Startups are joining companies outgrowing entry-level accounting systems like QuickBooks and those saddled with older, on-premises enterprise resource planning software and turning to cloud ERP systems to run their core business processes.
Oracle NetSuite and Sage Intacct are two of the first cloud ERP software providers and are often on the short lists of companies making ERP buying decisions. While both are true cloud ERP solutions with multi-tenant architectures and are popular choices for growing and midmarket companies, there are some important differences that any business making an ERP purchase should consider.
Two top evaluation points are an international management focus and the ability to support M&A activities.
For example, MongoDB, a software company, switched from Intacct to NetSuite as it prepared for an IPO and needed tighter controls and consolidation capabilities for 12 subsidiaries around the globe.
And when Actian made a series of acquisitions, the global software vendor simplified management of its complex subsidiary units by trading Intacct for NetSuite. Consolidated reporting and country-specific tax compliance capabilities gave teams more confidence in their business system and forced fewer manual workarounds.
Those are just a few of the functional advantages of NetSuite over Intacct. There are additional benefits as well, along with support, ecosystem and platform differences that software buyers need to consider.
What is ERP?
Enterprise resource planning (ERP) is a suite of applications that automate a company’s core operations, including financials, inventory and order management, customer service, procurement, sales, marketing and more. Because all modules operate from a single database, a modern ERP system delivers automation, collaborative workflows across departments and sophisticated business reporting. More robust ERP systems also offer human resources management, professional services automation and ecommerce capabilities.
NetSuite vs. Sage Intacct: An Overview
Both NetSuite and Intacct are cloud-based ERP systems with multi-tenant, software-as-a-service (SaaS) deployment models. In a cloud ERP deployment, the software vendor maintains the software and database in its own data center. Customers access the software via the internet and typically pay a subscription fee.
With multi-tenant cloud suites, all customers are on the same version of the software, which makes it easier to upgrade and creates economies of scale. Customer data is separated at the database level for privacy.
While there is some overlap between NetSuite and Intacct, their differences can best be summed up by the fact that NetSuite was built to be a system on which to run a business, while Intacct was built to provide accounting and financial functionality. NetSuite’s offering has significantly more breadth, including modules for robust customer relationship management (CRM), manufacturing, ecommerce and human capital management (HCM).
Intacct fills in some of these gaps with add-ons, but the product doesn’t offer the same level of functionality as NetSuite’s application suite. For example, Intacct’s batch-processing architecture slows down reporting, so it’s a poor choice for companies that need real-time insights, and its English-only support and difficulty with currency conversions are challenges for those that conduct business internationally.
Additionally, NetSuite has a larger partner ecosystem and advantages when it comes to implementation services that ERP buyers may want to consider.
While NetSuite has a greater breadth of functionality, with modules for additional applications, its depth of accounting functionality matches Intacct’s, so businesses can start with a core financial package and add features as they grow.
Product Maturity and History
NetSuite was co-founded in 1998 by Evan Goldberg, an entrepreneur and early Oracle employee, and Oracle founder Larry Ellison. Goldberg approached Ellison with an idea for a new venture after struggling to find a single system on which to run a previous business he had started. The resulting company, NetSuite, was one of the first to adopt the SaaS model and went public in 2007.
Sage Intacct was founded in 1999 as a suite of accounting applications for small and midsize businesses by David Chandler Thomas, an economist and professor at Ball State University, and Odysseas Tsatalos, a technologist. It received several funding rounds but never filed for an IPO.
While the software products are close in age, NetSuite boasts a much larger customer base and an expansive global footprint. It has more than 31,000 customers in 200-plus countries and territories. Intacct has roughly 15,000 customers, mostly in North America. It also has operations in Australia, South Africa and the United Kingdom but little support for businesses with non-English speakers.
Acquisitions by Sage and Oracle
Both NetSuite and Intacct have been acquired by large, well-established software businesses, but there are some key differences.
