How to Solve the Magento versus NetSuite Puzzle

This article is relevant if you are considering Magento and /or NetSuite for your eCommerce and backoffice management requirements.

Background

In my article, Solving B2B and B2C Sales on Magento versus NetSuite, I discuss important considerations for selecting Magento and / or NetSuite for solving eCommerce and backoffice capacities. ¬†All the elements in that article 18 months later still apply and I recommend reading it for a good first talk orientation. ¬† This article will offer new contrasts and thinking relative about the two platforms in light of NetSuite’s latest SuiteCommerce functionality.

Organizing What you Care About

I assume that if you are reading this article, the following applies to you:

  1. You have an eCommerce business.
  2. You know that Magento is the most popular Open Source eCommerce Platform and this gives you comfort that there are add-ins and talent available.
  3. You like NetSuite’s vision for full end-to-end transaction management and that they are the #1 Cloud ERP solution.
  4. You are nervous about NetSuite’s eCommerce features and capability and don’t want to be locked in nor stuck because the tools won’t deliver.
Should this apply to you, I can understand your¬†quandary. ¬†Many will say “give me both!” wanting the “best of both worlds”. ¬†But beware as this comes with a price.
It’s important to organize what you care about so you can produce criteria to help you make an informed decision. ¬†Answer these key general questions to help you get clear about your nature and investment propensity:
  1. Are you new to mid-market ERP, eCommerce frameworks and packaged business applications?  If so, you may experience price sticker shock.
  2. Is it your nature to want to build all the IT related components in a database driven software solution?
  3. Do you feel that “software is just software” and it’s no big deal how the software was conceived so long as it gets the job done?
  4. Do you feel that a single vendor solution will tie your hands?  Or do you see freedom from multi-party breakdowns?
  5. Do you believe that software should work for the remaining life of your business (in perpetuity unless you enter a new business model)?
  6. Are you custom software risk averse?  Or do you embrace the possibilities that open up when you develop software?
  7. Do you believe that once two software solutions are integrated, it now should behave as a single system?
  8. Do you have multiple companies that buy and sell to each other?  Do you want a wall between them or do you want them to share services?

Functionality Overlaps

Here are key areas where Magento and NetSuite overlap which adds to possible confusion areas:
  1. They both offer “on-par” eCommerce capacities. ¬†Each are strong with their differences in approach.
  2. They each offer a framework and an API to develop eCommerce functions. ¬†Each are strong. ¬†NetSuite has now caught up to today’s demands with SuiteCommerce (NetSuite’s next generation offering).
  3. They both offer inventory and product management.  Each are strong with their own approach.
  4. They both offer order management.  Each are strong with their own capacities.
  5. The each advertise they offer content management but both of them are not strong compared to powerful tools such as Expression Engine.

Major Functionality Differences

Here is a way to look at the differences between the platforms that highlight strengths where the other is weak:
  1. NetSuite has full financial management and reporting capacities.  Magento does not.
  2. NetSuite supports true multi-company management with financial consolidation.  Magento does not.
  3. NetSuite supports a powerful CRM system that can, in some respects, rival salesforce.com.  Magento does not.
  4. Magento gives you a way to host your own solution. NetSuite is only available via subscription.
  5. NetSuite shields many arcane technical aspects from you as you customize.  Magento does not.
When looking at these differences, think about what you care about.  Because some of those differences may help you distinguish the best course of action.

What is Lost on Most on the Journey

When I speak with executives about these platforms, I find a number of matters may not have been carefully considered all which demand investment:

  1. If you are in an eCommerce business, someone (or people), somewhere, is going to have to be technically competent in making the eCommerce system become what it needs to become to drive revenue.  Are you ready to own that investment?
  2. The power of these frameworks are realized when you fully embrace their designed capacities.  Meaning, learn the tools and apply the capacities to the business problems.  Take matters into your own hands and invest.  Are you prepared to nurture the right intellectual talent drive these tools and thus your business?
  3. Despite an application framework, over time, the eCommerce environment will become convoluted and difficult to enhance.  Be prepared to let go of things you previously invested in as this will slow you down and drive us costs.  Are you prepared to make investments that may only have a few years payback?
  4. Any integration will cause information latency, errors, need for controls and diagnostic complexities in day-to-day management.  You will need to have experts that understand your specific integration especially as issues arise.  Are you ready to have someone own this care?
  5. Any integration will cause information to be separated driving the need for a future reporting project to pull data together centrally to make sense of your business performance.  Have you factored this element into your solution equation?

