For a textbook example of evolution in a highly-dynamic industry, look no further than Brite. When it was founded in 1983, the company, then known as Brite Computers, was a custom computer manufacturer, primarily focused on higher education. In 1999, father and son, John and Justin Smith acquired the company and turned it into a white box powerhouse, building OEM personal computers.
Yet, as the market for personal computers evolved, Brite recognized it needed to adapt its business model and transitioned to IT services in 2003 when Justin’s brother Trevor joined the company. By 2005, the company also began to focus on endpoint security and disk encryption, which led to a larger overall offering around cybersecurity.
Now, these focal points have manifested into three distinct parts of Brite’s business. The managed services division delivers staff and best practices to handle the resource-intensive areas of IT and security. Public safety provides technologies and associated services to law enforcement entities, including mobile computing, license plate recognition and video solutions. Finally, the cybersecurity portion of the business supplies the technology and services to enhance organizational security and improve risk management.
To manage the three-pronged nature of the business and continue to grow, Brite realized it needed to upgrade its business systems. The team had been using Sage BusinessVision for accounting for years, complementing it with SugarCRM for customer relationship management and Connectwise for professional services automation.
The company wanted to consolidate onto a single system to get a better view of what was going on in the organization, but needed to keep Connectwise, which played a prominent role in the managed services offering. That meant that it also needed a solution that could integrate with Connectwise.
Additionally, the team no longer wanted an on-premises system and was looking for a software as a service-based platform.
“We were definitely looking for a system that was cloud-based. It had to be an all-encompassing system so that it would grow as we grew,” Carrie Vahue, controller and HR director said during a session at the recent SuiteWorld event.
With those requirements in mind, Brite made the switch from Sage and SugarCRM to NetSuite and Connectwise in 2015.
“Other solutions wouldn't work with Connectwise as well and we really need to bring that portion of business with us at that time,” said Vahue. “NetSuite gave us what we actually needed.”
Grappling With Archaic Systems
For Brite, one of the biggest challenges as it juggled a multitude of technology and service lines was the limited insight into its numbers. With financial information being pulled from the legacy systems into Excel, it was impossible to dive deeper into the context behind the numbers and what they meant.
“It's hard when you're looking at numbers and you can't dive into exactly what those numbers were coming from,” Vahue said. “That was the biggest challenge.”
Brite managed reporting in spreadsheets, which presented another problem: employees couldn’t do work without being in the office. And, with several disparate systems, all information was flowing to one person, who had the demanding job of attempting to sort through it.
In addition to being unable to dive deeper into the numbers in the financial reports, its legacy systems did not help to ensure compliance. Brite couldn’t comply with generally accepted accounting principles (GAAP) with its previous system and, as recurring revenue became a larger part of its business, it also began to struggle with revenue recognition.
Gaining Insight With NetSuite ERP
After implementing NetSuite ERP, several improvements were immediately fixed:
- Previously, accounts had to be manually reconciled line-by-line each month, meaning a time-consuming, error-prone process. With NetSuite automatically transferring and validating information, as well as identifying any errors, month-end closes at Brite took significantly less time and helped prevent staff burnout.
- A cloud based-system meant employees could access needed information from anywhere, a particularly important component when the COVID-19 pandemic required remote work.
- Dashboards could be customized to a person’s specific need, allowing for better insight into the relevant information for that role.
But Vahue said the biggest improvement was reporting, “NetSuite is known for their reports and the ability to drill down into everything, which was really amazing to us. You can click on the profit and loss statement or balance sheet and go right down to the transaction to ensure everything is set and correct.”
The insights garnered from more in-depth reporting also meant that Brite could tailor its offerings and grow its customer and purchasing base.
“With the reporting, we could see exactly what customers were buying, where we should pivot our focus and where we should drive our services. It helped us learn where to invest more in the business,” said Vahue. “That's what we really needed in order to move forward as a company.”
Bolstering Experience and Performance with SuitePeople
As both the controller and HR director for Brite, Vahue was in the unique position to see the potential of NetSuite from a human resources perspective as well, which led Brite to implement NetSuite SuitePeople(opens in new tab) in 2018.
“Our immediate priority was culture. We didn't have the greatest culture at the time,” said Vahue. “We weren't investing in our employees as much as we should have been. We wanted to build that up, dive deep into how our employees felt and what they wanted their ‘Brite’ experience to be.”
Previously, said Vahue, Brite had been conducting human resource-related tasks in spreadsheets and Word documents with very little rhyme or reason to the process. After implementing SuitePeople, Vahue saw an improvement in performance management and overall experience by instituting parameters, deadlines and expectations to guide the process.
“The part of the system that we really dove into was goals and performance management,” said Vahue. “Through SuitePeople, the employees were now being held accountable for what they wanted personally and professionally. It also held the managers accountable to ensure that their employees were happy.”
From a logistics angle, Brite also took advantage of SuitePeople’s capabilities around time tracking and expenses. She estimated the prior process for tracking time off was only 60-70% accurate -- and employees couldn’t view it. SuitePeople allowed a place for employees to see an accurate number of days off remaining.
Brite’s Future Plans
For Brite, the future looks, well, bright. With the COVID-19 pandemic placing more of an emphasis on technology and cybersecurity than ever before, Brite has experienced rapid growth. To keep pace with demand, the team plans to embrace more of NetSuite’s capabilities around automation. Particularly in a time when hiring and retention are difficult, Vahue wants to ensure that employees are not overworked or confined to manual, tedious tasks.
Additionally, Brite plans to increase its use of the project side of its NetSuite system to keep teams, vendors and partners accountable in order to deliver better customer outcomes as it scales the company.
“NetSuite will help us along the way, which is perfect,” said Vahue. “The greatest part about NetSuite is that we make it our own. It can be our system.”