NetSuite was acquired by Oracle in 2016 for $9.3 billion and is now run as a separate business unit within the company. Oracle’s backing enabled NetSuite to more quickly expand its international operations and open new data centers based on the powerful Oracle Cloud Infrastructure.
The Sage Group plc acquired Intacct in 2017 for $850 million. At the time, Sage operated a variety of on-premises accounting systems used primarily in the U.K. and had made little progress shifting to the cloud. The acquisition of Intacct gave it a footprint in the United States and a viable cloud offering.
NetSuite vs. Sage Intacct: Vertical Industries
The core industries that Intacct serves are:
- Financial services
- Construction and real estate
- Professional services
- Wholesale distribution
The core industries that NetSuite serves include:
- Professional services
- Financial services
- Retail and ecommerce
- Restaurants and hospitality
- Advertising, media and publishing
- Wholesale distribution
NetSuite also offers editions for what it calls “micro-verticals” in areas like apparel, footwear and accessories, restaurants, food and beverage manufacturing, health and beauty and more.
NetSuite vs. Sage Intacct
While there are obvious similarities in their cloud-based approach to financial software, there are some significant differences between NetSuite and Intacct that software buyers need to consider before making a purchase. The most obvious is NetSuite’s suite-based approach to its platform. Beyond financials and human capital management (HCM), which are standard ERP offerings, NetSuite offers modules for CRM, ecommerce and professional services automation (PSA) as well as robust functionality for product-based companies, notably around supply chain and warehouse management.
Intacct typically has a lower upfront cost, but some businesses find themselves quickly outgrowing the software. While Intacct typically provides the functionality needed to switch from an entry-level accounting system, as they expand, growing companies often confront limitations, like a limited number of prebuilt reports and complexity that makes building new reports difficult.
NetSuite offers the financial functionality that businesses moving off of spreadsheets or entry-level accounting systems need, and it continues to support them as they grow. In fact, of the last 100 technology-focused IPOs, 65 were NetSuite customers. And that support extends to firms growing internationally — NetSuite has customers in more than 200 countries and territories. Its multi-language, multi-currency and multi-subsidiary management as well as international tax and regulatory compliance capabilities simplify global operations.
Additionally, NetSuite’s comprehensive, well-honed implementation methodology gets customers up and running quickly and enables them to add functionality as they need it. NetSuite offers 24-hour support, seven days a week, internationally. While Intacct has begun to expand beyond its live agents in San Jose, Calif., who work from 6 a.m. to 6 p.m. PT, its support services are still limited.
How NetSuite Compares to Sage Intacct
While there is overlap when it comes to the products’ financial management capabilities, Intacct’s licensing structure introduces cost and complexity. To access features like value-added tax (VAT) compliance and advanced reporting capabilities, for example, Intacct customers must purchase additional modules.
For businesses with global operations, or those hoping to expand internationally, there are some important considerations when choosing between NetSuite and Intacct. With its OneWorld product, NetSuite supports 27 languages, more than 190 currencies, transactions in 90-plus bank formats, and tax and reporting standards for more than 100 countries. NetSuite has customers in 200-plus countries and territories.
OneWorld also offers multi-subsidiary consolidation, allowing businesses to easily roll up data from subsidiary to parent level, and NetSuite facilitates intercompany consolidation. That helps organizations establish consistent business processes.
Intacct supports only English and as a result does not have a significant presence outside of English-speaking countries. Each business entity requires its own licenses and, because of Intacct’s subledger architecture, entities cannot access real-time data. Customers must subscribe to Intacct’s customization or platform services to run custom reports on subsidiaries.
Intacct does not have a customer relationship management (CRM) offering. Instead, it relies on an integration with Salesforce.com. While NetSuite also offers a prebuilt connector to Salesforce.com, it provides the choice of its own full CRM suite that includes sales force automation, customer service management and marketing automation.
