Integration has become a staple in the modern world of business, and when it comes to NetSuite, this is doubly true. NetSuite’s robust API and reporting tools make it the perfect place to be your businesses “single source of truth” for answering questions about business performance. NetSuite administrators must become knowledgeable about NetSuite integration and be able to make crucial decisions relating to how, when, and why an integration solution is chosen and implemented.
Depending on your business size, thousands or even millions of dollars is at stake. This risk makes NetSuite integration something you want to get right. That is why we have created this guide to help NetSuite admins get up-t0-speed on the hows, whats, and whys of NetSuite integration.
This guide will discuss:
What exactly is a NetSuite Integration?
How is it technically possible?
Why would you need to integrate NetSuite?
When to consider a NetSuite Integration?
What are some integration challenges specific to NetSuite
What are your NetSuite Integration Options?
How can you maintain your NetSuite integration?
What is a NetSuite Integration?
A NetSuite integration is an on-going flow of information between your NetSuite system and another application or database. For example, if your NetSuite ERP was “integrated” with your SalesForce CRM, you can send newly closed sales opportunities to NetSuite and update your books without an admin from sales or accounting ever touching a device. These information flows can be mono-directional or bi-directional, for example, if that same integration application then sent newly updated inventory prices back to SalesForce from NetSuite, that integration would be “bi-directional.”
The flow of information in an integration can be triggered from an event or record change; such as a sales opportunity being won, or triggered at certain time; such as every week morning at 6 AM create an inventory report with information from your eCommerce platform.
Migration Vs Integration
It is essential to distinguish a “migration” from an “integration.” These terms mean similar things as they both involve the movement of information. However, a migration is different in two ways.
1. A migration is always mono-directional
2. A migration is not on-going or triggered by event or times
The use-cases for these terms are entirely different. When you are looking for a data migration, you are usually changing applications. For instance, if you decided to upgrade your accounting platform from Quickbooks to NetSuite and you wanted to keep all of your inventory and accounting information. You would need a data “migration” to move all of that data over from Quickbooks to NetSuite. After the migration is complete, and you have your NetSuite system populated with all of your Quickbooks information, you no longer need the connection, and the flow of information is stopped.
How is a NetSuite Integration Possible?
NetSuite integrations are possible due to the robust NetSuite API. API stands for Application Programming interface, and it is a set of protocols that allow applications that were developed by different companies to communicate and share information. If you want to learn more about API’s you can check out our article “The Ultimate Guide to Understanding API Integration”
SuiteTalk Webservices is NetSuite’s API protocol. SuiteTalk is built on the SOAP method of communication. SOAP stands for Simple Object Access Protocol. What this means for users is the NetSuite API is secure and integrations can be built using any development language.
The SuiteTalk Webservices method also supports standard REST functions. REST is another protocol for messaging across the internet and is notable for being more flexible and easier to work with than the SOAP method. By supporting both of these protocols, the NetSuite API becomes robust and flexible, allowing for a wide variety of connections to be made in a number of ways.
Why Would You Want to Integrate NetSuite?
As our example with NetSuite and SalesForce illustrated, integrating NetSuite with your other applications allows you to automate processes across platforms. All of the software functionality in your IT portfolio can be shared; enabling you to build workflows that can automate all of the back-office processes in your order-to-ship cycle; from when a product is ordered from your website to when it shows up at your customer’s door.
Additionally, these automated processes are also error-resistant; integrations do not get tired, they do not call out sick, and they do not have “bad days.” This level of process automation can save your company thousands of dollars depending on volume and thousands more in saved costs due to data entry errors.
In addition to bridging the automation gap with internal processes, NetSuite is also capable of communicating with your business partners. Opening up your NetSuite API to your business partners will let you automate things like price catalog updates from vendors, product shipments with your 3PL, or restock inventory from partners. Anything that involves communication being sent back and forth on a regular basis can and should be automated.
Integration also allows you to use NetSuite as your “single source of truth.” NetSuite reporting functionality is robust, and by pooling all of your business information into your NetSuite system your C-Suite will be able to access critical performance metrics with one login – and perhaps only one dashboard. Your business will be able to act faster and smarter with data coming in from across all facets of your business in real-time.
In short, NetSuite integrations make your business more efficient and smarter. Saving money and creating an opportunity for more profits to be made. Worth it 100% of the time.
When Should you Consider a NetSuite Integration?
The best integration solutions are well-planned. The decision to get an integration is best dealt with at the same time you decide to purchase a new platform. The cost of integration should be considered with the cost of the platform and both can be set up at the same time reducing down time. Make sure to pay specific attention to the new business processes that will be created by the new platform and plan for them accordingly.
