What’s Brewin’ | E3 | Preparing for Your NetSuite Implementation

Learn how the three pillars: process, people, and data can help prepare you for your NetSuite implementation.


Jeff St. Louis: Hi everyone. I’m Jeff St. Louis, Regional Vice President here at Plative and your host for today’s episode of What’s Brewin’. We have quite an exciting topic. Today we’re going to talk about preparing for your NetSuite implementation, and with a new calendar year, just around the corner, many of our clients have been reaching out to us looking for guidance, whether that’s migrating off of QuickBooks or proprietary systems, Sage or any cloud-based ERP.

Our goal in this podcast is to really arm you with some considerations that you should be factoring in while you think about migrating to your new NetSuite home. And to join me in that conversation, I have Larry Woo, a senior consultant here at Plative, who’s been working with ERP Systems for the last 26 years if my memory serves me correct and has helped many individuals on that journey.

Getting into their homes, helping them pack their bags, leaving certain things behind, and making sure that they’re moving into a pristine home that’s going to be functional for the next iteration of their lives. And so, Larry, I appreciate the time that you provided today. And before we get into the meat and potatoes, would love to know what are you drinking this afternoon?

Larry Woo: Well, firstly, thanks for the invite, Jeff. I’m a longtime listener first time caller. So right now, I’m drinking an Ethiopian Blend from my local coffee brewer guy. That’s Propeller Coffee here in Toronto Ontario, Canada. So I buy all my coffee from there, just a small plug to the guys at Propeller. You could check them out at propellercoffee.com.

Jeff St. Louis: Love it. Love it. And, and I too, local coffee. There’s a farmer’s market just around the corner from where I live, and it’s a Columbian blend called Highland. And it’s a place that my mom and I have frequented quite a bit over the course of the last few months, so glad to see that we’re caffeinated up and I think we’ll need it for today’s conversation but would love to learn more Larry. So, you’ve been in the space for 26 years, as I had alluded to. In your experience, what would you say is the large difference between a traditional ERP implementation and a NetSuite implementation, let alone a NetSuite Suite Success implementation?

Larry Woo: All right. You bet, Jeff. I won’t go too far back into the history books about traditional implementations. We’ll kind of look at comparing NetSuite to NetSuite. So originally before the advent of suite success, a NetSuite project team would literally be given a blank clean slate, and you and your project team would just say, okay, now let’s go. Everything is literally blank. There are no visuals preset, there are no business process flows preset.

They have all the tools that are within NetSuite that are still there today. But it never gave project teams a great starting spot with SuiteSuccess, they have incorporated leading business practices embedded in the SuiteSuccess Solution, and it’s tailored for processes that are based on the vertical that you have purchased or deployed, be it wholesale distribution, manufacturing, software, nonprofit, it runs the gambit. Each one of them is unique in their manner in terms of the processes that are built in. This provided implementation teams with a much greater and more useful starting point because after the base installation, you immediately have great looking dashboards.

You immediately have tools that you can start exploring, order taking, buying, paying your vendors, invoicing. And it just made certain things easier and project life easier, and I’ll use air quotes, but there are certain things that existed that still exist today in implementations of any ERP before SuiteSuccess and even after SuiteSuccess that really should not be ignored or underestimated. And I’ll break them into three kinds of pillars in our discussion today. So that’s process, people and data. There’s always more to talk about, but I kind of thought in, in our time today, let’s focus on these three important pillars.

Jeff St. Louis: Yeah. And I’ve been privileged of learning about these pillars, but for, the sake of the audience, why don’t we start with process? I know it’s absolutely critical to understand the entire process start to finish. So if you want to tell us a little bit more about those certain considerations that you might want to have walking into a NetSuite implementation.

Larry Woo: Sure thing, Jeff. So process. A lot of people going into these implementations will have the mindset of, well, I know how I do my business.

Don’t tell me how I’m going to do my business. And they come in with a preconception of how they should be doing things and trying to force NetSuite to do things that perhaps just doesn’t do as well as it did in your old system or, more importantly, perhaps your old process wasn’t as appropriate or was developed or created out of certain deficiencies than your current or past systems.

So it’s about understanding, not necessarily how things are done, but really looking at what you need from your system. So let me tell you a funny story, and this is a personal one. So when I first met my wife, this is while we’re dating. She invited me over for a family dinner and she made roast beef.

And I’m a big fan, you know, I’ll admit it. And when dinner came out and she brought the roast onto the table, I noticed that the ends of the roast beef were cut off. And I was thinking, wow, those are really good pieces. You know, you get little caramelization, little crispiness. It’s flavor country, right, Jeff?

So after dinner, you know, the dinner was fine and it was great. Not besmirching her cooking whatsoever. I went to her and I said, so why did you cut the ends off the roast beef when you served it? And what happened to it? She goes well, that’s the recipe my father told me, taught me.

