SAP vs NetSuite: The Main Differences Explained

Find out what’s next in IT procurement

SAP vs NetSuite: The Main Differences Explained post image

ERP (Enterprise Resource Planning) software is fast becoming an essential tool for organisational management. When choosing an ERP solution, chances are you will feel overwhelmed by the plethora of options available on the software market.

Luckily, there are two full feature, all-in-one ERP solutions that can easily manage every aspect of your organisation’s processes: NetSuite and SAP Business One. Both are market leaders when it comes to ERP, so how do you choose between them?

In this little e-guide, we will be assessing the various strengths and weaknesses of both platforms, and hopefully, we will make your decision on which is the best match for your business way easier. Let’s take a closer look at SAP vs NetSuite.  

Firstly, what is an ERP solution?

An Enterprise Resource Planning software, mostly known as ERP, allows organisations to track and manage information across all your various departments and business functions, covering accounting to CRM to supply chain management and beyond. The software can dramatically improve your business efficiencies, regardless of size or industry. Historically, ERP has been a popular option for the manufacturing industry.

Perhaps it’s not a surprise that both SAP and NetSuite have a similar background, having both been developed in the 1990s and their customer base comprises thousands of people worldwide. Their systems have been built organically from the ground up, rather than integrating stand-alone applications, which allows their users to interact with a single data source and obtain a full view of their business processes in one system.

Let’s take a closer look at the what the two ERP solutions do:


  • SAP can effortlessly manage supply chain, inventory, product lifecycle, CRM, finance and human resources in one place
  • The solution will also provide you with access to business intelligence and analytical tools that will further help you streamline your business and give you a competitive edge
  • It’s designed to help SMEs take better control of their business


  • NetSuite, on the other hand, is targeted toward fast-growing mid-size businesses and large enterprises
  • It effectively automates all aspects of your business, including financial management, fixed assets, billing and inventory management
  • Can be used by everyone in the business, from top management to clerical staff
  • Provides a customisable view of KPIs relevant to their role

Deployment: SAP vs NetSuite

One of the main differences between SAP and NetSuite is the mode of deployment.

SAP Business One was originally meant to primarily be accessed on-premise on a user’s own IT system, however, it can now be deployed via the cloud or a hybrid of the two, giving the user the benefits of both. NetSuite, on the other hand, is exclusively cloud-based and is therefore run by the service provider at a shared data centre in a remote location.

Mobile access to ERP systems is essential in today’s global society. Both ERP solutions are mobile-friendly, and accessible to employees, suppliers and customers when they are on the go or out of the office.

NetSuite, having been designed as a cloud system from day one, is easy to use on all major mobile operating systems. There’s only one version of NetSuite, so there’s no risk of not being able to access the software from any device, facilitating unlimited options to work remotely. All that’s required is a web browser and log-in details for access to the software.

SAP, however, relies on partners to deliver web experiences including SAP Fiori, which provides users with access to a full mobile app remotely.

Customisation and Workflow Management

Both systems provide their users with good customisation features. In both SAP and NetSuite, users can easily add customised user-defined fields and tables to manipulate the face of the database to include only relevant elements, records and standardised headings for their business.

SAP’s dashboard stands out as it is particularly easy to use, and it has clearly been designed with the user in mind. The dashboard can be managed through widgets that you can add or remove exactly to your liking, so you only see what you need, making each dashboard tailored for the individual user. For example, an accountant may choose to instantly see outstanding bills, while the CEO can choose to see exactly how his sales team is performing and how much cash flow is available. This function is easy to set up and is designed with the end-user in mind.

SAP can make changes to code, but this will, unfortunately, restrict the user’s ability to upgrade and apply fixes. On the other hand, NetSuite has the capacity to edit and customise forms, records, KPI and visual appearance without the need to modify the code.

All in all, it shouldn’t be too complicated to integrate your ERP with valuable features. 

Regular System Updates

A recent study by Aberdeen Group Survey revealed that fear of disruption is the main reason why companies avoid upgrading their ERP systems.

With NetSuite, system upgrades are carried out automatically. NetSuite’s ERP systems are deployed within a multi-tenancy environment and this model can affect version control and system upgrades. When system upgrades are deployed in a multi-tenancy environment, upgrades are deployed simultaneously to all customers at NetSuite’s discretion – not yours. Arguably, this is not ideal if you have any special customisation or integration as they risk being incompatible with the new system. The timing could also be a disaster if the upgrade causes problems when you are in the middle of a busy business cycle.

On the other hand, SAP Business One’s licence agreement permits them to make changes to code, which restricts the customer’s ability to upgrade and apply fixes. It’s also necessary for skilled partners to implement a customisation of any kind. You can choose when to have your SAP Business One Cloud upgrades deployed. Upgrades can be planned in advance, so you can avoid any issues from occurring during critical times. The risk with this, however, is that customised components might not carry seamlessly over to the upgraded version, resulting in users having to spend time retrofitting codes.

Analytics & Reporting

While many ERP systems collect business data without any means of analysing it or presenting it in a useful manner, both SAP Business One and NetSuite are proficient in providing reporting, KPIs and dashboards.

If you are a bit of a technophobe or the idea of analytics is one that fills you with dread, NetSuite’s ‘SuiteAnalytics’ solution has been designed with you in mind. Its customisable reporting tools are easy to use and look much less like an intimidating spreadsheet and are much more user-friendly. NetSuite lets users generate real-time reports that immediately reveal insight into all their business processes for a quick and easy optimisation. The system automates calculation, provides continual revenue recognition monitoring and reporting and complete support for all main revenue recognition rules. NetSuite’s CRM component delivers a real-time, 360-degree view of your customer, providing business intelligence from the lead through interactions, sales orders, fulfilment, and post-sale.

HANA, SAP’s in-memory computing platform, has similar functionality to that of NetSuite, as it also grants real-time access to and display of data, as well as reporting functions. HANA provides the SAP Business One user with the added benefit of an Excel tool for interrogating data. A lot of SAP’s analytics offerings demand separate licences, which adds to the time and cost needed for deployment.

Integration Abilities

The demand for integration extends beyond the walls of the organisation, as most businesses require data links between their customers and suppliers. It is vital that ERP solutions can provide this platform between companies inside and outside the organisation.

SAP Business One and NetSuite both offer web services for accessing items in the ERP database. However, NetSuite is easier to integrate with other source systems, as it’s built to be compatible with a livelier community of partners and suppliers. NetSuite contains an effective XML, API and Integration Management System and can optimise existing applications such as CRM, Financials, Project Management and other vital processes.

SAP provides transparent access to the database, allowing for more flexibility for companies who want to examine the data with their own reporting tools. However, it doesn’t include a standards-based open architecture for connecting to partners and other applications. Also, the add-ons are fewer and less effective than NetSuite’s.

Integration Costs

NetSuite utilises hundreds of solution add-ons written and supported by 3rd parties. This means that integrating NetSuite with other applications involves hand-coding to support the integration development with other add-ons. Not only is this tedious, but lengthy due to the amount of time required for manual coding, which will drive up your costs.

With SAP, your sales, invoicing, production, scheduling and shipping data can fully integrate and reconcile with other applications, eliminating any need for manual intervention. Any industry-level requirements are met only with SAP-certified solutions.


When pitting Netsuite vs SAP Business One against each other, it is quite clear that both applications have their strengths: if you are looking for a simple, intuitive ERP application with excellent reporting and workflow management capabilities, then SAS Business One may be for you. However, NetSuite is arguably an effective application, as it contains e-commerce functionality, better and more add-ons and integration, and the advantages of being completely cloud-based – thereby including better web access and no costs associated with hardware.