With 80 offices, 56 different general ledgers, 56 customer master files, 56 vendor master files, 30 legal entities spread over 20 different countries with multiple languages doing business in more than 20 currencies you have a challenge as a global CFO. One company seems as if it is 56 different companies.
Cash position? 187 bank accounts and 80 banks spread all over the world. Financial statements? Consolidations? Customer profitability? Currency translation? How many accountants can you fit into “Excel hell?” Not enough.
A simple question could take weeks to answer. Closing and consolidated financials for one period often were not completed before the next closing period began.
My previous experience as a Fortune 100 CIO and CFO for 14 years was with a company that grew from $2 billion in revenue to over $8 billion over that period. Our task was to maintain a “one company, one system” approach as the company grew both organically and by acquisition.
The new challenge as a “double-hatted” global CIO and CFO was now to not only integrate businesses and systems, but also accomplish it quickly.
For the centerpiece of the solution set, I chose NetSuite. Having had exposure to the functionality and underlying technology of most of the ones available in the market, NetSuite had long been on my radar. As a consultant I previously led scripted demo selection processes that included and often chose NetSuite. From a functionality standpoint, that history and product knowledge was an advantage in being able to move quickly with NetSuite.
The “cloud” SAS model of NetSuite allowed us to get right to work addressing our critical business issues. Investing time in building a hardware environment to host software was neither a Steve Hankins opinion in my luxury nor desire.
NetSuite could be licensed and immediately be configured to address our needs. NetSuite OneWorld’s global functionality fits our situation perfectly. Legal entity and subsidiary support, multiple language support, multiple currency support at the subsidiary, customer and vendor levels– these were all needed in our business. Worldwide administration and extensive role based security were key requirements.
The benefits of software presented to the user in a web browser are many. Users are familiar, so the screens feel very comfortable and intuitive. Desk operatives experienced in their work quickly become at ease using NetSuite, as the screens approach the processes and data in a very straight forward, easy to understand fashion. To ease the overall process we use the “classic” menu for all security roles so that the entire company can communicate about NetSuite and share learning’s easily.
Besides what can be gleaned from the NetSuite website and overview documents, other aspects of working with NetSuite that have been and continue to be very important to us are worth sharing.
NetSuite has a strong eco-system of partners around the world. In addition to worldwide functionality, we required worldwide support. Localization partners are in use in China and France today. Our training materials have been translated to native language and the majority of our training conducted by these in-country partners.
Our partners have also assisted us in meeting the statutory reporting requirements of some countries. Previously this reporting required significant manual, Excel based effort. Even with that we many times did not adequately meet some country requirements. With NetSuite’s multi-book accounting at the heart of our solution we can easily address these requirements.
The ability to customize NetSuite has been very important. Beyond custom forms and the addition of custom fields, we make use of custom records and scripting in many cases to store business information and streamline business functions. The ability to integrate scripting with data moving in and out of NetSuite via webservices is very powerful. As NetSuite continues to upgrade the software, their architecture allows our customizations and personalization’s to the software to stay in place rather than create upgrade issues and massive rework as is more the norm with most software packages.
By creating standard reporting that each country can use, the income statements and balance sheets that were one the products of countless Excel spreadsheets around the world can now be accomplished within NetSuite. A centralized global reporting team creates standard financial statement line layouts and reporting so that most users have no need to develop that expertise. As well, we have layered in NetSuite Financial Planning for use in our global HQ to enhance our consolidations process, budgeting and planning process, and overall reporting.
By ensuring that NetSuite is a comprehensive point of global financial record and reporting, we have rid ourselves of the “Excel hell” previously experienced.
Of course, any effort like this has its challenges. Moving to one chart of accounts and combining customer and vendor files requires significant analytical and basic grunge work to complete. Minimizing the use of Excel and creating an automated reporting environment requires significant change management. Our business, like all businesses, has its complexities to work through. A roll out of a global system is not a trivial matter, but can be well worth the effort.
From a CFO perspective the major benefit is immediate visibility to information. A fleet of people around the world preparing financial reports or simple aging schedules of payables and receivables to attach to emails is no longer required. Our working capital management has improved substantially. With a global system of record and uniform business processes we now can explore how to capture more efficiencies and improvements in quality in our work. Being able to measure our business on a timely basis allows us to better manage and improve our operating performance. NetSuite has been the foundation and enabling technology to our efforts.