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NetSuite Reporting Explained

NetSuite’s reporting capability is undoubtedly one of its most appealing features. Not only the native reporting options it offers (of which there are plenty!), but the power of the database and the depth of analysis you can gain from having all your data, even across multiple companies, countries, and currencies, in one system.


Having built a successful business around a solution which gives finance teams the flexibility to create the NetSuite reports they need in Excel; we like to think we know a thing or two about the best way to get information out of NetSuite.


In this article we outline the main NetSuite reporting options available and the most applicable use cases for each:


NetSuite Dashboards

NetSuite KPIs

NetSuite Saved Searches

NetSuite Reports

SuiteAnalytics

External Reporting for NetSuite via ODBC (SuiteAnalytics Connect)



NetSuite Dashboards

Everyone’s favourite from the demo! All you have to do is log in, and everything is done for you…right?


Ok, not quite, but native dashboards are great for the, "what do I need to know to get through this day/week?" or "are things, in general, going well/badly?" types of questions.


The purpose of dashboards is usually to present information quickly, in an easily digestible format, which allows the user to draw conclusions and take appropriate action without getting into the weeds. As such, these reports are normally number-driven and time-specific (see more about this in the next section on NetSuite KPIs).


One of the strongest aspects of NetSuite dashboards is the ability to combine and compare standard KPIs, with custom KPIs (based on saved searches), as well as reminder portlets and productivity tools such as calendars or call lists. This is what gives you that snapshot.


Powerfully, you can also quickly update all figures on the dashboards to look at different periods or date ranges with one click by updating ‘Portlet Date Settings’.


The portlet date setting is an absolute godsend to anyone with an inquisitive mind, or boss, who always asks the question, “that’s great, but how does it compare with ‘x’”. The ability for a user to view and query their data by day, week, month, period, or year with one click is phenomenal and something which probably under-utilised and under-appreciated.


Dashboard Use Cases:

There are two common types of dashboards to consider:


Standard (native) NetSuite dashboards, which are specific to the individual:

Every NetSuite user should have at least a home dashboard. This should consist of the core KPIs and reminders which the business believes to be vital to their job. In addition, users can easily add some custom KPIs and other productivity tools which they find useful for their own particular approach.


Without oversimplifying, we are talking about things like the number of orders, inventory items and returns for warehouse managers; new leads, opportunities, and customers for sales staff; and projects, milestones and utilisation for project managers. You get the drill – user-centric, KPI and task focussed to drive positive action.


Business Intelligence dashboards populated by NetSuite data:

Ok, this is different. The core reason for the dashboard is still the same (presenting information in a quick and digestible format) but in this instance we are probably talking about a business intelligence or dashboarding solution which provides a more appropriate interface to share the data to a different audience. This would normally be stakeholders or decision makers who do not have access to NetSuite. Alternatively, target-driven teams (sales, support desks etc.) who benefit from having simple, performance focused visuals available (green for good, red for bad etc.).


As with all things software, the correct solution depends on your requirements. If you need attractive, easy-to-build, reports, graphs and tables which can be updated with the click of a button, our NetSuite Reporting solution is ideal, affordable and very appealing to a finance team who are comfortable using Excel.


If you are more in the market for an automatically refreshing, highly graphical type interface, you should be considering a dedicated BI tool along the lines of Power BI, Qlik, or Tableau. Read our blog dedicated specifically to NetSuite Dashboards here for more information.


NetSuite KPIs

KPIs in NetSuite are essentially the cornerstone of the NetSuite dashboards we have just covered. Conveniently, they are based on NetSuite saved searches, which we discuss in the next section.


We’re sure you know, but KPI stands for ‘Key Performance Indicator’. These are generally aligned to metrics which the business has identified to be critical measurements of success or failure. This means that they tend to compare an ‘actual’, against a target, within a set time period, often alongside historical data so that everyone can see at a glance if they are on target and/or are doing better, or worse, than in previous periods.


Standard KPI Use Cases:

  • New Leads: Period X v Period Y

  • New Sales: Period X v Period Y

  • Lost Opportunities: Period X v Period Y

  • Lost Customers: Period X v Period Y

  • Bank Balance: Period X v Period Y

  • Number of Employees: Period X v Period Y

  • Total Expenses: Period X v Period Y

  • Order Book Value: Period X v Period Y

As mentioned in our introduction though, the real value in NetSuite is the power it gives users to query their data.


Where other ERP systems only offer pre-defined KPIs, or struggle to give visibility into certain areas, NetSuite empowers users to create ‘Custom KPIs’. These KPIs can give visibility into any data managed within NetSuite and can be easily created, even by non-technical users, by simply building ‘and/or’ searches (saved searches).