And, because the CRM module is built on the NetSuite platform, it has real-time access to important data, like billing and inventory. That gives sales, customer service and marketing teams the information they need.
Human resources management systems
NetSuite and Intacct also differ in their core human resources functionality.
NetSuite includes employee recognition and compensation, performance and attendance and leave management. The system’s comprehensive payroll functionality eases what can be a difficult process — without the right software, making sure employees are paid properly and promptly is complex and time-consuming.
NetSuite also provides sophisticated analytics and the capabilities needed to manage a global HR organization.
Intacct offers some core HR functionality via its Sage People application. However, this is a separate, third-party software package that requires complex and expensive integrations.
Reporting and analytics
NetSuite and Intacct both offer business intelligence and analytics capabilities with prebuilt reports and dashboards, including self-service reporting. But once again, there is a significant difference in the breadth of the offering. Intacct offers 69 prebuilt reports for core financials out of the box. NetSuite provides 200.
Intacct offers a report writer that allows users to combine operational and financial data, but it carries an additional charge, and there are limits to its configurability and the data elements that may be included. Customers can access greater functionality with a range of bolt-on solutions, though these are often difficult to use and add expense.
In online reviews, businesses evaluating cloud ERP systems have reported that Intacct’s dashboards are more difficult to use than expected, based on demos they were shown.
NetSuite provides self-service reporting with no need for coding at the user level through what it calls “Saved Searches.” Prebuilt dashboards and reports are sorted by role and industry and are populated with real-time data from the platform.
Professional services automation
Both NetSuite and Intacct deliver functionality for services businesses, but NetSuite’s offering is more robust. It provides a full professional services automation (PSA) application with billing, project management for collaboration and status updates, resource management to ensure the right people are on the right job at the right time, project accounting to connect projects directly to the financial system, timesheet management and expense management.
Intacct offers some of this functionality, but it’s not as fully developed an application. For example, for project management, the company offers some Gantt charts and a projects module that provides billing along with some resource, expense and timesheet management functionality.
Intacct and NetSuite are both cloud-based software, which negates the need to install and maintain hardware and data centers, as required by traditional on-premises ERP systems. However, there are still many challenges in an ERP implementation that can disrupt a business’s operations. That makes finding a trusted partner well-versed in proven ERP implementation best practices a vital factor in an ERP selection.
NetSuite customers often work with NetSuite or a NetSuite partner to complete their projects successfully. NetSuite has also pioneered an ERP implementation and customer engagement process it calls “SuiteSuccess.” The SuiteSuccess methodology is based on data gathered over NetSuite’s 20 years of successful ERP implementations and includes industry-specific best practices, templates, rapid implementation methodologies and custom code. It provides prebuilt dashboards and embedded key performance indicators (KPIs), customized by role and industry.
As a result, SuiteSuccess customers typically get their ERP systems up and running in less than 100 days. And, SuiteSuccess includes post-implementation support to help businesses expand beyond core financials into areas like CRM, professional services automation (PSA), human resources and ecommerce when they’re ready to do so.
While Intacct customers may also work through Intacct or its network of partners to implement the system, it has nothing analogous to SuiteSuccess.
Database and Architecture Considerations
NetSuite runs on the Oracle database. And, since its acquisition by Oracle, NetSuite has begun hosting its software in 18 Oracle Cloud Infrastructure (OCI) data centers around the globe. Additionally, as it transitions to Oracle’s Gen 2 Cloud infrastructure, NetSuite will deliver even greater security, availability, scalability and expandability while offering customers a path to the advanced Oracle Autonomous Database and artificial intelligence.
Intacct also runs on the Oracle database in two data centers, based in Sacramento and San Jose, Calif. and run by Quality Technical Services and Equinix, respectively. Both are third-party data center service providers. It also operates a data center based in Dublin for UK customers.
