding the client’s business goals and success metrics and delivering the best solution for the job. For example, as a partner, we may not want to deploy an entire solution right away. We understand that some clients need to build their capabilities and add on components over time.

Second, a NetSuite partner like RSM brings a broader set of capabilities to a NetSuite customer when it does move forward with the solution. We think about issues like how to calculate taxes, how to enforce internal controls or how the customer is going to manage risk in the environment. We bring all the capabilities of RSM to bear on the project, making the client aware of things, beyond the software itself, that are essential to creating a business system that supports their goals.

Question 4: What does RSM bring to a NetSuite implementation compared to other NetSuite partners?

Kenney: The vast number of NetSuite partners are not business consultants or systems consultants. They’re technology consultants. They think of the platform in terms of integration and performance, but those attributes, while important parts of an implementation, aren’t the only considerations for customers. We at RSM view ourselves as business people first and technologists second.

There are other ways that RSM differs too. Our scale allows us to support customers globally. In-country consultants are familiar with local business practices, and we can talk to CFOs and CEOs in the language of business strategy. Another difference is the breadth of NetSuite services we offer, including integration and customization. We also have dedicated support services to help clients who still have questions or want to optimize NetSuite for new business challenges.

Question 5: NetSuite has said that it has customers in every SIC code. Which industries does RSM’s NetSuite practice serve, and can you provide an example of how you’re leading in this area?

Kenney: RSM focuses on many of the industries in which NetSuite is traditionally strong, such as software. In the area of software, one of the most significant challenges today is the new revenue recognition guidance from ASC 606. We lead by implementing a strategy that involves applying the technical accounting requirements of 606 to subscription, service and support services, thinking through how to manage renewals and tracking the key performance indicators of revenue and growth.

Another area in which we have had a great deal of success is life sciences. NetSuite isn’t seen frequently in life sciences because there just aren’t many partners out there who understand the industry as deeply as we do. We are heavily involved in manufacturing and distribution, helping firms with supply chain management, warehouse configuration and taking advantage of research and development tax credits. RSM also addresses the specialized needs of service organizations, implementing NetSuite applications that work within and next to NetSuite’s ERP platform. 

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