What happens when you try to explain to your friends and family that you build 'apps'.
When you try to explain to your friends and family that you ‘build apps’ they get excited and inevitably ask if you worked on Candy Crush or Fortnite. Next, you tell them you build business apps, talk about the power of the NetSuite platform, and inevitably watch the confusion set in.
“Right. What’s that about?”
If you manage to keep their attention past this point, you’re doing great. Next, you’ll mention how excited you are to be working with the best ISVs on the SuiteApp marketplace. The SuiteApp marketplace is like Apple’s App Store, but for business.
NetSuite’s SuiteApp Marketplace
These apps run “inside” NetSuite much like Candy Crush runs “on” a smartphone. But many modern apps like Bill.com, Flexport and Deputy have their own application, and infrastructure that processes key transactions outside of NetSuite’s cloud. NetSuite refers to these as hybrid apps.
Hybrid apps have some infrastructure outside NetSuite’s cloud but still connect to the NetSuite platform.
Understanding Hybrid Apps
That’s a nice dictionary-style definition of a hybrid app, but it’s not always very illuminating.
When discussing a given hybrid app, we look at the data the app contributes to NetSuite and the capabilities it enables users to take from within the NetSuite UI. All three are interconnected.
It’s useful to start the conversation with the data: what information will the hybrid app bring into NetSuite to enrich your existing data? Here are some examples:
AP/Purchasing Approvals and history
Accounts Payable Automation posting
Material and manufacturing logistics
The NetSuite platform has a very deep, robust array of tools non-coders can use to solve business problems—but almost all of them rely on structured data. Move the right data into NetSuite, and the power to transform and work with it is there.
Data and capabilities are two sides of the same coin: what does the hybrid app enable people to do within the NetSuite UI? What might people want to do once they see all this insightful data? So, extending the examples above, employees might:
Approve a purchase, payment or other transaction requiring oversight
Track shipments and deliveries, inbound and outbound inventory and 3rd-party manufacturing
Consolidate and compare complex budgets to actuals
With the data structure in place, hybrid apps extend features from external applications into NetSuite, empowering users to do more
The users are last on our list, but often the first thing we actually discuss. You want to understand what the user goals are, and what they are actually struggling with. There’s also a curious technical concern with this type of app: if users can take an action inside NetSuite that flows through to another system, does that person need two different sets of credentials? Accounting for this is a key component of our design process.
OK, I understand (sorta). But how do these hybrid apps work?
Most apps are built via APIs, so the UI is actually interacting with an intermediate layer instead of acting on the data directly. This provides the perfect foundation for “rich client” in NetSuite to enable those key actions within the platform. The API allows different end-users to all share the same data access layer.
Our Learnings, a Shortcut.
The pattern is so common we extracted the reusable parts into a code framework to build these “rich client” apps quickly. We are able to lean on and leverage our patterns library to avoid reinventing the wheel for each SuiteApp. So if you’re interested in a hybrid app like this, or you’re working with someone who is, we’d love to talk to you. We’re proud to say we’re the best in the world at this, just ask our clients.