As you probably know – off-the-shelf, NetSuite provides hundreds of reports, dashboards, and KPIs alongside functionality to create custom reports and saved searches. In fact, if you’re currently using or considering NetSuite, we'd assume that the native reporting is probably one of the biggest positives.
Why then would you need an additional reporting tool?
Well, there may be a few reasons (you can read more into our take on NetSuite Reporting in a number of our articles linked at the bottom of the page), in this article we look at:
The Case for NetSuite Reporting Tools
In our experience, the case for NetSuite reporting tools usually boils down to two reasons, and arguably, both are of the same consequence. It’s not about a lack of data or functionality from NetSuite, it’s about the ways you need to report for your business.
You want to view your NetSuite data alongside data from other systems. This is not possible within NetSuite as standard without buying the NetSuite Data Analytics module.
You need more control or flexibility over the creation of reports. In this instance, it is often technically possible to create the report in NetSuite, but it may require advanced technical knowledge of the NetSuite database. Alternatively, if the report exists, it may still be challenging to share with others in the organization in a way that allows you to query and analyse the data, even if that individual also has access to NetSuite (which not everyone does).
So, if you are in this situation, you may be looking to understand what your NetSuite reporting tool options are.
Types of NetSuite Reporting Tools
In our previous articles (NetSuite Reporting Explained, NetSuite Dashboards, and NetSuite Business Intelligence), we cover a lot of ground explaining the different types of reports, options, and reporting tools available for NetSuite.
There are numerous reporting tools for NetSuite, some dedicated SuiteApps (e.g., Solution 7), and some which are standalone Business Intelligence (BI) tools built to integrate to essentially any data source.
To establish the right tool for you, you need to know:
What challenge are you trying to solve by implementing a reporting tool?
To choose the ideal interface, you need to consider the complexity of reports you are trying to create; your team’s ability to build reports, frequency they need to access/submit reports and the audience consuming the reports.
Excel – Standard data export from NetSuite
Ideal for users who simply need to make small amendments to data prior to sharing with other stakeholders.
As standard, providing you have the permissions, you can easily export any report or saved search to Excel by simply clicking the ‘Export to Excel’ option. Cleverly, NetSuite also exports all pre-existing calculations and formulae from within the report, making it easy to manipulate the reports as opposed to starting from scratch with a screen of static numbers.
NetSuite Excel Plugin – Live/refreshable data in Excel
Moving beyond the standard export which provides a one-time, static data set, having an Excel plugin provides the ability to refresh your reports in Excel on an ongoing basis. This approach provides finance teams with the flexibility they need to build their reporting packs, board reports and dashboards without needing to rely on technical resources to build complex database queries. Once integrated with Excel via SuiteAnalytics Connect (ODBC), users can easily build and tailor reports and refresh data as and when required to pull live data into custom financial reports. See later in this article or our NetSuite Reporting page for more info.
Dedicated Business Intelligence (BI) Solution – Dashboards & Data Warehouse
A dedicated BI solution would normally be a consideration if your reporting requirements fall into, or lean towards, the ‘everything to many’ category. That is to say, you are looking to present information from multiple data sources to build detailed reports for relevant stakeholders and easy-to-consume dashboards for a wider team (e.g., sales, logistics, customer support) which automatically refresh on a schedule. By their very nature, BI tools are incredibly powerful, but can move towards requiring more technical resources to understand the data structure in the backend whilst also having the skillset to manipulate the front end.
How to Connect NetSuite to a Reporting Tool
Whichever way you want to connect NetSuite, you will require a piece of software to facilitate the connection. Within NetSuite is their SuiteAnalytics Connect (ODBC) module which can be added and enabled easily on your account. This is an additional purchase – speak to your NetSuite Account Manager or Partner for more information and pricing.
SuiteAnalytics Connect allows other reporting tools to connect directly to the data set in the back end to push and pull data in a structured format.
You can also read all about the SuiteAnalytics Connect (ODBC) module in our dedicated article, and visit our NetSuite ODBC page for more information.
Using Excel as a NetSuite Reporting Tool
If you look through the rest of our site, you may think we’re biased towards Excel.
Whilst this may be true, we like to think that we are just honest.
Excel (in the hands of someone who knows how to use it, i.e., finance professionals) is one of, if not the, most powerful reporting and number crunching software solutions on the planet. As such, it provides a very accessible and practical solution to a very common set of challenges.
Given that most NetSuite customers are finance-system customers first, Excel is an ideal and cost-effective approach to give more control, flexibility, and depth to reporting for the finance team without requiring a large investment in technology, time, or internal technical resource to get more from the system.
Using a tool such as Solution 7 provides the finance team with simple access to the NetSuite database to build point-and-click reports, in an interface where they have spent most of their career building and manipulating queries, calculations and reports.
Whether it is simple access to the data they need to do their own job day-to-day, the ability to build a series of reports and workbooks as a board pack, or the flexibility to easily create reports which would be challenging within the confines of NetSuite (e.g., viewing an alternative GL structure, or quickly including variations and ‘what if’ type calculations based on simple percentage changes), Excel provides the ideal interface to enable your finance team to own its own reporting.
In our experience, this leads to happier finance teams, better and quicker insights for those who need them, and less time being wasted across your finance and IT teams.
To summarize, NetSuite is almost unrivalled in the market in relation to the number, quality, and variety of reports it includes off-the-shelf. However, users justifiably still require NetSuite reporting tools to provide the access, flexibility and shareability of information they need to grow their business.
To integrate a reporting tool to NetSuite, you require a connection to the database which is most commonly achieved by purchasing SuiteAnalytics Connect (ODBC).
The best reporting tool for you really depends on your business requirements. We love Excel and generally find that finance teams do to. If you require integrations with other databases and have a need to present business-wide information beyond the finance function, a dedicated BI tool may be what you need.
Solution 7 is purpose-built NetSuite Excel reporting tool which provides a simple interface for finance teams to build and customize reports and interface they know and love without needing to worry about complex technical interfaces and database structures.
If you’d like to learn more, read more of our articles below or book a demo today.