The Complete NetSuite Implementation Guide for SMEs

Jalene Ippolito January 05, 2022

As you’re researching NetSuite, you’ll discover there are a few different ways you can tackle your implementation project. There are two major considerations here:

  1. Who will do the implementation? You can go direct through NetSuite, work with a NetSuite Partner or implement the system yourself.
  2. What implementation method is best for your project? For many companies, the SuiteSuccess methodology is a good fit. And others need a more tailored implementation approach. It’s entirely dependent on your needs.

There’s a fair bit to consider here, so we created this guide to help you understand all the options. Our goal is to help you make the best decision for your company and guarantee a successful NetSuite project. Let’s dig in!

Who will do your NetSuite implementation?

Direct Implementation

If you choose to buy the software direct through NetSuite, their team will likely handle your implementation project. In certain cases, they may pull in a partner of their choosing to do the implementation for you. Given that they’re the software publisher, you won’t run into issues around product knowledge and technical expertise. But implementing ERP software is about far more than just software. You want your implementation team to have a strong understanding of your business, not just businesses like yours. The NetSuite direct team tends to take a more prescriptive approach, so you won’t get the same depth that you will with a NetSuite implementation partner.

Partner Implementation

When you work with a NetSuite partner, you’re building a strong relationship to support your business in the long-term. Your partner becomes an extension of your team, as they go deep to understand every facet of your business to create a solution that truly fits your business. And NetSuite partners have comparable levels of technical expertise, giving them a distinct advantage over the direct model. Remember, this is the core system that runs your business. Having a partner that’s invested in your success is essential. You’ll want to select your ERP partner as carefully as you select the software itself to ensure a good fit.


Implementing NetSuite on your own is an option, but not one that we would recommend. Unless you have dedicated in-house resources with extensive NetSuite experience, your project is all but guaranteed to flop. There are many challenges with self-implementation, but in most cases, small to mid-size companies simply don’t have the resources, time, or expertise to implement ERP successfully on their own.

What implementation method is best for your project?

Congrats, you’ve decided to work with a NetSuite partner! 😃

Now, what does your implementation look like? There are two approaches to choose from, based on your requirements.

  1. Traditional ERP implementation approach
  2. NetSuite's SuiteSuccess model

In our experience, SuiteSuccess typically makes sense for small companies (around $1 million in revenue) with very simple processes. For companies that fall in a higher revenue bracket and have more complexity, a traditional implementation approach is the better bet. Here's what you need to know about both models.

Traditional ERP Implementation

A traditional ERP implementation plan will follow these seven steps, with the details and timeline determined by your requirements.

  1. Process analysis and design: This stage starts before you even buy the software. The information your partner collected during discovery is used as a basis for a deeper dive into your processes and requirements. Plan to spend a fair bit of time here going through every business process – it’s worth the effort up-front, rather than spending money on modifications later.
  2. Software configuration: Your partner will handle the initial setup of your system.
  3. Data migration: Dedicate time for your team to clean your existing data before importing it into your NetSuite system.
  4. Business process implementation: Your partner will configure the system to handle the business processes you mapped out in the design phase.
  5. Training and user acceptance testing: Your core users will start learning the system using a combination of NetSuite materials and partner-led training. It’s a good idea for users to have basic training before they start testing so they know how to perform processes.
  6. System go-live: You start using your NetSuite system!
  7. Post-implementation review and support: Continue working closely with your partner on training and process optimization before moving into support mode.

SuiteSuccess Implementation

The SuiteSuccess implementation approach is a great starting point for small, simple companies. Rather than starting your project from a blank slate, the implementation is standardized to solve the challenges in your industry using best practices. You get a faster time to value with pre-defined workflows, KPIs, dashboards and more, implemented in a phased approach. But keep in mind that this approach is more prescriptive, so you'll have to fit your business processes to the software which can be limiting.

  • Build: A complete suite to support your business including ERP, CRM, PSA, omnichannel commerce, HR and Business Intelligence (BI) built on the NetSuite cloud platform.

  • Engage: Leverage best practices for each industry and role including workflows, KPI reports, dashboards and metrics.

  • Consume: A carefully crafted staged approach allows you to consume capabilities based on your business needs and get you running in the cloud in 100 days.

  • Optimize: You’re always on the latest release, giving you the benefit of updated leading practices, new features and ongoing process improvement.

  • Tailor: Identify any gaps in the SuiteSuccess template up-front and provide an estimate and project plan to implement any additional functionality required to meet your business needs.

Tips for a successful NetSuite implementation

We can’t stress enough the importance of your relationship with your implementation partner. They’ll ensure your system meets your needs and guide you through the process. But there are a few things you can do to ensure your implementation is successful.

  • Create a cross-functional project team to manage the selection and implementation internally. They’ll collect feedback from other users throughout the process to ensure you have the full picture.

  • Be sure to allocate enough time for training. It’s a big change – your people will be learning both new systems and new processes.

  • Don’t overlook the importance of change management. To the point above, implementing a new system is disruptive and the transition can be hard on your team. A proper change management strategy will ease the stress and improve user adoption.

  • Document your new processes. It takes time, but it’s worth it. This becomes the training manual for your team and ensures new processes are being followed.

  • Use the NetSuite Sandbox. You’ll pay a little extra for it, but it gives your users the opportunity to learn the system in a safe environment, without impacting production data.

Ready to make the leap to NetSuite?

At its core, NetSuite is flexible. And that applies to your implementation as well – you can choose the route that works best for you. As your local North American NetSuite implementation partner, we'll guide you through the process and recommend the implementation approach that’s best for your business. Put simply – we’re here to help!

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