Oracle NetSuite 2021.1 – Our Top Ten Countdown of the New Release Highlights

With the first NetSuite update of 2021 now being rolled out automatically to users around the world, we thought it would be useful to do a countdown of the features we think our varied customer base will find most useful, to help them get the most out of their NetSuite system.
The Eureka Solutions NetSuite team is among the most experienced and technically proficient in the country, so we hope this is also of assistance to anyone currently reviewing their financial / ERP software and looking at Oracle NetSuite as an option. The bi-annual releases represent the continual, automatic improvements and enhancements NetSuite users benefit from, without any update costs or downtime.
As always, the enhancements in 2021.1 include general enhancements as well as those particularly useful to specific industries. Don’t hesitate to get in touch if you would like to discuss or view any of the features in more detail.
This article focuses on the ‘top ten’ features was selected by our NetSuite Sales Director, Alan Miles, and NetSuite Technical Lead, Kenneth McBeath. Alan and Kenneth have been involved in most of our NetSuite implementations, and have great insight into what is likely to be of most benefit.
As with all the regular update releases, the ‘Release Preview’ process gives users plenty of time to view the newly updated system applied to their NetSuite system, so that they can see how all the functionality will affect their set-up in advance.
All accessed from your NetSuite dashboard, everything from sneak peaks of highlights through to detailed release notes are available, and all key processes and any customisations can be tested pre-release.

So, now to count them down ….

Number 10 – Invoice Grouping Enhancements

This is an enhancement to a feature that we highlighted as the ‘number one’ new feature in the last release – 2020.2. The Invoice Grouping feature allows you to create consolidated invoicing for your customers by grouping certain invoices together and presenting them to the customer as one invoice.

The initial roll out of this was restricted to invoices relating to sales orders but, as of 2021.1, standalone invoices can also be grouped – this will be useful for you if you are creating ad hoc invoices that don’t relate to sales orders or are importing sales invoices into the system. These can now be grouped together as a consolidated invoice for the customer.

You can also take an invoice that hasn’t been grouped, and manually add it to a group from within the invoice, which is useful. So, an enhancement to what was already a nice new feature.

Number 9 – Advanced Numbering

The new Advanced Numbering feature gives more flexibility as to how records and transactions are given unique numbers within NetSuite. It enables you to set up more flexible document and transaction numbering conventions.  You have more flexibility around the numbering conventions that are used.

With this feature, you can create multiple complex numbering sequences per transaction type, fiscal year, and other selected criteria. For example, Advanced Numbering can automatically update a transaction number sequence when a new fiscal year begins or when you create different types of transactions.

This new feature will be good for identifying records within the system in a way that makes sense to your business, for visibility and traceability.

Number 8 – Bank Import Enhancements

You may be aware that, just after the last 2020.2 release, the Bank Feeds SuiteApp was released for European customers. It enables your bank statements to be automatically imported into NetSuite once a day, which then feeds into your reconciliation process in terms of matching transactions.

In NetSuite 2021.1 there are some improvements to the error handling, for example for partially successful imports, and performance monitoring for these imports with a progress bar, rather than having to wait until the end, and email alerts for partially completed imports. You will also have the ability to mark transactions as cleared while reviewing matches.

Banking for the last couple of releases has been one of the major areas of improvement that NetSuite have been working on, so this also serves as a reminder – if you haven’t looked at the App yet since its recent launch – it is available to be configured now.

 

Number 7 – FEFO Batch Number Allocation

This is for anyone that uses batch numbers in their system, so we are looking at stock items here. It is especially relevant to any business that has items that need to be traced in batches and that have expiry dates. Whether it is for food and beverage or, for example, scientific materials – anything that has a shelf life.

Up until now allocating items to sales orders for customers was manual – you have to choose which batches you want to allocate to which orders. From 2021.1, there will be a FEFO (First Expiry First Out) system, so NetSuite can automatically assign the batch with best expiry date for the order for the customer, and ensure the older stock goes out first.

What this also aims to do is facilitate any conditions that a customer might have, for example, if they have a minimum shelf life as a condition, or they need to sell in minimum order quantities, this will be taken account of automatically in the allocation. So, we’re automating a really useful process here.

Number 6 – Electronic Bank Payments Enhancements

This relates to a few enhancements to the Electronic Bank Payments SuiteApp. One of the changes that was rolled out in the last 12 – 18 months was the ability to process prepayments to suppliers – the vendor prepayment transactions. These are now available to be processed through the app along with the electronic invoice. One caveat is you will have to mark it as paid first, so it’s a prepayment, and then that will be available to process within the Electronic Bank Payments app along with the actual invoices from the suppliers.

There is also an update helpful for when any bills that you have from suppliers have inactive bank details, meaning that they are hidden from suggested payments. This is for security, so you don’t pay into an inactive account.

Electronic Bank Payments is also now compatible with multi-subsidiary customers and suppliers –where you have a single supplier but, through your company structure, they are paid by different subsidiaries.

