It’s a familiar story: An entry-level accounting system no longer meets the needs of a business that may have started using it only a few years before. There’s more inventory to manage, or more customers to track, or new global markets to conquer, or new ideas for services and products to launch. Perhaps the system can’t meet the complex regulatory or legal requirements necessary to push into a new stage of growth. Often, issues arise when the company is trying to obtain and manage a new loan or additional funding round and it can’t easily provide the financial reporting needed to get the money.
Every business is different, but every successful one will eventually hit this pivotal point. And what you decide to do can make all the difference in shaping your company’s story.
Is ERP for me?
At this fork, leaders often face a critical decision: Do we implement an ERP system?
It’s helpful first to review the term because it has evolved over the past decade. Modern ERP systems are capable of fully automating a company’s operations — from financials to human capital management (HCM) to customer relationship management (CRM), order and inventory management, procurement, projects, marketing, e-commerce, and more. With a unified system, all these different modules access the same database so that consistent information is used for all business processes.
With time, the mere mention of the term “ERP” was enough to fill any leader with dread. Water cooler talks were awash in tales that weren’t so tall about painful system implementations. Sure, once they were up and running, the benefits these systems brought to businesses far outstripped the downsides of implementation. But still, subsequent upgrades sometimes ground the operations of even global businesses to a halt.
NetSuite and Intacct: A Brief History
The cloud made it much easier and more cost-effective to implement functionality once available to only the largest organizations. Companies could buy and turn on what they needed and scale functionality as they grew their operations to sell more products or services, take on new customers, serve more geographies, and more. Enterprise software started to gain traction for running CRM or HCM processes but putting mission-critical finance and accounting data into the cloud, or running manufacturing or warehouse operations there, was still off the table for several reasons, which break down into two buckets: A lack of options and a lack of confidence in cloud-based applications.
Until NetSuite. Seeing an opportunity to build cloud-based ERP after struggling to find a single system on which to run his new startup, former Oracle employee Evan Goldberg got the backing of Oracle founder Larry Ellison to develop something new. That new system eventually became NetSuite. The company itself went public in 2007. NetSuite went back to its roots when it was acquired by Oracle in 2016 for $9.3 billion. It’s now run as a separate entity within Oracle, and it benefits from Oracle’s backing to expand its capacity to serve global markets.
Intacct, the brainchild of an economist and a technologist, was founded in 1999 as a suite of accounting applications for small and midsize businesses. It never filed for an IPO and was acquired in 2017 by the Sage Group plc for $850 million. Intacct, at the time, gave Sage a broader cloud footprint, especially in the United States.
Fast forward, and NetSuite continues to lead Sage Intacct both in the number of customers and global reach. NetSuite is a full, end-to-end ERP system, with implementation services and support on a global scale. Sage Intacct offers some ERP capabilities, including robust accounting functionality, but lacks modules in key functional areas. It also can’t match the global capacity that NetSuite has built up over the last two decades.
The two software packages are very different but often go head-to-head in buying decisions. How can you decide what’s best for your business? Here are a few questions to ask.
What industries do you serve?
Access to industry best practices out-of-the-box is a major benefit of picking the right software. Both NetSuite and Intacct provide support in this manner for major industries, but there are a few distinctions.
NetSuite and Intacct both highlight their capabilities in serving organizations in the software and technology space as well as financial and professional services, wholesale distribution, restaurant and hospitality, and nonprofits.
Intacct has more depth in the construction and real estate and healthcare markets, though NetSuite continues to gain customers in each. NetSuite also has a rich presence in the manufacturing, retail, and e-commerce and advertising, media, and publishing industries, where Intacct has less of a footprint. In addition, NetSuite has built out software for so-called “microverticals,” including apparel and footwear, food and beverage manufacturing, health and beauty, and more.
Who implements it, and how is it supported?
Each company has a professional services arm to implement its software, and both support partner communities that can also install and manage their systems.
There are differences in the partner programs. NetSuite provides its partners with exceptional support through its Alliance program, so that partners have all the tools they need to deliver exceptional customer experiences. These tools include, for instance, predefined templates and data models for fast and successful implementations of order management or advanced revenue management functionality.
Intacct’s partner programs focus on value-added resellers and accountants.
Intacct also has a marketplace in which 44 partners offer complementary solutions they built on the Intacct platform. NetSuite customers, in contrast, have access to more than 570 add-ons that are built on the NetSuite platform or include out-of-the-box integration.
NetSuite offers 24-hour support, seven days a week, internationally. While Intacct has begun to expand beyond its live agents in San Jose, California., who work from 6 a.m. to 6 p.m. PT, its support services are still limited.
