Use Case: Optimizing the Order-to-Cash Cycle in NetSuite ERP

May 1, 2024
  • Adapting to Disruption: Businesses, including a leading healthcare distributor, face multiple disruptions, prompting them to find innovative solutions to adapt and thrive.
  • Choosing an ERP During Rapid Change: Faced with the need to become system-independent quickly, the distributor selected NetSuite as their ERP platform, despite initial mismatches in functionality for their specialized workflows.
  • Challenges with Customization: Over time, extensive customizations to the ERP to manage the order-to-cash cycle became burdensome, leading to inefficiencies and frustrations due to the need for constant updates and fixes.
  • Technical Debt from Customization: The distributor's IT team faced challenges with maintaining customizations, which led to technical debt and operational snags, particularly in the order-to-cash process.
  • Seeking External Solutions: To address these challenges, the distributor partnered with ProfitOptics to create a custom SaaS application that overlays the ERP, improving order-to-cash functionality without interfering with NetSuite's core code.
  • Benefits of the ProfitOptics Solution: The custom application enhanced processing speeds, made ERP upgrades less disruptive, and added functionalities like pricing guidance and cross-selling that were not immediately available in NetSuite.
  • Improved Business Outcomes: Implementing the ProfitOptics solution allowed the distributor to focus on core business growth and innovation, making the company more resilient to disruptions like COVID-19.
  • Adaptability in Times of Change: The distributor's experience underscores the importance of flexible technology solutions that can extend the functionality of existing ERP systems, allowing businesses to adapt to disruptions and maintain operational efficiency.

The past five years have taught us as business leaders to get used to disruption. 

While disruption can upend the best-laid plans, it sometimes can actually empower you to do things better than you were doing them before.  

Constraints may end up being walls that allow you to push off with more momentum than you had before.

In the case of a leading healthcare distributor, they had multiple business disruptions. Little did they know the subsequent decade would hold several more of these business-changing challenges.

How they adapted to each would make or break their company.

While this story will reference NetSuite specifically, we have similar stories with Infor, SAP, P21, Epicor, Sage – and more.

The Situation: Choosing an ERP in a Time of Rapid Change

The first disruption occurred in the late 2010s when the company leaders were told by the parent company their multi-hundred million-dollar division was to be sold. In addition to extensive human processes, reporting, and governance changes, the clock was ticking on their existing technology. They had one year to become system-independent. This deadline meant finding a new enterprise resource planning (ERP) platform, STAT. 

Consider that a disruption times two.

Business as usual for this distributor was about to change.

The company chose NetSuite. However, the out-of-the-box solution didn’t quite fit the distributor’s specialized workflows. Early on, there was a gap between what they wanted the ERP to do and how it functioned regarding order-to-cash cycle management.

Separating sales promises from on-the-ground deliverables is a common challenge in ERP implementation, which touches every aspect of the business. Like many enterprise deployments, the default mindset of the team selling the product is that the ERP can replicate or improve financial, operational, marketing, and sales processes right out of the gate. 

In this case, an accelerated deployment deadline drove the feature selection. It forced an attitude of “We’ll fix it later” so they could get up and running quickly. Both NetSuite and the distributor made the best of a difficult situation. NetSuite went live. It was not easy. But the company was able to run independently. 

But another disruption was brewing.

The distributor started having issues with the specifics of order-to-cash cycle processes, along with other issues, in the NetSuite ERP. This issue would only get worse.

The Problem: Costly Customization for Order-to-Cash in NetSuite

Fast forward a year later. The distributor began to realize their IT team spent too much time managing the customizations they built into the software. “Fixing it later” turned into a considerable challenge.

Quotes were taking hours to do, and orders that were only a few lines long were taking 15 minutes – or more.

With each update, the IT team had to test each ERP customization they had built against any feature changes in the new version. As NetSuite changed its core code, the impact rippled across the distributor’s ERP, causing customizations to break and workflows to snarl.

The IT team realized that the customizations they needed in their specialized distribution business had become technical debt. 

The order-to-cash process was breaking. The distributor’s customer-facing teams were frustrated. 

The organization also wanted to improve ERP functionality by integrating value-add point-of-sale tech to create a more intuitive and streamlined customer buying experience. However, approaching NetSuite with these goals felt like working in a black box; it made sense that their ERP code was proprietary. The distributor's desired features were coming, but not as quickly as they hoped.

With that said, the goal of every ERP provider is to achieve a balance between customer requirements. The NetSuite product was and is excellent as a baseline for ERP functionality. But it just wasn’t doing exactly what the distribution company needed in critical areas.

That was when the distributor turned to ProfitOptics.

Solutions: An Overlay for Order-to-Cash Processes on NetSuite ERP

ProfitOptics found a way to add the order-to-cash features the distributor needed from the outside. We created a custom SaaS application that allows for the entire order-to-cash process to run alongside the ERP.  The ProfitOptics tool has all core data for the ordering process: customers, items, pricing, stock, purchasing rules, etc.

It allows for the order to happen fast and then ship via API into the rest of the order fulfillment process.

The solution improves processing speeds while eliminating the costly upgrade frustrations of an extensively customized ERP application. 

ProfitOptics also brought in additional operational gains that were years down the road for NetSuite, such as pricing guidance and cross-selling functionality — for example, pushing out frequently purchased-together or substitute items to reps.

Importantly, the solutions live outside NetSuite's core code, making it easier to adapt without causing custom ERP functionality to break. This is one of the benefits of Custom SaaS.

One of the biggest test cases for ProfitOptics came with COVID. The distributor needed to quickly adapt and apply purchasing limits on high-demand items like gloves, masks, and hand sanitizer. ProfitOptics added functionality to allow real-time adaptations to a changing supply chain.

Results: Focusing on Core Business Growth, Not ERP Version Control

Deploying the ProfitOptics custom solution significantly improved the distributor’s business:

  • New, faster functionality improved time to close and order responsiveness.
  • It freed IT to focus on core operational and strategic functions to innovate and improve the business.
  • NetSuite ERP upgrades became less disruptive. 
  • A more intuitive interface made it easy to train new employees.

This distribution company overcame significant business disruptions by adopting key technologies to improve productivity: being sold by their parent company, deploying an ERP, and, finally, COVID-19.

Today, the distributor's technology stack positions the business to handle whatever the world throws at them next. The partnership between the distributor, NetSuite, and ProfitOptics is the best medicine for changing times.

Struggling with your own disruptions?

What businesses need to adapt to, and what their ERP provides them, are not always in sync. We specialize in creating software that extends the functionality of your ERP with a secure and robust method so that you can run your business effectively, while having confidence in your technology stack to do what it needs to do. You’ll be ready to adapt when disruption inevitably hits.

Contact us to learn more about applying ProfitOptics solutions to your ERP.

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