Trace3 Runs Its $2B Business With 5 ERP Support Staff, Consolidating Operations on NetSuite

Mike Stiles, NetSuite Contributor

April 20, 2023


  • Trace3 is an enterprise-level consultancy providing IT strategy, solutions, and services.
  • To handle a growing workload, the team traded QuickBooks and spreadsheets for NetSuite ERP.
  • After eventually over-customizing NetSuite, Trace3 switched to Microsoft Dynamics 365.
  • Just months later, a lack of integrations in Microsoft led Trace3 to return to NetSuite.
  • Now, standardized operations and easy integrations allow Trace3 to manage its $2 billion business with just five NetSuite specialists on staff.
  • The team works with NetSuite Advanced Customer Support to further consolidate and refine operations.

About Trace3

Trace3 is a technology consultancy that provides IT strategy, solutions, and services to companies that aim to keep pace with the ever-changing IT landscape. Trace3 started with a $100 investment from its three founders and has grown into a $2 billion consultancy with around 1,200 employees and an average 100 sales orders per day this year.

While Trace3 does resell hardware, the bulk of its offerings are in software services. Thanks to its work across an array of verticals, commercial and enterprise clients find solutions to their challenges in cloud cybersecurity, data intelligence, and other arenas.

Trace3 is owned by private equity firm American Securities and headquartered in Irvine, California, with satellite offices throughout the United States. It also maintains warehouses in Grand Rapids, Michigan and Northern California, where it assembles server racks for customers who require hardware in addition to its software services. The company is now expanding its reach beyond North America, seeking international growth.

Leaving NetSuite for Microsoft Dynamics 365

Trace3 initially operated with spreadsheets and QuickBooks. When it grew to about 300 employees, the team began looking into NetSuite, said Janalee Doerfler, senior director of enterprise platforms.

“We hit a breaking point where we weren’t able to run our business at the volume we were doing with the solutions we were using. We needed a more mature system to handle our workload.” 

The team implemented NetSuite and, in trying to execute and perfect every process desired, wound up over-customizing the solution. Because of the extent of the customization, integrations would more easily malfunction when partner apps were upgraded, and customizations would break. Leadership decided that switching to Microsoft Dynamics and Kimble Professional Services Automation (PSA), a Salesforce-based app, would be the best path forward.

Regrets and Coming Back to NetSuite

The Trace3 team hoped that all of their processes would become simpler with Dynamics and Kimble PSA. However, they got more complicated. The team found that Microsoft’s CRM didn’t transfer data seamlessly throughout the rest of the ERP. Trace3(opens in new tab)’s workflows also involved uploading daily reports to the finance module and manually exporting data to Kimble PSA. In the end, integrations just weren’t there as expected.

Working with Microsoft and Microsoft partner Hitachi, Trace3 found limited ability to customize Dynamics in a way that would support its delivery of customized solutions to each consulting client. In fact, the system made Trace3’s everyday processes so labor-intensive that team members looked for ways to avoid using it.

Trace3 investigated what it would take to make Dynamics work as desired — and concluded that it would be more expensive than scrapping the system and reimplementing NetSuite. Team members fondly recalled NetSuite’s out-of-the-box functionality, like the ability to easily get reports out of the system or add fields to templates without paying for outside help.

Nine months after switching to Dynamics, Trace3 was coming back to NetSuite.

Easy-to-Use ERP Allows for a Lean Team

Trace3 worked with NetSuite partner Catalyst on a quick and efficient re-implementation, standardizing processes as necessary to avoid over-customizing the system.

The result was game-changing. With Dynamics, the Trace3 team had to go through Hitachi to build any report, since they couldn't see the backend data in the finance module. The inside joke was, “Remember when we had 48 contiguous states of data, and you could get from one part of data to the next? Now, we're Hawaii.” Hitachi consultants had to build connections on the team’s behalf. With NetSuite ERP(opens in new tab), though, data is visible and accessible. And when needed, the team can adjust their use of the system without having to call for outside help. APIs allow them to easily build and expand integrations as needed, said Doerfler.

“NetSuite is scalable for an enterprise company because you’re able to run it how you see fit. I don’t see Microsoft working well unless your operations are heavily standardized.”

Trace3 now uses NetSuite for not only accounting and financial management but also customer relationship management (CRM), project management, and more. Consolidating operations on a single system has been critical to maintaining a lean IT team, Doerfler said. For example, it’s easier to create dashboards and lists for teams in NetSuite CRM(opens in new tab) than it would be if Trace3 used a solution like Salesforce that wasn’t natively part of its ERP. And when Trace3 makes acquisitions, a team of two quickly gets data into NetSuite with impressive ease via a simple CSV import.

“Having an integrated solution is key because you don't have to worry about system upgrades or having a large team to monitor all those different connections. We manage a $2 billion business with just five NetSuite specialists on staff.”

Those specialists make use of functionality like dynamic invoices, which allow Trace3 to use one template for multiple customers. NetSuite’s ease-of-use also meant that Trace3 dropped Hitachi as a consultant upon re-implementing the system, eliminating a major cost straightaway. It moved all of that work in-house, other than some critical projects that the NetSuite Advanced Customer Support (ACS)(opens in new tab) team helps with.

Trace3 has found NetSuite support extremely helpful — especially SuiteAnswers(opens in new tab), a searchable repository of responses to common support questions and self-paced training courses. It also recently leveled up its ACS subscription to include a solution architecture review with a dedicated team of specialists.

The Roadmap to Even Greater Efficiency

In its partnership with NetSuite ACS, Trace3’s goals for the year include building out a stronger technology roadmap. Leadership plans to more proactively steer the company’s adoption of ERP functionalities, versus mostly reacting to teams’ individual requests. The goal is to maximize use of NetSuite: For example, Trace3’s warehouse operations currently vary between facilities. The team is considering a project with ACS that would standardize operations and allow warehouse teams to fulfill orders in fewer shipments.

With conservative budgets and supply chains only now stabilizing, Trace3 values finding ways to do more with less. NetSuite is its main tool in doing so, Doerfler said.

“NetSuite allows us to see where we have gaps in system knowledge. It allows us to see where we have opportunities to grow and change. And for an enterprise company, it’s an economical solution you can run on a shoestring.”

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