OpenAir vs NetSuite Advanced Project Module: Each Drive Service Revenue

NetSuite Advanced Projects & Open Air:In 2008, NetSuite purchased OpenAir, the leading professional service automation (PSA) program at the time. Considered a best-of-breed professional service automation program, OpenAir is a platform that is designed for firms that are in the professional services business. While OpenAir has never tried to be a financial system, it has excelled as a PSA and was intended to be connected to third party accounting systems that support general ledger, accounts payable, accounts receivable and financial reporting. Before and after the merger with NetSuite, OpenAir developed integrations to financial systems and to other programs. For example, OpenAir is integrated with through a product called OpenAir Connect.  As you would expect, OpenAir is fully integrated with NetSuite and well supported.

It’s important to understand that NetSuite, before the acquisition, already had a module similar to OpenAir called NetSuite Advanced Projects. This module opens capacity for service-based companies to track the labor economics related to projects through fundamental structures such as Timesheets, Expense Reports, Task Management and Billing Types.

OpenAir can do all the things that NetSuite Advanced Projects can do.  But it goes further.  Acting as a near replacement for Microsoft Project, OpenAir works to figure out the project lifecycle with more granular task, sequencing and dependency management illustrating a key difference between NetSuite Advanced Projects.  When working with many team members and a larger number of projects, OpenAir generally excels over NetSuite in project revenue forecasting and booking to drive resource capacity and portfolio management.

But before we extol too many of the virtues of OpenAir, we must also recognize that NetSuite’s Advanced Project Module offers some compelling features. As you can read in my article on NetSuite’s API, NetSuite is a platform that is designed to allow for customizations. OpenAir, while supporting some customization, is not nearly as rich as NetSuite’s Business Operating System platform.  This is an important consideration when looking at these PSAs, particularly if one of your requirements is the need for adaptability.

In some business models, both products and services are sold. In this case, NetSuite’s Advanced Project Module may work very well, especially if NetSuite is already being used for product-based sales.  The Advanced Projects software footprint is completely seamless.  As it is fully integrated into NetSuite and the licensing model supports full access to all the NetSuite capacities, this may be important when considering other factors, such as CRM and reporting.

Drive Income with Professional Service Automation

It’s great talking to professional service organizations that have finally found their sweet spot and now are in Advanced Growth.  When we talk management, they are not suffering from offers being accepted (that’s what it means to be in Advanced Growth!)  They are suffering from being able to deliver profitably.   Delivery suffers from too many people running around tackling projects and support and worrying about where they are going to get more resources while having limited visibility to the skills and availability of existing resources.  Both NetSuite Advanced Projects and OpenAir tools  are essential to organize work and allow visibility into a complex operation.  Too many times though, the tools are purchased but the implementation is not well led, which drives the delivery team to complain that the tools just “get in the way.”

The best companies get the tools can amplify their ability to see what is happening, project what is to come, and prepare and track action.  Tools do nothing without people in a shared narrative who are competent and committed to use them.

Bottom line — understanding the full business situation and the long-term growth strategy is necessary to make a good assessment for which approach to take.  With proper thinking and planning, NetSuite’s two options are sure to serve a growing services organization well.  No matter which tool, plan to invest in the implementation so that you drive more income at lower cost leading to more profit.

Learn More

If you would like to have a detailed review of NetSuite projects-based solutions, let’s talk.  I can set you up to meet the right NetSuite Sales Professionals, help you understand pricing, and plan your implementation.


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Marty Zigman

Holding all three official certifications, Marty is Southern California's NetSuite expert and leads a team of senior professionals at Prolecto Resources, Inc. He is a former Deloitte & Touche CPA and has held CTO roles. For over 25 years, Marty has produced leadership in ERP, CRM and eCommerce business systems. Contact Marty to set up a conversation.

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| Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Category: ERP, Management, NetSuite | 4 Comments


  1. Posted October 7, 2015 at 6:49 am | Permalink

    I am working on getting our projects department up and running with the NetSuite (NS) project module.

    I am finding that we cannot directly put material on a project like time and resources. I need to tie it in by sales order, invoice or purchase order.

    Am I missing something here?

    Best Regards,

    Roger Swiger

  2. Posted October 9, 2015 at 5:54 am | Permalink

    Hi Roger,

    NetSuite Advanced Projects is very time entry oriented. However, more recently, NetSuite implemented “charge based billing” which can mimic material flows. This may work for you. The connection to the Sales Order for projects takes a bit of study to determine the options.

    In previous engagements, we have created custom records to help track the budget around material charges. But all of it requires careful coordination in the overall transaction flow.


  3. Posted October 12, 2015 at 12:56 pm | Permalink

    Great, thanks for you time.

    I will take a look at the charge based billing.

  4. Chris
    Posted October 23, 2015 at 6:25 am | Permalink

    Hi Marty,

    Do you know if OpenAir integrates with Office 365?
    Furthermore, if it integrates with Outlook for Macs?

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