Building a NetSuite SuiteApp: 9 Things You Should Know
NetSuite has been the fastest-growing cloud-based ERP and finance system for nearly two decades. If you make business software, it is likely you consider having a NetSuite connector app for NetSuite’s SuiteApp a key part of your growth strategy. There will be many decisions and considerations to make along the way. Whether you plan to build it in-house, or work with a Product Development Organization (PDO), like ExtendApps, here are the top nine areas you should be thinking about as you start to build your NetSuite app.
1. First, Ask ‘Why Build a Connector App?’
For Independent Software Vendors (ISVs) that provide business tools and services, the keys to success are to solve problems and create value for their customers. One of the ways to achieve this is to integrate the capabilities of these solutions where their customers operate their business. As Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) and accounting applications continue to become the principal hub for many types of business transactions, they become the natural place for ISVs to look to add value. Connecting their solutions to an ERP provides the ability for ISVs to leverage and augment the core accounting, sales, purchasing, fulfillment, and manufacturing process of their customers. ERPs provide a ‘conduit’ for ISVs to present their offerings direct to businesses. The Connector App becomes an essential gateway to these ERP marketplaces.
2. Become Familiar with NetSuite’s Functionality
In order to build a NetSuite app that offers value and is impactful to your clients, you need to understand the NetSuite system and the feature set it offers, and the business challenges it helps customers address. This will provide some insight on how to best align your own software solution within NetSuite. If your internal team has deep NetSuite/ERP roots, this could be an exercise you manage yourself. At ExtendApps, we provide our clients with a ‘crash course’ on the typical uses for each NetSuite module, and how value is driven by key business processes.
Arriving at an understanding of how your App should interact with NetSuite with best practices in mind is the first step. Considering the powerful flexibility of the NetSuite platform, planning for corner cases and ‘off-label’ configurations are equally important.
3. Understand Your Most Valuable (and MVP) Use Cases
Our clients know the value propositions of their offerings inside and out. However, understanding how current and future customers can best leverage their offering within the NetSuite framework requires a little research. As part of our planning and design process, we recommend that our clients conduct interviews with their customers to determine how each organization uses the software and how they would like it to work in concert with their NetSuite/their ERP.
By booking use case discussions, our clients can talk with their customers to get real and actionable ideas and feedback on how customers want the solutions to work together. This allows them to assess which pieces of functionality would be best implemented as part of the application. These meetings also provide a broader picture of how to structure a solution-driven application, how to best empower users, and how to focus development on a highly-valuable Minimum Viable Product (MVP).
4. Uncover Usability and Technical Gaps
Our most successful clients invest the time to understand the interplay between the business processes their solution enables, and how things ‘work’ in NetSuite. Doing so helps to identify gaps, overlap, and points of redundancy that might reduce the value of the combined solution for end-users. With an understanding of this, the NetSuite App can be engineered to control for these challenges.
The same diligence is required from a technical perspective. We lead our clients through a keen comparison of how your solution and NetSuite handle connectivity, authentication and data/transmission. This often uncovers technical gaps that can be addressed through engineering in the app, or by working with our clients’ development teams to address challenges in their solution backend or APIs.
5. Decide if a NetSuite Partnership is Right for You
A major decision to make when planning to build your NetSuite App is whether to seek a partnership through NetSuite’s Suite Developer Network (SDN) program or directly market your ability to connect your product to NetSuite to your prospects and customers. NetSuite’s SDN program provides NetSuite development environments, guidance on the technical aspects of your app, and may also offer coordinated marketing and sales advantages through their sales channels and SuiteApp.com. Admission to the SDN program is selective, so it’s best to begin your conversation with the NetSuite SDN team as soon as possible.
ExtendApps works with our clients and the NetSuite SDN team to ensure all requirements are met. We also support clients through the Built for NetSuite (BFN) certification process.
The process can take weeks, and can only begin once your app and supporting documentation are complete, and you’ve met all NetSuite’s requirements. Ensure you plan to have your development team highly responsive to the NetSuite review process; this will reduce the risk of a delayed launch.
When a NetSuite SDN partnership is not in the cards, it doesn’t have to slow you down. Building a NetSuite connector App is a great way to close deals and help your product compete and differentiate. ExtendApps can help you directly build and launch your NetSuite App.
6. Create a Pre-Launch Marketing Campaign
You almost have an app, and it is heading for some heavy testing, but do you have a go-to-market strategy? Once you have a confirmed feature set for your app, collaborate with your marketing and sales teams to develop internal timelines and build out a campaign for an effective launch. Determining your marketing strategy early on is pivotal to the success of your new product.
NetSuite’s annual SuiteWorld conference and regional conferences present an awesome opportunity to present your offering to a highly focused offering. Consider building distribution networks via outreach to NetSuite Solution Partners and system integrators. And don’t forget to mine your customer base for the lowest-hanging fruit. For most of our clients, resources for marketing a NetSuite app are limited. We work with our clients to guide them to the highest value opportunities.
7. Develop a Customer On-Boarding Strategy
Training your client-facing team is crucial to ensuring that the installation and setup of your app are frictionless and fast and that new clients are receiving exceptional support. An onboarding checklist that clearly calls out tasks, the order of operations and who is responsible for each part allows for expectations to be set and teams to get aligned. Our most successful clients also develop questionnaires to tease out and surface unique elements of their customers’ business processes, and NetSuite configurations. These questionnaires, while not a replacement for conversations, help prepare customers to discuss any specific configurations you may need to consider when installing your App.
8. Is the Free? Is There a Cost? What’s Your Strategy?
With the App designed and built, a plan to sell it and support it, a big question remains. How much does it cost, if anything? While the initial investment in designing and building your NetSuite App is typically easy to justify in new customer acquisitions, there are ongoing costs. Costs associated with supporting your customers, troubleshooting customer-specific issues and maintaining the App through NetSuite’s platform-wide releases are all important considerations. While the costs become easier to estimate and control as your App matures and support teams gain experience, it is important to account for this in your App pricing strategy.
9. Prepare for Life After Launch (AKA Support, Maintenance, and Iteration)
Your app may be launched, however, there is still work to do. As with any product, there will be bugs to fix, updates to release, and the ongoing maintenance of supporting documentation. Not to mention the testing of your app against all NetSuite releases.
A successful approach to supporting a NetSuite App will be a combination of your customer service team and your App development partner. At ExtendApps, we pair our maintenance and support services with our Client’s customer-facing teams to create a well supported NetSuite App and the best possible experience for their customers. We continue to work closely with your product and customer teams to plan for new feature releases and listen to the feedback from your customers to help develop a continuous improvement cycle for your NetSuite App that helps keep it relevant and successful.
The promise of the NetSuite marketplace is massive, and the value your solution can add to it is significant. A well-thought-out strategy will ensure you are successful as you design, build, launch and maintain your NetSuite App. Good luck!