How NetSuite Uses OpenAir to Sharpen Its Consulting Operations

Megan O’Brien, Business & Finance Editor

November 2, 2023

NetSuite has a burgeoning, global professional services arm that faced some of the same headaches that your services team probably has at some point. Consultants hated entering their time. Finding the right talent in the right place was too hard. We wanted to share how we’ve tackled these and other issues using NetSuite OpenAir, with the hope it can help you deal with challenges you’re facing.

Skills tracking critical to growth

Our global customer success organization consists of consultants around the world who provide activation and consulting services to companies in a wide range of industries. When the organization started, it ran on NetSuite basic projects with several customizations to provide resource forecasting and time approvals. However, as the organization expanded globally, resource skills tracking quickly became unwieldy. With thousands of consultants, the team needed a single system that could provide visibility into employee location, skill set, and availability. 

“There's no way that, in the back of my head, I could know everyone’s skill set or their availability. You need a tool to tell you that,” said Carolyn Olshan, senior director of Oracle NetSuite Professional Services. “Having a single system where you can see all resource availability, so that we can implement customers around the globe with local resources, is critical.”

To get this kind of visibility, the team moved to NetSuite OpenAir in 2018.

Visibility into billable hours

The services organization uses OpenAir’s resource management capabilities to quickly and appropriately staff projects—from small activations to multi-phase, complex implementations. The essential metric for any professional services organization is customer success, and delivering that requires getting the right talent onto projects based on skill and availability. 

The team uses OpenAir’s time management toolset extensively. They can easily log and approve time, making it easier to see staff utilization and availability and to get an accurate view of financial factors such as billable hours.

“As a business leader, one element that's important to me is being able to see how many billable hours I am getting,” Olshan said. “Most professional service organizations want to produce more billable hours. So being able to see in the tool what our billable hours are in real time to be able to predict revenue for the company is crucial.” 

NetSuite OpenAir provides dashboards that make it easy to visualize utilization and employee availability.

The team integrated its OpenAir system with the overall NetSuite ERP platform, thus syncing relevant financial information related to time and material billing and supporting proper revenue recognition.

Ease of use improves reporting and employee satisfaction

The customer success team has significantly reduced the average number of days to staff projects, thanks to OpenAir putting all the information the team needs to make assignments in one place. This metric matters a lot to NetSuite, Olshan explained, because it matters to NetSuite customers. The sooner they’re running on NetSuite, the sooner they’re getting a return on investment.

Our ability to understand our capacity by utilizing the forecast, skills, and time entry capabilities of the system has allowed us to address shifts in economic demands, plan for growth, and provide valuable insight to our business leaders.” –Heather Miller, Oracle NetSuite group vice president for global customer success

Olshan also noted multifaceted improvements around time management. The system provided the consulting group with much-needed insight into internal compliance issues such as outstanding time approvals and missing time. Improved visibility of time spent and projects assigned, directly in the timesheet management system, helps Olshan better forecast revenue and costs.

“I can log into the system and see exactly what my team is going to produce for us to hit our targets—similar to how a CRM tool allows a sales leader to see what's in the pipeline and what's going to close,” said Olshan. “For me as a professional services leader, seeing in real time the hours that are going to be delivered and how close I’m going to get to our revenue targets in real time is huge.”

The OpenAir tool’s ease-of-use led to another advantage: Happier employees. Employees can now fast track what had been laborious administrative tasks such as time entry, and they can do time entry whether in the office or on the road, through a browser or mobile device.

“These administrative tasks are not fun. Nobody wants to do them,” Olshan said. “So having a tool that’s easy to use and navigate definitely makes their life easier and sweetens their satisfaction.”

The Bottom Line

NetSuite’s professional services team keeps discovering new benefits from running its business using OpenAir. Consultants are happier and more productive, the operation is more predictable, and customers are glad to have consultants assigned to their job quickly.

If we can help you take on your professional services headaches or explore possible OpenAir use cases, reach out today(opens in new tab)!

NetSuite has packaged the experience gained from tens of thousands of worldwide deployments over two decades into a set of leading practices that pave a clear path to success and are proven to deliver rapid business value. With NetSuite, you go live in a predictable timeframe — smart, stepped implementations begin with sales and span the entire customer lifecycle, so there's continuity from sales to services to support.