NetSuite customers are very fortunate to have powerful persona-based dashboards, reporting and analytics with the delivery of SuiteSuccess solutions. They provide customers with pre-packaged analytics based on leading practices developed over two decades of industry experience.

On Day One NetSuite customers can accelerate a solid Business Intelligence (BI) foundation to establish a comprehensive BI strategy that will grow with their business.

As customers grow with NetSuite and their BI Maturity has reached a level where more complex analytics move beyond standard ERP reporting, understanding the underlying data structure of NetSuite becomes a key component in successfully implementing an enterprise BI solution.

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Understanding the nuances of the NetSuite data schema and designing a flexible data model that can adapt to the diverse needs of businesses is critical in leveraging the powerful data visualization tools in the marketplace.

Although leading data visualization tools offer data transformation capabilities to ensure more powerful analytics, customers fail to recognize the necessary effort to build out an effective NetSuite data model to deliver industry-specific and strategic analytics beyond NetSuite’s current reporting capabilities.

With Tableau Software and Microsoft Power BI leading the pack in delivering extended analytics to the NetSuite customer, it is not uncommon for organizations to connect these powerful business intelligence tools to their ERP.

Data Transformation with Tableau and Power BI

Many ERP customers will skew their evaluation of Tableau Software and Microsoft Power BI on their ability and flexibility to deliver powerful visuals of their data.

Although the final product ends with useful visuals, the journey and the data transformation tools to ensure the best data analytics are available must be integral to building out a successful BI strategy for an organization’s BI platform.

Tableau Prep Builder and Microsoft Power Query are both powerful analytics tools for data preparation and transformation offered up by Tableau Software and Microsoft Power BI respectively. However, there are some key differences between the two that might make one more suitable for certain tasks than the other.

Tableau Prep Builder is part of the Tableau Suite of tools delivered via a visual interface empowering users to create data cleaning and transformation workflows. Tableau Prep Builder is particularly good at handling large, complex data sets and provides a lot of flexibility in terms of data preparation.

It also allows users to preview their data transformations in real-time, which can be helpful in identifying errors or issues.

Alternatively, Microsoft Power Query is an integrated functionality available with Power BI. It allows users to connect to a wide range of data sources and apply transformations to the data before loading it into Power BI (and Excel as well).

Power Query is highly customizable, with the ability to create custom functions and scripts for more complex transformations.

Comparison Chart: Tableau vs. Power BI



Tableau Prep Builder

Microsoft Power Query

Best Use Case Large, complex datasets with flexibility and visual data exploration. Smaller datasets or integration with other Microsoft tools such as Excel or Power BI.
Interface Visual drag-and-drop workflow interface Spreadsheet-like Interface
Customizability   Limited custom functions and scripts Highly customizable with the ability to create custom functions and scripts
Data Sources Connects to a wide range of data sources Connects to a wide range of data sources
Real-time Data Preview Provides real-time data preview during transformations Provides data preview during transformations, but not necessarily in real-time
Price Part of the Tableau suite of tools, with pricing dependent on the specific license Part of the Microsoft Power BI (and Excel), with pricing dependent on the specific license


Data Transformation Challenges with NetSuite

While NetSuite provides robust reporting capabilities, many businesses face challenges when it comes to transforming their data into actionable insights.

Due to the limitations in joins and directly accessing NetSuite tables, customers are often faced with exploring alternative options to deliver more flexible business analytics with their ERP data and with other important data sources (e.g. CRM. WMS, eCommerce, etc.) 

Here are some of the common data challenges NetSuite customers experience

Complex Data Schema

NetSuite's data schema is complex and can be challenging to work with. The system is highly configurable, and businesses can customize it to suit their needs.

However, this can result in complex data structures that are difficult to understand and may require more involved scripting solutions.

Limited Data Transformation Capabilities

NetSuite's data transformation capabilities are limited, and businesses may struggle to transform their business data into the format they need.

While NetSuite offers Saved Searches and other reporting capabilities to transform the data, these features are limited to single joins and basic functionality delivered out-of-the-box.

Data Volume and Velocity

Although NetSuite customers can generate a large volume of data for an ERP system, business users may experience performance issues better handled by a data warehouse solution designed for NetSuite.

Additionally, some businesses may require real-time data transformation capabilities, which cannot be achieved with NetSuite.

Integration with External Reporting Tools

Integrating Netsuite seamlessly with other reporting BI tools (such as Tableau and Power BI), typically require heavy data transformation and a data migration strategy.

Businesses may need to use multiple analytics platforms to transform their data and ensure that it is accurate and complete or leverage a solution with a pre-built data model to accelerate this process.

Lack of In-House Expertise

Transforming NetSuite data requires specialized expertise, and many businesses may not have knowledge or resources to efficiently build a useful data model.

Leveraging a NetSuite partner with BI and data warehouse experience can mean the difference between a successful and failed BI project.

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About Neil Stolovitsky

Neil Stolovitsky has over 20 years of IT experience with end-user, consulting, and vendor organizations, along with extensive expertise in Pre-Sales, Business Development, Product Marketing, Software Selection, and Channel Strategies. He has published numerous blogs, white papers and articles covering Business Intelligence, Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP), Professional Services Automation (PSA), Project Portfolio Management, IT Governance, and New Product Development to a global audience. Neil currently holds the position of Product Manager with GURUS Solutions.