NetSuite looks to stay relevant with revamped HTML5 user interface

The cloud ERP vendor also announced a new B2B portal and updated software for services businesses

NetSuite is overhauling its cloud ERP software's user interface, hoping to keep pace at a time when consumer-like experiences are increasingly becoming the norm in enterprise applications.

The new UI is set for release in the third quarter and reflects three years of usability research with NetSuite customers, according to the company. It's based on HTML5, which allows for deployments across multiple device types.

NetSuite based the UI on "flat" design principles, which favor a clean, minimalist approach.

New features include better personalization tools for dashboards, a slimmed-down navigation toolbar, and a QuickAdd feature that gives users the ability to add tasks and events no matter what screen they're on in the software. Tablet support has also been improved, with bigger menus and control buttons and faster scrolling.

NetSuite will roll out the UI in the third quarter as part of a planned application update.

Also Tuesday, NetSuite is announcing a new B2B Customer Center e-commerce portal, which gives customers a secure way to buy and sell products and services from each other, as well as an update to its ERP suite for professional services organizations.

Of the three announcements, "the big thing is the new UX," said analyst Ray Wang, chairman and founder of Constellation Research. "It's key, as in the cloud, people demand a consumer-grade user experience."

NetSuite CEO Zach Nelson acknowledged the point in an interview.

"It's table stakes," he said. "But the challenge is how do you put that consumer face on really complex technology? At the end of the day, NetSuite is not a Google search box you type into. You run your business processes on it."

"We build a business system," he added. "We have lots of different types of users." Therefore, the heavy lifting for NetSuite was to make sure the new UI provides the right type of usability enhancements for each job role, Nelson said.

Customers will have the ability to stay on the current UI if they choose, Nelson said. However, uptake of the new version should be "pretty rapid," he added.

NetSuite's competitors in the SaaS market, such as Workday, have also given their software a modern makeover lately.

Both NetSuite and Workday are offering the new features at no additional charge to customers, providing a differentiator from larger rivals. For example, SAP recently rankled its user base by deciding to charge separately for its user-friendly Fiori applications, which take advantage of data from its flagship Business Suite ERP suite, as well as Screen Personas, a toolset that gives customers the ability to tweak Suite screens to their liking.

Chris Kanaracus covers enterprise software and general technology breaking news for The IDG News Service. Chris' email address is Chris_Kanaracus@idg.com

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