Simplifying NetSuite Transaction Entry Interfaces

This article is relevant if you are using NetSuite and you want to learn how you can create a refined transaction entry user interface.

Background

We have a number of clients that use item groups as opposed to kits or assembly items. In my article, Understand NetSuite Item Groups vs. Kits to Produce Superior Reporting, I share about the strengths and weaknesses of using Item Groups to help with NetSuite reporting. The goal of this article is to remind NetSuite users about the power of the platform with constructs such as item groups; yet to harness that power which produces some complexity, you can simplify the user experience through SuiteLets. Let me offer context to produce more meaning and relevance.

Why Use NetSuite Item Groups?

As discussed in my Understand NetSuite Item Groups vs. Kits to Produce Superior Reporting article, I am a proponent for using NetSuite Item Groups for a number of reasons:

  1. Finished Goods Bundles: I like how finished goods can be organized into bundles and sold as a single item without losing the fundamental nature of the related component items.
  2. Advanced Revenue Recognition: An important consideration when bundling products, services, and other categorically different item types together, I like how complex transactions hold line elements that more easily connect up with NetSuite’s revenue recognition structures.
  3. Item Margin Reporting: I like how we can produce item level margin reporting because the revenue for a constituent item can be tightly related to its cost during item fulfillment — fundamental for NetSuite margin analysis.

Yet, Item groups impose some challenges.

NetSuite Item Group Operational Challenges

While I am a proponent of NetSuite item groups, I respect they produce some challenges in day-to-day usage:

  1. Messy Order Entry: Item groups explode on to sales records which produce┬ámore complexity when working with the basic transaction. If the transaction has many item groups, the line information is voluminous and thus cumbersome to work with. It’s easy to tire when working with transactions in this manner.
  2. Desired Item Group Price: Item groups demand that the price is derived by the sum of the elements. Adding a NetSuite discount line almost works to get to the desired selling price. Yet, if you want a discount line based on a specific value amount, it’s difficult to implement. However, we have solved this. See the article, Overcoming NetSuite Discount Items in Absolute Terms.
  3. Missing Inventory Quantity: A significant challenge exists if you want to see how many NetSuite item groups you have on hand. The reason is that item groups have no inventory ledger: it’s really just a reference to all the related items which may be inventory based. We have solved this using a constituent “package line” concept (a subject for another article). Yet, the solution will exacerbate the Messy Order Entry challenge.

Common Challenges with NetSuite Order Entry Screens

NetSuite offers a reasonably good transaction entry user interface. The use of header and lines is conventional. Tabs and field groups help organize the screens. However, the major challenge I frequently hear from clients comes from the line item implementation:

  1. Wide Scrolling: as you get more and more columns of information, the horizontal web scroll to see information produces fatigue.
  2. Field Displays: if you don’t expose a line field to the user interface, then NetSuite won’t collect the data. Many times, we need the line data, but really don’t need to show it as it defaults from item definitions or other logic. Yet these extra fields take up screen real-estate and thus increase complexity.
  3. Field Customization: the point-and-click line customization is more limited in terms of behavior modifications relative to the main header fields. So you often need to resort to scripting. Furthermore, as you script, you have to be careful with NetSuite native line behaviors to not throw off standard behaviors.
  4. Discounts as Lines: I think NetSuite’s discount line technique is quite powerful especially the way it can work under subtotals. Yet, another transaction line further increases complexity; and the discount line and related line fields do not necessarily work right logically — although NetSuite appropriately prevents illogical combinations.

Solving Challenges with Simplified NetSuite Order Entry Logic

One of our clients enjoyed the benefits of item groups. As their organization scaled to hundreds of people in sales and customer service, the ability to work with transactions in a simplified manner would help get new staff productive while it would minimize data entry errors. Thus they asked us for a solution. They really needed an “Easy Order Entry” interface.

The key to getting the most out of NetSuite is to realize that the platform is designed to be enhanced — more than that, you can build entire applications as the Suite Cloud framework is mature and rich. Thus, we can get in front of the transaction entry user interface challenge using NetSuite SuiteLet technology.

NetSuite Easy Order Interface

With the power of the NetSuite platform in hand, we went to work to build a new transaction interface that would produce a simplified experience for efficient day-to-day usage. The idea was that NetSuite’s native interface could still be used for those power-users that needed to get at less-frequent complex situations.

See the video (3:09) for a demonstration.

First, we worked on the line challenges:

  1. Single Line Item Groups: an item group would be presented by one line; just how the end customer thinks of it. We will hide all underlying component lines.
  2. Inventory Quantities: The item group inventory quantities would be illustrated according to business rules — natural to the staff.
  3. Pricing: all prices would be automatically looked up and calculated according to appropriate rules.
  4. Discounts: discounts would be supplied as an additional column on the product line versus an additional line.
  5. Business messages: other important messages on each line could be presented depending on any specific logic needed.

We then focused on the record header area:

  1. Intelligent Locked Information: depending on the state of the order, especially if the order has already been approved and sent to a 3PL to be shipped, we lock the fields in view only mode.
  2. Exception Management Rules: leveraging our “Record State Manager”, we could get the right messaging to the user to help them easily understand order management concerns.
  3. Order Look Up: using specific rules, we could have the search engine look up and return records with related data in a meaningful fashion.

Finally, because this is a custom SuiteLet, we now have more flexible ways to deploy the user interface to the user-community respecting any user role and desired business policy. The client has expressed appreciation for how much more they enjoy working with NetSuite while they did not need to sacrifice their business information gathering and reporting goals.

You Too Can Take Control and Have a Better NetSuite User Experience

I respect that you intuitively understand that the Easy Order interface did not come without investment. Is it not true that producing new situations always demand some level of investment? In reading this article, the key insight I hope you have gained is that the NetSuite platform can indeed deliver on producing a richer user experience.

We aren’t really ever stuck.┬á Let’s remember that well-designed software, in the hands of right actors, becomes a building block to act more powerfully in the world.┬á Software as a building block can be shaped and refined — if you have competent talent.┬á Leveraging previous work is fundamental to get to solutions quicker and with lower investment.┬á Like all things we do for our clients, we don’t sell software — we give them our previous work without a┬álicense charge. Instead, we provide competent talent that can powerfully act. If you have a similar situation that you would like to change, let’s have a conversation.

 

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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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