Arik Hesseldahl

Recent Posts by Arik Hesseldahl

Netsuite Turns Commerce Into a Cloud Service

As services in the cloud have taken hold, we’ve become accustomed to seeing a lot of products marketed as X-as-a-service. The first one, or at least the first such example of which I was aware, was software-as-a-service, the approach popularized by cloud computing pioneer

Other examples that have punctured my attention bubble in recent years are platform-as-a-service, infrastructure-as-a-service and storage-as-a-service, and there are probably many more. Then they get turned into ever-weirder acroynyms: Saas, PaaS, Iaas. You get the idea.

Today, Netsuite, the cloud player whose traditional approach is essentially to run your business from the cloud, today contributed its own new thing offered as a service: Commerce. (Cue the acronym: CaaS.)

One of the big things that businesses have to do is buy and sell goods and services from other businesses. The most basic example is that widget makers have to buy cardboard boxes from a supplier, because the goods don’t show up on the loading dock by magic. The same goes for every bit of physical stuff a business needs and also the services it pays for to keep its operations running smoothly.

Netsuite isn’t just managing the back-end business-to-business commerce, but also the direct-to-customer type of commerce. And the experience works pretty much anywhere a customer may be coming from: On a phone, tablet or PC, in a store or on social media.

As customers have essentially come to expect to be able to buy anything and everything online, the traditional back-end commerce engines like Microsoft Dynamics, Great Plains, Sage and even SAP were imperfectly combined with patchwork solutions for selling on the Web. And the bits of the system that faced customers have rarely if ever been unified with the ones that also face suppliers, which has a way of complicating things like inventory, the supply chain and everything else that stems from basic ebb and flow of supply and demand.

And things are getting even more complicated as machines are programmed to automatically buy things from other machines based on a pre-defined set of circumstances.

NetSuite has built what it calls a commerce engine — dubbed SuiteCommerce — that speaks directly to the core enterprise resource planning (ERP) and customer relationship management (CRM) functions that are already its bread and butter. In English that means that the new engine comes into the process already knowing what everything is, and also who everyone is. That makes it ready to wheel and deal not only with customers but also with suppliers. And when you get down to it, that’s a good way to reduce a lot of friction in any business, which is pretty much what cloud computing is supposed to be about.

The commerce service was probably the biggest news to come out of Netsuite’s SuiteWorld conference in San Francisco today, where CEO Zach Nelson (pictured) gave a keynote address. The company also announced a partnership with Square, the maker of little white credit-card reading thingies that you can insert into an iPhone or iPad for the purpose of accepting payment. Square’s Register application has been integrated with SuiteCommerce, so if you see more businesses using Squares, maybe this has something to do with it.

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