Pulling it Together

Unfortunately, there is no “answer” that is right when¬†choosing¬†between these platforms. ¬†Now that we have organized the thinking, you probably will want to consider the following generalizations to think about the puzzle:
  1. If you want a new backend which includes finance, HR management, budgeting, and operational / financial reporting,  then NetSuite is your winner.
  2. If you also want an integrated CRM system to the transactional backend, then again, NetSuite is your winner.
  3. If you need serious multi-company transaction and relationship management, then NetSuite is your winner.
  4. If NetSuite is your winner, carefully think twice about going with a different eCommerce engine.  No matter what you do, you must invest (as noted above).  What you can avoid is the cost of integration, the maintenance of your integration, and the inevitable need for a central reporting database if you are instead willing to become good with the eCommerce tools.
  5. If you do not value the CRM aspects or the financial management because these are incidental, then Magento is your winner.  Remember though, data will need to get to and from the accounting system but that may not be that important in your business strategy.
  6. If you believe that “best of breed” is the only way to go, and you understand the risks with a multi-application solution and the investment profile, then perhaps Magento is the winner.
While many people do embark on the journey to integrate NetSuite and Magento together, and there are folks that are happy to sell solutions that stitch these together, I urge you to carefully check your assumptions.  When you integrate at the item, customer and order level (see my previous article), you effectively marginalize the capacities of each system with an ongoing price.

What’s Next?

At this point, I hope I have opened your thinking sufficiently to not rush to an answer — but to instead weigh out your concerns for both the short-term and long-term investment horizon. ¬†I recommend we have a conversation about your specific situation to help you sort out the options.

We are a NetSuite systems integrator but have a long history solving for these kinds of challenges.  Feel free to contact us and or use the comments below for a public dialogue.

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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 setup a conversation.

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| Tags: , , , , , | Category: ERP, NetSuite, Strategy | 21 Comments

20 Comments

  1. Posted June 26, 2013 at 6:50 am | Permalink

    Other considerations:
    1) HTML code management on Netsuite is painful (no ftp, no version control.
    2) Image management on Netsuite is painful
    3) No simple Staging process in Netsuite without significant costs
    4) No way to use Google Experiments to improve conversions in Netsuite

    I REALLY wish I could use Netsuite for the complete solution, but cannot see a how at even 2x the cost.

    Please prove me wrong! I hate the fact that I feel forced to consider a Magento/Netsute integration with all the headaches that will most certainly follow. But from where I stand, I feel I have no choice.

    -reed

  2. Posted June 26, 2013 at 1:58 pm | Permalink

    I see Reed’s point of view. Now with NetSuite’s new platform, I believe the comparison is going to be better.

    We are currently doing a project that extends the SSP Cart. The learning curve is not insignificant. But the power is accessible. But with power, comes obligation and responsibility.

    Marty

  3. Posted December 4, 2013 at 5:16 pm | Permalink

    Did you finish the SSP cart site? We just converted ours and are less than excited. Lots of problems with omitted features (download items, terms, case management to name a few). But the show stoppers are a forgot password feature that does not work and since go-live I have at least 5 customers a day report that JSon display for loginregister will not display. We figure that means at least another 15 daily have the issue without reporting it. We are on 1.1 version – told it was “stable”. Plan to go back to legacy checkout ASAP. Thoughts?

  4. Posted December 4, 2013 at 7:30 pm | Permalink

    Hi Matt,

    We started to work with the SSP cart on Bitcoin payment integration in the BTC4ERP offering. Yet, we stopped when one of our clients decided to move forward with SuiteCommerce. NetSuite demands, at this point, that SuiteCommerce implementations are done by their internal team. As a NetSuite Systems Integrator, we still don’t have access to the full technologies. I can understand because NetSuite is working to stabilize the feature set and make it ready for third party development.

    Once our client is ready with SuiteCommerce, our plan is to enhance the environment to fully enable Bitcoin services which we believe will provide us the “deep dive” we need into the architecture. From my perspective, this will be a more valuable way to gain SSP skills.