What accounting functionality do you need out-of-the-box?
Both NetSuite and Intacct provide what most vendors consider core finance functionality — including accounts payable and receivable functions, the general ledger, and cash management. Both vendors provide advanced finance functionality as well, including budgeting and planning, billing, revenue recognition, and dashboarding capabilities.
There are anecdotal differences in how this functionality works. One Intacct customer switched to NetSuite based on a need for revenue recognition capabilities, which it struggled to implement in Intacct. Another chose to move its new acquisitions onto NetSuite because of its strong general ledger capabilities and ease of onboarding new acquisitions.
Then there is empirical evidence. NetSuite and Intacct both offer business intelligence and analytics capabilities with prebuilt reports and dashboards, including self-service reporting. But once again, there is a significant difference in the breadth of the offering. Intacct offers 150 prebuilt reports for core financials out-of-the-box. NetSuite provides 200.
In talking with NetSuite customers, the value of NetSuite’s Saved Searches functionality is almost always a frontrunner in terms of why they chose NetSuite over Intacct. NetSuite offers prebuilt reports and dashboards, sorted by role and industry. Intacct’s report writer is built on a similar philosophy but carries an extra charge.
Will you be managing multiple subsidiaries and/or global operations?
A major selling point for NetSuite with most customers is how easy it is to manage multiple subsidiaries’ financials. Finance leaders can gain a consolidated view of financials across businesses at the click of a button, removing what was once a tedious, Excel-laden chore and allowing them to much more easily compare data to make business decisions. What’s more, customers often point to how easy it is to add new acquisitions to the platform – with just a few clicks.
NetSuite OneWorld offers the functionality for businesses to manage global subsidiaries, accounting for currency, taxes, and more. NetSuite supports 27 languages, more than 190 currencies, transactions in 90-plus bank formats and meets tax and reporting standards for more than 100 countries. Intacct doesn’t provide this level of global support.
Also consider how you’ll comply with international regulations, such as GDPR. NetSuite, backed by Oracle, has a global data center reach that far exceeds what Sage Intacct can offer. NetSuite has access to 18 Oracle Cloud Infrastructure data centers around the globe. Intacct runs in three data centers — two in California and one in Dublin — all of which are run by third-party data center service providers.
Do you, or will you, need functionality beyond accounting?
Let’s take three core business functions outside of accounting and finance and see how NetSuite vs. Intacct stack up.
Intacct often touts its direct partnership and integration with Salesforce.com as a key advantage over NetSuite, saying that NetSuite relies on its partners to maintain the Salesforce integration. But NetSuite’s rich community partners directly with Salesforce.com — and delivers integration that streamlines quote generation, increases selling velocity and improves the overall pipeline. What’s more, NetSuite has its own, native CRM solution, which includes functionality for customer service management, marketing automation, and Salesforce automation.
Automating human resources functionality is often the next step after accounting and finance because HR success similarly requires adherence to complex and changing regulations and labor laws. NetSuite provides a full, end-to-end human resources management suite of products — including all core HR functionality, payroll, and performance management. Intacct offers some core HR functionality via its Sage People application. However, again, this is a separate, third-party software package that requires complex and expensive integrations.
If your business manages and sells physical products — whether you run your warehouse or contract with a third party — order and inventory management may be on your must-have list. Both Intacct and NetSuite provide inventory and order management functionality, but NetSuite has a broader eye on the entire supply chain that affects those end processes. NetSuite Demand Planning, for instance, allows customers to pull sales numbers and historical forecasts into the database, use that data to drive recommendations and even automatically convert those to work orders or purchase orders if you want to enable that level of automation. The software also offers rich analysis capabilities to model how expected sales and purchase orders will affect future inventory levels.
Ready to Take Your Business to the Next Level?
While Intacct offers a lower upfront cost, NetSuite is typically the financial software of choice for growing companies, particularly those that are targeting IPOs and need the more advanced functionality and scalability that NetSuite delivers. Companies with international operations or aspirations also tend to select NetSuite OneWorld thanks to its multi-language, multi-currency, and multi-subsidiary management features.
Intacct vs NetSuite: By the Numbers
|Global data centers||3||18 (planned)|
Get more granular detail on the differences between Oracle NetSuite and Sage Intacct.
About the Author
BK Srinivas Senior VP Enterprise Solutions, Oracle Service Line Leader, Jade Global
Srinivas has 26+ years’ experience with Technology & Business consulting services and has successfully delivered Strategy, Planning and Execution of Global engagements involving Cloud Migrations, Digital Transformations, M&A and Divestitures, Infra/Apps/BPO Managed Services.