He always said, cut the ends of the roast beef off before you put it in the oven. And so I kind of went, well, that’s an interesting take. Why would you do that? Like, you know, I’m a bit of a chef myself, so it didn’t make sense to me at the time. So I saw the father and I just went up to him and I said, oh, dinner was great. So small talk, small talk. And I asked him about the roast beef recipe and said, hey she said that you cut the ends off, and that’s how you taught her how to make the roast beef before you cook it. Was there any reason why you did it? And he goes, oh, I got the recipe from my mother. So I’m like, okay you know, plot thickens.

I’m getting further down the rabbit hole and I see the grandmother and she’s sitting there on chair by herself enjoying the party. And I asked her, so your recipe for roast beef, I heard that my then girlfriend made it this way, she learned it from her father this way, so why do you cut the ends off the roast beef?

So, she looked at me and said, well, back in the day, my pan was only so big and I couldn’t fit the roast beef in, so I had to cut the edges off. But she had taught her recipe down the line through the generations as if it was the way that you make roast beef. And so that’s kind of a funny story I like to tell project teams and hopefully it chimes with them because the moral of the story is just because you’ve done it in the past doesn’t mean you need to do it when you move on to the future.

There was a reason why you did it in the past. If you have a good understanding about that, then maybe you don’t need to do it moving forward. So it’s really getting a good sense of your processes and the needs of the process, not necessarily how you’re doing it today, because there were probably times where your standard operating procedure was probably born out of some deficiency in the past.

Now, processes and process re-engineering does take time. It’s not a 15-minute conversation that you have with your team. So when you’re going through an implementation like this, budget time with your team internally to look at those needs, look at it from a legislative standpoint. Look at it from anything from your accountant, or your auditors from an auditing report standpoint.

State and federal instances will also kind of govern certain things that you need to do, but also from a business perspective, you want to understand why you’re doing this. Is it to get good reporting, to get things out the door? Make sure that you want to deliver services to your customer and then get paid in a timely manner.

So, it’s key that you still have control over these processes, even though you’re delivered with a set of very good processes. It’s important to make sure that it will work with you today because even though SuiteSuccess has made it easier for project teams, it’s still not a smartphone on your app where I download, I put in my name and put in a bit of information and it just starts doing its magic. The complexities of your process existed in the past and it still will moving forward.

Jeff St. Louis: Well, not eating before that roast beef story was a massive mistake on my end. I’m absolutely starving at this point. Also, I’m kind of upset that I haven’t got an invite to any of these dinners, but the analogy certainly sticks and I know that our clients have related to that in the past.

One of the things I would love to get your perspective on, because in so many of the conversations we have helping our clients evaluate a new system, they’re struggling to understand what their involvement needs to look like throughout the implementation and the time allocation that they need to commit in order to lead to successful projects. So tell us more about the second pillar that you had mentioned in people.

Larry Woo: Okay, so people, I’m going to use an old sports analogy, which is called Skin in the Game. Which effectively means if there’s nothing to win or lose, and if you don’t impart yourself and that accountability into your project, your project’s going to be suffering and it’s going to be a detriment it could be meaning failure. So your people having skin in the game and understanding what this new project is going to do for them is important. So this could be sitting around the table and saying, this is what this new system is going to bring in for you.

Not just oh, it’s going to be more work. I’ve got to learn a new thing. And then you have the people that are sitting in the room with their arms folded and they’re just not buying it. So getting buy-in. And I don’t like necessarily use that term because I find that term’s kind of overly used, but no one really gets it.

But that’s why people understand skin in the game, right? If everyone has skin in the game, they will play as if it was like the Olympics or the championship. The thing about people as well is you want the proper people on your team to talk about those processes that I mentioned earlier.

Maybe they own the process, maybe they’re the custodian of the process. Don’t necessarily put people on your project team that have free time because they might not know the full picture. You bestow them the power to say, okay, you are now the custodian of this time. You can make the calls because there’s going to be decision points throughout the project that you’ll need these proper people in place.

We’re all busy people. When a project comes in, the reality is your daily work doesn’t disappear. This has been since the advent of just project teams. This has always been here and it will always forever be here. So, understand the time commitment that yourself and your people will be needed on the project.

Balance it with your daily work. And it could mean distribution of work. It could mean hiring backfill to help temporarily during the project, but don’t underestimate the time commitment for being in a project like this. Too many times I know that I’ve been up with a project team and when I shut down that zoom meeting, that’s the last time they think about the implementation.

Until we get into the next meeting, you need to kind of get out of that mindset and say, I need to take this, I’m the champion of this project. I’m going to take this forward. Because you have to remember that in all cases, consultants that you hire to help with your implementation are just that they are augmenting your team.

They are not the team, right? If you allow that to happen, then you’re going to have processes that aren’t fully aligned with what you need to do. They’re going to do the path of least resistance, this is what NetSuite or any other system says. This is your process and you’re going to have a system that just doesn’t work great for you.