For example, instead of analysing ‘New customers’ you could show “New Customers who have spent more than ‘X’ on Product ‘Y’ in Region ‘Z’” or “Orders which were shipped more than two days late and included free postage”.


Legend has it that the former CEO of NetSuite had a ‘neglected opportunities’ KPI on his dashboard. The criteria was pretty simple…any new opportunity assigned to a rep which had not been updated within 24 hours would appear in his KPIs. He could then report on this by day, month, and period, to see how many opportunities were not being followed up to address two potential outcomes - poor performance, or process challenges for the team. Either way, we understand there weren’t many neglected opportunities once word got out that he was watching!


NetSuite Saved Searches

There may be people who would argue that saved searches are not reports, and they may be right. But, we’re not here to argue, we’re here to help you get the information you need out of NetSuite in the most appropriate fashion.


And say what you like, saved searches are amazing for this.


Rather than having to build a static report every time you want to see a list of information matching specific criteria, a saved search allows you to easily build the list within the system and then drill-down into the information behind it.


What’s more, they can be dynamic meaning that they evolve and update automatically as the data in the system changes. Plus, they can be easily duplicated and extended to give even more specific data by simply adding additional criteria. (e.g. further segmenting your ‘All Partners’ list, to be ‘US Partners’ by adding the ‘Country’ filter to a global list).


It’s hard to pin down the most common use cases for saved searches as they can really be used for anything. They are widely used in marketing, admin, and finance for tasks.


NetSuite Saved Searches Use Cases:


NetSuite Marketing Searches:
  • Leads with no email addresses

  • Customers who purchased ‘x’ but not ‘y’

  • Prospects who have not been contacted for more than six months

  • Opportunities due to close this month


NetSuite Finance Searches:
  • Aged debt reports

  • Customers exceeding credit limits

  • Invoices pending approval

NetSuite Admin Searches:
  • Duplicate contacts


NetSuite Reports

This is where multiple worlds collide, and largely, things start to require more knowledge of the NetSuite interface and database.


Moving away from the flexibility of KPIs, dashboards and saved searches, which are largely interactive and driven by individuals, NetSuite reports tend to be more fixed, specific, and used by certain individuals to measure performance and/or answer specific questions at regular time intervals.


As a result, these are ideal for what you would probably term as management or board reporting.


The complication this can introduce is that instead of just building and/or type queries, you are looking at creating or amending a template within NetSuite’s report builder which requires knowledge of both the report writing interface and NetSuite’s table structures.


Whilst they created a very user-friendly interface, when you start clicking it can become daunting to inexperienced users to see the table names, fields, and representative joins etc. which all go into building a report. Also, by the nature of the system, it doesn’t provide complete flexibility. You have to operate within its parameters which means there can be occasions where you can see all of the data by navigating NetSuite, but the reports may not be able to join that data to provide the overview you need.


Furthermore, particularly in terms of financial reporting which is driven by codes, classes, departments, and locations, NetSuite will (as it should) stick to that format. Whilst this is great on one-hand, it does mean it can be difficult to create an alternative view of some financial information should your company structure or perspective change.


In our experience, this means that NetSuite reports are often set-up by a more technical resource, as opposed to finance, as they are more comfortable in the technical side of the application. Which makes sense, right?


This can, though, lead to challenges on occasion if there are delays in getting reports, a misunderstanding of what the report should include, or just simply that reports, by their very purpose, provide information which often lead to more questions, and more reports. So, it can become a resource-heavy approach to continually involve multiple people to build various reports. If you are a NetSuite finance user who would like to take control of the reporting capability, Solution 7 may be the perfect tool for you.


NetSuite Report Use Cases:


NetSuite Financial Reporting:
  • Month end reports

  • Profit & Loss

  • Balance Sheet

  • Budget vs Actual

NetSuite Sales Reporting:
  • Opportunity Pipeline

  • By Sales Rep

  • By Product


  • Total Sales

  • Quantity

  • Value


NetSuite SuiteAnalytics

Most finance professionals love Excel. It’s no secret, and neither should it be. (We’ve built an entire business on the back of it!)


So, as the saying goes – ‘if you can’t beat them, join them’, and with SuiteAnalystics, NetSuite at least took a step in that direction. Evolving the native reporting capabilities of NetSuite, SuiteAnalytics enables users to create ‘PivotTable-style’ reports within the core interface.

Microsoft describes PivotTables as ‘an interactive way to quickly summarize large amounts of data…analyze numerical data in detail, and answer unanticipated questions about your data.’


Absolutely perfect for NetSuite financial reporting, then?