Number 5 – Create Bill from Receipt

This is a simple but powerful new feature, an update to how supplier invoices are generated from purchase orders if you are using receipts. You can now create supplier invoices directly from item receipts. In addition, if the quantities on the item receipt and originating purchase order differ, NetSuite deducts the quantity on the item receipt from the purchase order. This enables you to manage the creation of accurate invoices if your purchase order is split into multiple receipts.

Number 4 – Supply Planning Enhancements

Various enhancements are being released to the supply planning functionality initially released in NetSuite 2020.2. The Supply Planning functionality was a replacement for the Demand Planning functionality that previously existed within NetSuite. It gave some advanced tools and reports for calculating and planning demand and supply.

The Supply Planning Workbench is the interface /dashboard that you use for doing this planning. It has been updated to give more flexibility around the rules, reports and KPIs available within it.

The Supply Allocation feature, which is a way of defining rules of how to allocate stock to orders, now includes the ability to allocate to sales channels. So, if you want to define your sales channels as being, for example, ecommerce or b2b or trade, rules can be set up to ensure a certain level of stock gets allocated to those channels, to make sure orders can be fulfilled.

This ties in well with the FEFO (First Expiry First Out) allocation feature already discussed above, which uses those rules as well, as part of this new engine.

There is also now an Order Management Dashboard, which gives you all the links and KPIs for managing the allocation feature. It will also have some reminders and exception reports on there to help with the whole supply planning process.

Also, within the Supply Planning ‘Snapshot’, there is now an extra report called ‘predicted available inventory balance’ which gives you a look at a prediction of what will be available at a particular point in time. This gives you more insight into your stock planning.

Supply planning is a big development area for NetSuite. We can see that it is being developed further over each release, to bring even more flexibility to the planning process, so watch this space for even more functionality in the future.

Number 3 – Centralised Purchasing and Billing  

This one is a really nice feature that will be helpful to anyone with a multi-subsidiary operation where purchasing is done centrally. At the moment, if you have that kind of model, you will tend to either have to raise purchase orders separately in each subsidiary, or raise purchase orders in one subsidiary, receive the stock and then do transfers to other locations owned by the different subsidiaries.

What the new Centralised Purchasing and Billing functionality allows you to do is raise POs within one entity, but each line can be allocated to another subsidiary within the group and the location that it needs to be delivered to. So, this allows one main subsidiary to purchase on behalf of other subsidiaries within the group. This will help, not only with visibility and streamlining the process, but also to potentially take advantage of bulk discounts from suppliers if you are ordering from more than one of your subsidiary companies at once.

Each line on a purchase order can then be received into locations at other subsidiaries. This cuts down on the number of transactions and transfers across the board.  There is then a process that runs during your period end / month end close, which automatically creates intercompany cross-charges between the purchasing entity and the receiving entity. Therefore, this is all automated within your month-end close, all the necessary intercompany transactions are taken care of.

This is ideal for any business who has that kind of model for centralised purchasing and needs to automate the postings that are made as part of that process.

Number 2 – Approve from Email

Now, there’s a bit of a caveat with our top two features! At the time of writing these are not included in the Release Notes, but we have investigated it with NetSuite, and they are planning to include them in the release, they are just going through some final checks and testing.

Number two is the ability to approve transactions from emails. Transactions can be approved from clicking a link in an email, rather than having to log in to the system to approve them. So, it makes it easier for people who are not in the system all the time, or are perhaps out and about, to just speed up the approvals process.

An audit trail will also be created of these email approvals, for visibility and transparency. We don’t, at the time of writing, have a list of the compatible transactions just yet, but it’s likely to be the key ones that go through for approval, like invoices and POs.

This will be a great feature to make sure the approval process is as quick as it can be for each transaction.

Number 1 – PO Budget Alerts and Expense Commitments

Again, this is not listed at the time or writing, but should be added to the Release Notes at some point in March once testing is complete. This means that people who are entering POs or PO requests – as in unapproved POs – will be warned about potentially exceeding the budget that has been made available to them.

So, that means that instead of having to have a separate report, or ask someone if there is budget available, users will start to get warnings or will be prevented from creating transactions that will exceed their budget.

Again, while writing, we don’t have the criteria for these alerts, or what level the budget check will go to, but we suspect it will go down to your core classifications level – department class, location etc. As part of that, NetSuite have also mentioned an expense commitment transaction, which is like a committed cost. This would also be picked up in the calculations – you’d have an approved budget, and the system would recognise any committed costs or planned costs for the future. These would be accounted for within the alert to make sure they are included in the calculation for the available budget.

This is quite a big feature that will help with any approval processes. It will be particularly useful for non-profit organisations or anyone that has very strict budget control.

There ends our summary of the feature highlights for NetSuite’s 2021.1 release. There are hundreds more new features though, and some are more relevant to certain types of businesses than others, so do have a read through the Release Notes and see what might be relevant to you.

Want to know more or see a demo?

Hopefully, whether you are an existing customer or not, you have found this helpful. There are many other enhancements, from financial and project management to multi-subsidiary operations and inventory management, and there are many specifically relevant to retail and manufacturing businesses as well as other verticals.

If you’re not currently using NetSuite but this has sparked your interest in exploring NetSuite ERP as an option for your business, don’t hesitate to get in touch with us to chat through whether it would be a good fit.