When Explore Consulting first signed on as a NetSuite channel partner more than a decade ago, the groundbreaking cloud enterprise resource planning (ERP) platform was still relatively immature – and that's putting it kindly.
But by continually investing in its NetSuite technical capabilities – even before the cloud developer started an official certification program – Bellevue, Wash.-based Explore has made quite a name for itself.
Not only does it have more than 800 NetSuite projects to its credit, it was just named as the vendor's 2014 Americas Solution Provider Partner of the Year, the second time that the 50-person company has earned this honor (The first time was in 2011.) Another marketing-worthy achievement: 2013 marked the fourth consecutive year in which Explore achieved a NetSuite 5-Star Award for new license sales.
"What makes it successful is a very strong product and a good support system," said Steve Jones, CEO for Explore, which reported $7.9 million in revenue last year. The company's publicly disclosed client list includes Amgen, Berlex, Microsoft, Nordstrom, and Safeco Insurance (part of Liberty Mutual).
Explore was actually a NetSuite customer for two years before it partnered with the cloud ERP software developer. Although the founding team had legacy skills in Oracle development and still handles custom projects required on those platforms, they took on the NetSuite technology after a prospect expressed interest in putting its ERP in the cloud.
Jones acknowledges that it took several years for the company to learn how to sell the product effectively, but things changed four years ago when Explore restructured its approach to the partnership and NetSuite unfurled its OneWorld platform, which accommodated more complex deployments than previously possible. "Literally overnight the deals sizes went up five-fold," he said.
Here are three things Explore did to capitalize on that opportunity:
1. Invested in additional processes for automating deployments and management. As NetSuite has matured, it has become possible to perform up to 90 percent of the work remotely so Explore has shifted its most senior developers to focus on process consulting that can't be easily offered by its competitors. The solution provider's core verticals mirror those of NetSuite: wholesale distribution, e-commerce and software/technology companies.
2. Jumped on the NetSuite certification bandwagon. When Explore became a partner, there weren't any certification requirements but the company made perpetual skills development a big focus. So much so that when NetSuite did decide to roll out a certification program to help customers measure credibility, several of Explore's team members were part of the beta test. Three members of the Explore team were among the first to earn the SuiteCloud Developer Certification in June 2014: generally speaking, NetSuite's guidance suggests that developers have at least one to two years of experience with SuiteCloud and two to three years of software development experience before trying for this level.
3. Kept up its skills in complementary technologies. Although Explore expends "80 percent of our effort and focus" on NetSuite, it maintains skills in creative e-commerce technologies including Amazon Webstore, plus it keeps up skills on the Microsoft stack: after all, the company lives in the software giant's backyard and many opportunities require some sort of integration. Explore is also investing in mobile development and responsive design capabilities: it had a hand in the mobile app created for the NFL Scouting Combine. None of this is necessarily core to its central mission – then again, it might be. At the very least, it provides growth opportunities for the technical team. "It provides great work for some of my senior developers who want to diversify," Jones said.