Like standard dashboards and reports, SuiteAnalytics allows you to drill down from summarised totals to line-level detail. However, it does it in an interface akin to Excel which provides some additional functionality for how you can slice, dice, or organise the rows and columns of your reports on-the-fly.


The module also offers filters which are probably a little more obvious to users who are comfortable with Excel and less experienced with NetSuite. It also provides tabs in a workbook format to allow you to review various elements of your report individually without having to navigate your way in and out of various reports in NetSuite or open multiple tabs in your browser.



NetSuite SuiteAnalytics Use Cases

SuiteAnalytics is particularly useful in situations where you need to view a summary of data and there is a lot of detail behind the numbers. Use cases are similar to those outlined in the previous ‘NetSuite Reports’ section, but the visualisation and navigation of the reports is a little less restricted.


NetSuite Financial Reporting
  • Budget v Actual

  • Budget by Department

  • General Ledger Reporting


NetSuite Sales & Marketing Reporting
  • Monthly/Weekly Lead Generation by Source

  • Sales Orders by Product, Rep, and Region



External Reporting for NetSuite via ODBC

Having covered the various approaches for reporting within NetSuite, in this final section we look at your options for extracting data from NetSuite to populate reports built in another platform, traditionally Excel or a dedicated business intelligence (BI) tool.


There are any number of reasons why you would look to access NetSuite data in reports external to the system. In our experience the three most common scenarios are:

  • Your organisation relies on multiple systems, and you require a central reporting tool to provide a series of reports and dashboards based on a unified data set.

  • There can be an over-dependency on key staff to create reports within NetSuite. The fact that you rely on certain individuals can lead to challenges and delays for users who need information quickly day-to-day.

  • People within your organisation who do not have access to NetSuite require information from NetSuite (e.g. board members or budget holders).

Fortunately, in addition to the wealth of standard NetSuite reporting options there is also the NetSuite SuiteAnalytics Connect (ODBC) module.


SuiteAnalytics Connect provides a platform to automate the exchange of data to and from NetSuite via an ODBC connection, allowing you to create refreshable reports in Excel or your BI/Dashboarding tool.


Use Cases


NetSuite Financial Reporting in Excel:

If you would like all the flexibility and familiarity of Excel to build NetSuite reports, then you are in the right place. Our NetSuite Reporting Solution does exactly that. Removing the need to learn NetSuite’s report writing interface, or database structure, our solution gives you the ability to simply enter fields from your NetSuite database into your own reports and templates within Excel. Literally, highlight a cell, select a field from NetSuite and the report will pull data through instantly with a quick click of ‘Refresh Data’. Excitingly, this means that your reporting tool is actually Excel but the data is from NetSuite. So, you can easily include additional fields, formulae, and calculations, as well as using any other standard Excel feature (charts, PivotTables, Lookups etc.).


Plus, as the reports are built through a simple 'point and click' it also gives you the ability to build reports and comparisons which you just wouldn't be able to achieve in another interface. For example, many of our customers create various General Ledger Reports which allow them to compare and contrast reports using a different running order of accounts, class, department and location without needing to completely restructure their Chart of Accounts in NetSuite.


This is an ideal solution whether you want to share dynamic reporting with your board or budget holders, or just want the flexibility to create your own reports in an interface which you know inside out.


NetSuite Reporting in a Business Intelligence Application

So, ultimately the challenge here is similar to the Excel scenario painted above. It's about sharing information from NetSuite in a more flexible, accessible, or integrated manner.


The requirement for a dedicated BI tool would normally be outlined by the type of information you wanted to analyse, the audience with whom you wanted to share it, and usually a need for the report to be graphical and/or 'live' (automatically refreshing).


SuiteAnalytics Connect would normally provide the interface for your BI tool to automatically pull the data from NetSuite, although you would be best to speak with your NetSuite or Partner Account Manager to confirm.


The integration and report building would however tend to be a much more complex task as it requires an understanding of the BI tool's interface and report builder alongside knowledge of NetSuite's database and table structures. On top of this, dedicated BI applications tend to come with a pretty sizeable price tag, although this obviously depends on the solution you choose, and the number of users and reports you wish to have.


It is best to analyse the output you need and the skillset of your team to decide whether Excel or a dedicated solution would be the best option.


If you'd be interested to learn more about our solutions follow the links below to our relevant landing pages, or alternatively book a demo or try our software for free today.


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About Solution 7

Solution 7’s award-winning SuiteApp provides finance professionals with all the power and capability of NetSuite’s reporting within the familiar and flexible interface of Microsoft Excel. Recognised by NetSuite as ‘SuiteApp of the Year’ in 2018, Solution 7 is one of the most, and highest, rated apps on SuiteApp.com, with an average rating of 4.8/5 from almost 100 reviews.