  5. Posted December 9, 2013 at 7:39 pm | Permalink

    I’m using Magento just for the Front-end, as I don’t want to pay the extra cost on Netsuite as I think is too expensive.

    So I will be using Magento on my front-end (As I want to have a nice ecommerce, responsive store 100% custom for Wholesales and Retail) + will have Netsuite in the background.

  6. Posted February 2, 2014 at 10:03 pm | Permalink

    Hi Erico,

    How are you going to handle synchronizing data between the two systems?

    Marty

  7. Harry
    Posted March 23, 2014 at 12:51 pm | Permalink

    Hi there,

    What do you guys think about (Netsuite + CeligoConnector + Magento + retailAnywhere POS) ) VS Full SuiteCommerce Platform and eCommerce ? what are the pros and cons of staying in Magento + Celigo VS mocving to Netsuite eCommerce platform?

    Thanks

  8. Posted April 15, 2014 at 6:43 am | Permalink

    Hello Harry,

    Did you see this article? While the article is a bit aged, the question and concerns are still valid. I am bullish on NetSuite’s SuiteCommerce Platform (vision and architecture) — yet, until there is wider adoption and partner participation in implementations, I suggest being cautious.

    I watch our clients live with the costs and obligations for multiple platforms and integrations. They get more freedom under this approach; but freedom also means responsibility. You will need to own your own “IT Stack”. Be sure you produce expertise in the different platforms so you can enjoy the benefits. Typically, it’s hard to find this in one individual. If you do, it’s hard to hold on to them. The market pays well to individuals that can tactically act with different popular platforms.

  9. Sreeja
    Posted June 12, 2014 at 11:51 pm | Permalink

    Can anybody tell how to Integrate NetSuite with Magento using API’s and is there any way to do that.

    Note: don’t want to use any connector

  10. Posted June 19, 2014 at 4:46 pm | Permalink

    Hello Sreeja,

    If you want to “roll your own code”, you certainly can do it. The key technologies are REST or Web Services. I favor REST with NetSuite as the learning curve is much lower than NetSuite’s Web Services. However, it does mean that you need to know how to program in NetSuite SuiteScript. These are questions of application & integration architecture that typicaly require consideration of your use case and information requirements. Bottom line, no easy answer. But for those that are commited, it can definitely be done.

  11. Sreeja
    Posted September 18, 2014 at 12:08 am | Permalink

    Hello Marty,
    We completed our integration but we did integration from Magento to NetSuite.But i want to do from NetSuite to Magento.I know Suite script and REST Api’s for Magento.To use REST Api’s of magento we need to generate Access keys so can you please tell me how to generate Access keys using Suite script(javascript) and we generated keys using webservices but we want to generate using suitescript.

  12. Posted September 28, 2014 at 8:21 am | Permalink

    What is the target format of the access keys you need to get to Magento’s APIs?

    Marty

  13. Posted August 19, 2015 at 6:10 am | Permalink

    Hi Marty,
    we’re shortly moving over to NetSuite and need to upgrade our corporate and e-commerce website(s). We were originally looking at Site Builder, but dont believe that offers enough functionality for us, so then considered SuiteCommerce, but aren’t too sure that it will be as good as Magento. What does the paying field look like today? i’ve seen some good ‘SuiteCommerce’ sites (Billabong, GoPro etc.), but am unsure how user friebdly they are. Also struggling to find a suitable web developer in the UK to work on NetSuite (there’s lots of options with Magento). I’d really love to be abel to stay within NetSuite if it is prove to work.

    Look forward to your feedback. Thanks.

  14. Posted August 20, 2015 at 6:01 am | Permalink

    Hello Russell,

    Here are my observations as of August 20, 2015:

    We think the SuiteCommerce Advanced (SCA) platform is promising. We have invested significant time learning to become productive. The community of people who understands the platform and can work with it is growing. At the same time I say this, it is only natural to have more Magento resources available to you.

    The NetSuite product team continues to improve the framework for producing the store and functionality. This requires additional investment to learn the new approaches and be productive. At the end of the day, I would highly recommend anyone that wants SuiteCommerce Advanced to prepare to invest in developing competencies. The skills required is JavaScript, HTML, and techniques with responsive web design. Mostly what we think of with modern front end web work. The individual will need to be a strong thinker. They do not need to know NetSuite — but they will be learning how the NetSuite API is exposed and how it can be leveraged. We are helping our customers help their staff become competent on the platform by offering enhancements and education.