Even when you haven’t just purchased a new platform there still may be inefficient business processes that sprang up over time. Look to target processes that require a lot of back-and forth-emails between departments, have spreadsheets involved, or are sensitive to error.
What Are Some Common Challenges of NetSuite Integration?
Like all platforms NetSuite has its own quirks and nuances to integration. We have broken down some of these to help you get an idea of what to watch out for and where there are limitations.
NetSuite concurrency governance
NetSuite only allows a certain number of simultaneous connections per license. If you have a lot of integrations touching NetSuite in or around the same time, they may error out. Compensating for this would require delicate integration architecture or purchasing more licenses if no solution is possible.
Relatively slow data transfer rates
If you are used to the data transfer rates of large scale databases, NetSuite’s transfer rate may disappoint you. What this means for admins is that processes that are big and require the movement of many records may take much longer than you would expect.
Large and complex API
Understanding NetSuites API and what it is capable is certainly not done overnight. As we mentioned before, the API allows for SOAP and REST functionality which opens up a lot of options and not all of them are the best-or even good. It will take some time or experience to identify the right steps to solve your problem in the best way possible.
So How Can You Integrate NetSuite?
There are three ways to integrate NetSuite once you realize there is a need. How you go about an integration depends on your level of technical skill, the application you wish to connect to the NetSuite platform, and your budget.
Creating an integration from scratch requires knowledge of the NetSuite API; particularly its calls and security protocols, familiarity with SuiteScript, knowledge of XML, and familiarity with the target applications API protocols.
If you have talented NetSuite architects and developers on-hand, then this may be the way you want to go. An integration from scratch will not require subscription costs down the road although it will need to be maintained through the years (more on this later). You can check out an example of a hand-written NetSuite integration below.
Find a “Connector”
You may find that a connector is the easiest way to solve your integration need. A connector is a pre-built integration application that is created to connect two popular SaaS applications or solve a common use-case.
You can find connectors at the SuiteApp store or by going through popular NetSuite partners. An excellent source of reliable connectors specific to NetSuite is Celigo. A quick google search will help you find more connectors but you should be aware that not all connectors available have been vetted by NetSuite and these carry more risk to your system.
Finding a connector can make your life much easier, however, they are usually only built for popular apps and use-cases as mentioned before and also come with pesky monthly or yearly SaaS fees.
Purchase an Integration Platform (IPaaS)
An integration platform is a stand alone SaaS application that is designed to do one thing; build integration applications. Platforms are different from connectors because they can be used to build multiple integrations and are not tied to a single use-case or application. You can use them to connect every application in your IT portfolio and in doing s0 automate most, if not all, processes in your back-office. Integration platforms are also capable of EDI, allowing you to automate processes across partners and core B2B customers who are EDI compliant.
Integration platforms are becoming extremely popular among medium to large businesses right now as integration is taking off as a business all its own. If you want to learn more about IPaaS systems, you can check out our blog post, “Everything the Savvy SaaS user Needs to Know IPaaS” to learn more.
Integration Platforms also reduce your need for technical skill by replacing the need to hard-code with graphical interfaces and wizard-step-by-step processes. Each of these platforms has their own learning curve, however. But in time, even complex integrations can be built with competent business analysts.
A solid integration platform for NetSuite is the Jitterbit platform. The screenshot below is an example of a real NetSuite Integration built using the Jitterbit platform. This is a complex multi-step integration built with a drag-and-drop graphic interface. Notice the big difference between the IPaaS built integration and the scratch code example from before.
How Can You Maintain Your NetSuite Integrations?
Pay attention to updates! One of the best ways to make sure your integrations stay working is to watch out for software updates. Updates from NetSuite may change security protocols and cause your integrations to break down.
A prime example of this is when NetSuite decided to upgrade to TLS 1.2 in 2016. The TLS is the transport layer security and by switching to enforcing TLS 1.2 protocols or later on all messages going in and out of NetSuite. This prevented integrations written with previous versions of TLS protocols from communicating with NetSuite; effectively shutting down all integrations with the outdated TLS protocols. So unless you want to come into work one day and find your back office like this…
…stay up to date on the latest updates from your SaaS applications and understand how those updates can affect your integrations.
Our hope for this guide was to explain everything a NetSuite administrator needs to know about NetSuite integration as well as provide real-world advice on how achieve integration success. If you felt that this guide has helped you in some way or you feel that it is missing something please leave a comment below to begin a conversation about it. We appreciate any and all feedback!
Jeremy McCourt is an content producer in the enterprise software industry that focuses on NetSuite and related cloud-based software solutions.
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