Platform and Integration
Beyond these capabilities, NetSuite offers SuiteTalk, a SOAP-based web services platform, to connect other SaaS or on-premises applications; SuiteBundler, to create point-and-click customized forms; a workflow manager; and an Eclipse-based IDE development framework.
The Sage Intacct Accounting platform also offers customization capabilities through open APIs and software development kits (SDKs) for integrations.
For both vendors, customizations automatically carry forward with each upgrade.
Intacct offers three distinct partner programs: one for value-added resellers, one for accountants and a marketplace where 44 partners have built complementary applications on the Intacct platform.
NetSuite’s partner programs are far larger and more diverse. It also offers programs for value-added resellers, solution providers and an accountant-specific program, but it goes further with an Alliance Program for global system integrators and a business process outsourcing (BPO) partner program for companies that offer outsourcing services in accounting, customer service or ecommerce.
Its SuiteApp.com marketplace for complementary applications features more than 570 add-on apps that are either built on the NetSuite platform or tightly integrated.
NetSuite Pricing vs. Sage Intacct Pricing
Both Intacct and NetSuite base their pricing on the per-user/per-month model that is typical in the SaaS industry. Both vendors offer additional functions for additional monthly fees, and both require one-year contracts renewed annually, at a minimum.
Intacct charges extra for each entity that uses the system, such as branch offices or country-specific operations. For growing businesses or franchisers, this can quickly get expensive.
NetSuite has live customer support available 24 hours a day, seven days a week. It also assigns a dedicated account manager to each customer. The company offers three levels of support — Basic, Premium and Advanced — supplemented with a self-serve knowledge base, called SuiteSupport, and a user community to help answer questions.
Intacct provides one level of support, and live agents are available from 6 a.m. to 6 p.m. PT in the United States, though it has begun to expand that offering. It also has a user community that may help answer questions.
What are the functional differences between NetSuite and Sage Intacct?
Let’s look at three specific areas.
NetSuite is built with real-time data entry, while Intact uses batch-based entry at the subledger level. Subledgers are a series of transactions grouped by type, such as accounts receivable or accounts payable. Systems employing batch accounting transfer items from journal to ledger to financial statement in a linear order. Because they can’t unify all the data in a single database, that linear process is the only way to keep inaccuracies from entering the general ledger. Batches are accumulated on the books through posting.
Because data is in subledgers and not the general ledger, the books never reflect real-time data. The moment a report is created, items in the associated subledger are locked out. This impacts not only reporting but situations where a company may want to close its books outside of the regular month-end process or conduct a continuous close.
What’s more, because batch processes are a drag on the system, they tend to be run at slow points in the day — overnight, for instance. This adds strain during busy periods, like month- or year-end closes.
With NetSuite’s real-time system, nobody has to go through the process of batch closing each subledger just to run a simple report. Management, finance teams and business units can get as many reports as they want, whenever they want.
Intacct’s subledger architecture also makes multi-subsidiary consolidation difficult and dependent on an additional consolidation module. In contrast, NetSuite users have easy access to detailed subsidiary data through its Subsidiary Navigator tool. NetSuite also provides tools out of the box to easily manage intercompany accounting. The system’s multi-entity capabilities automate matching and elimination of intercompany transactions and simplify the intercompany netting process.
In contrast, Intacct does not provide intercompany reports out of the box. Instead, Intacct users must subscribe to Customization Services or Platform Services to generate custom reports. Finally, Intacct cannot enable multi-currency support when billing other entities for goods, services or management fees.
Both Intacct and NetSuite offer configurable workflows, but Intacct’s are more constrained and support only basic approval processes. This may create a lack of visibility that could grow into a compliance issue.
NetSuite is a System for Growth
While Intacct offers a lower upfront cost, NetSuite is typically the financial software of choice for growing companies, particularly those that are targeting IPOs and need the more advanced functionality and scale that NetSuite delivers. Companies with international operations or aspirations also tend to select NetSuite OneWorld thanks to its multi-language, multi-currency and multi-subsidiary management features.