    In some respects, I recommend the same thing for Magento. There, you will want someone that also understands PHP and mySQL databases. Ultimately, Magento will give you more control because you will have the obligation (and associated costs) to own the infrastructure layer. In the Magento to NetSuite world, it makes sense to work with integration partners who have pre-built tools to save you time. That too will require care with ongoing obligations.

  15. Tracy Goodall
    Posted September 3, 2015 at 4:57 am | Permalink

    Hello Marty

    Our company implemented NetSuite ERP a few months back and we are now wanting to redo our website. We know that Site Builder is too limited for our requirements, and that it is also way behind the eight-ball in terms of adaptation for mobile and tablet devices, so we are trying to understand what would be the best option between NS Advanced or using a site such as WordPress or Joomla, with Magento or a similar connector. We will have some e-commerce on our site, but only a small volume (we are no Amazon!). However, with around 600 products, we want to make sure that the user easily can understand how to select different combinations of products, and have features such as ‚Äúcomplementary products‚ÄĚ, ‚ÄúFind a Dealer‚ÄĚ (global), 5 or 6 languages etc.

    I have 3 questions (well, I actually have many, but in the interests of brevity …):
    What we are seeing with NetSuite is extremely slow loading times with the back office system (eg, if I want to do a client search or enter a purchase order). My concern is that if we go to NS Advanced for the client-facing website, our users will be subject to these delays as all the data and images will be stored on NetSuite. What are your thoughts on this?
    Secondly, what will give the fastest performance? Net Suite Advanced or a connector?

    Finally, if we do go with a Connector, rather than NetSuite Advanced, what, in your experience are the best-performing?

    Many thanks
    Tracy

  16. Posted September 7, 2015 at 4:49 am | Permalink

    Hello Tracy,

    Your questions primarily relate to performance. NetSuite’s SuiteCommerce Advanced (SCA) solution uses edge server caching technology. That takes care of general performance problems. All images and client side scripts benefit from this technology. Note, these days, the standard in any eCommerce site is use caching edge servers. It’s a good idea to speak with other NetSuite customers that have SuiteCommerce advanced to understand their actual experience. You too can use their sites from your locality.

    However, I think it is important to understand that with Magento, WordPress, or Joomla, you own the infrastructure. Hence, with that obligation, you also then have more control to work on performance issues. It’s not a free ride. One of the many benefits of working with NetSuite is to not have to worry about Infrastructure problems. Of course, going with a third party eCommerce system also means that you are going to need to also own an integration. These obligations may or may not be something that you see as an opportunity.

    Finally, because you are a limited SKU environment and you mentioned both a traditional eCommerce system (Magnento), and two Content Management Systems (Joomla and WordPress), I suggest you consider Brilliant Retail on the Expression Engine platform. We have produced an integration here and it may be a powerful option in your solution mix. Here is a recent article we wrote:

    http://blog.prolecto.com/2015/07/04/netsuite-content-management-integration-with-expressionengine-and-brilliantretail/

  17. Ed
    Posted June 15, 2016 at 9:59 am | Permalink

    So, fast forward almost one year… any new development on suitecommerce advanced on their performance, flexibility of solution, new features?

  18. Posted June 26, 2016 at 8:50 pm | Permalink

    Hi Ed,

    NetSuite continues to invest in the platform and continues to get better. I advise clients to be sure to invest in building capacity and expertise to take care of their SuiteCommerce Advanced implementations. The power it offers demands deeper technical expertise to unlock and realize the power. I find this to be the same with Magento or any other front end that attempts to give you control over presentation and logic. An important challenge is to keep the separation from the Front End (Shopping) to the Back End (ERP) so the they don’t start affecting each other. Thus, in any solution, a careful consideration should be given so that each environment retains flexibility. Bottom line: no easy answer. Prepare for leadership.

  19. Carl Larson
    Posted August 31, 2017 at 4:39 pm | Permalink
  20. Posted September 4, 2017 at 3:14 pm | Permalink

    Thank you Carl. I think it is important to be judicious in evaluating SuiteCommerce Advanced. The architectures and offerings are different as are the obligations for ongoing maintenance and care.

    Marty

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