So, remember that when you hire consults, they’re here to augment your team. They’re not meant to replace your team, and even after you go live, it’s a good idea to set up either a NetSuite team or a NetSuite committee to be custodians of the system after you go live. Yes, after you go live, there’s still work because you have an investment into your ERP, and it’s about continuous improvement, so there’s maybe some maintenance things the committee can work on, but as long as you set this up, it’s given you a roadmap and the resources to kind of keep bringing your system up to the next level. And that’s just very important for anyone to consider is, you know, have those custodians in place.

Jeff St. Louis: Yeah, and it’s no surprise, at least in my opinion, that you have the third pillar as data, because I believe that’s one of the areas that are commonly underestimated and can be the largest risk to the success of a project, or at least the timeliness of a project and making sure that you’re thinking about it early and often and packing your bags well before the time that we have to import them into your system.

Can you tell us more about your experience around data migrations and what our listeners should be considering before they embark upon a NetSuite implementation?

Larry Woo: Okay. So the one thing I usually tell folks is, don’t underestimate the time required to export your data out, so that’s packing your bags and bringing them into your new system. They also touch upon the two other pillars that we talked about, people and process understanding who has the expertise to pull out that level, level of data in terms of processes.

What data do we really need into the new system? It’s nice to say I want everything from my old system into NetSuite, and that is certainly the reality for some folks. But you have to understand that there’s no magic wand that will suddenly take all that data and move it. It’s a time-consuming task so really just kind of look at your process and really understand what data do I really need?

Because do you really need that invoice that you cut 20 months ago to look at the details of that. Or are we just looking at financial data, being able to compare year to year? It’s just important. Also, NetSuite stores its data in a very specific manner. It’s not going to be like your older system. So there is going to be some type of data cleanup and transformation that’s necessary.

Consider budgeting time. For your chart of accounts and financial segments, again, if you’re coming from an older system that might have deficiencies in that area, in accounting, NetSuite opens up a whole new world and it does take time if you are considering building in a more robust and more useful chart of accounts and financial segments for your reporting. By all means your consultant can help you with re-engineering sessions, but always consider that as part of your data piece. But just to summarize, like don’t underestimate that piece. Do you really need to bring everything over? And that’s kind of like a self-reflective moment.

Jeff St. Louis: One of the questions, or at least like a black box when it comes to implementation is really what does the Go Live experience look like? What are the things that we need to be planning for? Is it a hard cut over? Is it a phased approach with a soft rollout? If you had to speak to our listeners and give some advice, or at least a heads up to what to expect throughout the Go Live experience, what would you say to that?

Larry Woo: Oh boy. This could be an episode onto itself, but Go Live is a hectic, hectic period. So your goal during the project is all leading up to that day, week, that period of time, so that you can mitigate the panic during that hectic time. There have been questions about doing hard and soft rollouts.

They can be very difficult because you’re only putting half the story into the system, but the system still requires you to give it the full story. So I would strongly go against any soft rollout to say, well, I’ll just do this portion of my accounting or this portion in there, and then I’ll hobble along for a little bit because it, it becomes a very, very difficult thing unless you have a small army behind you to do a lot of data entry and possibly double data entry. Avoid doing any kind of phased internal implementations unless they’re like, like a web store, right? Or you’re adding enhancements on functionality, but to your core buying, selling. Managing your people. Doing a phased approach can always be risky, and you have to be able to accept that risk and evaluate it, and also develop an approach so that if you say, I’m just only going to Go Live with accounts payable.

Well, your balance sheet is just that. It’s two sides of the story. So how are you going to manage the other side of the ledger as you are live only on one system? Giving yourself during that little transition time, a Go Live checklist is pivotal, right? The Go Live checklist should give you things that you need to load into your system, get ready for your system so that you can log in on Go Live day and begin doing your standard operating procedure, getting orders, and paying vendors. It can be overwhelming, and a lot of people don’t organize their lists accordingly. They just see it as one giant list and that ends up freaking people out.

What I suggest is organize your tasks in one of three buckets of time for Go Live day. So these are tasks that need to be there so that processes and can be completed once you turn the system on. Most likely you’re going to go live at the beginning of the month. From an accounting standpoint, you’re probably still closing your books out in the older system.

So there will be certain tasks that you won’t be able to do in NetSuite until you close your books in your old system. So usually, the next timeline would be first week of the beginning of the month. There are some tasks that can only be done then realistically. And then there are some other tasks that really you don’t need to worry about until you close the books in NetSuite.

So before month in, if you organize it in those three time milestones before Go Live, first week of Go Live before month end, it’ll help bring some sanity during that hectic period. And also, just so that you’re not investing time during that Go Live transition period on tasks that you don’t need on day one.

Jeff St. Louis: Thank you, Larry. I appreciate you taking the time to share your insights, share a copy with me and help our prospective clients and some of our existing clients really prepare for their NetSuite implementation. You were fantastic. And for the listeners out there, please follow along to What’s Brewin.

You’ll find a ton of industry insights as we continue to explore new topics and relay some of the conversations that we’re having directly with some of our customers. If you miss episode one, feel free to take a look on learning how to run a successful discovery. That’s all we have for today folks. We appreciate the time and we’ll see you next time.

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