Did NetSuite Ambush SAP or Wage a Fair Fight?

Includes: N, SAP
by: Dennis Byron

In response to my blog post that SAP's Business by Design (BbD) was ambushed by a NetSuite (NYSE:N) marketing campaign, "Rob" writes:

"Bottom line - NetSuite has over 6,000 customers and SAP has under 100 using their system and NetSuite's functionality across accounting, CRM, inventory, and Ecommerce has been tested by real customers over the past 12 years. A customer choosing SAP's SaaS system instead of NetSuite should think twice."

Rob's affiliation is not revealed in this comment (which is OK of course in the blogosphere) but I'm guessing he's the Director of Worldwide Demand Generation at NetSuite using his gmail address. Who else would care about my little OK Corral travel log?

Of course my blog post did not recommend one ERP software as a service (SaaS) product over another. And I have been highly critical of SAP's BbD development and marketing efforts for years. I simply pointed out that the self-serving January 5th Netsuite press release calling the demonstration a "shootout" did not square with the December 11th description of the SAP vs. Netsuite event by judge Vinnie Mirchandani on his blog.

But assuming we have Netsuite management "on the line," here are some questions that could help us decide whether the press release described a fair fight or an ambush:

  • Who wrote the demo script and how was he or she compensated? It appears to be the Mark Siller and Carsten Brockmann described in Vinni's blog post. Tell us a little more about their affiliations and biases.
  • How was the demo structured? I could make Quickbooks look good against R/3 depending on what I wanted to demonstrate. There are slides available on the web that show BbD response times but I could not find any similar slides vis a vis NetSuite.
  • And how was it scored? Netsuite said there were "five categories of performance: Design, Usability, Functional Aspects, Technical Aspects, and Other. The weight of each category in the final tally was established independently by each judge." Who decided the categories? What do technical aspects matter in a SaaS environment? What is "Other?" And what does "established independently by each judge" mean?

And is it correct that with a 12-year lead over BbD and all the other apparent rigging of the results (a Netsuite marketing person ran its demo but no SAP person was present, according to Vinnie), Netsuite only beat BbD by a little more than a point on a 10-point scale? (It also looks like neither product/service scored that well.) Did BbD win on usability and functionality and lose on "Other?"

And getting into a subject area about which I have first-hand knowledge, I love Netsuite's statement that,

"NetSuite was recently recognized by Gartner Dataquest as one of North America's top ten ERP vendors by revenue."

It's more PR sleight of hand. NetSuite would barely make my top 20 on such a list (which is dependent on your definition of ERP and I don't know what Gartner's is), miles behind the obvious players but also way behind Lawson (NASDAQ:LAWS), the former HBOC, the former SMS, Fiserv and more meaningfully from NetSuite's sweet spot, miles behind Intuit (NASDAQ:INTU) and Sage (LSE: Sage.)

I like such marketing pizzazz at a trade show as much as the next nerd but let's not confuse NetSuite's marketing campaign with research.