NetSuite, the software-as-a-service (SaaS) vendor, has launched its next, major, 2007.0 business management application platform release, targeting scalability, customisation and levels of automation to extend functionality.

New NetSuite Assistants are on offer to translate user help documentation into wizards and make the setup, data import and ongoing administration of complex tasks more straightforward.

The software's dashboard reporting function has been extended to provide customer and partner relationship management (CRM and PRM) on a global scale. Customer records, orders, forecasts, quotas and commissions can now be managed on a per-country basis in local currency and fed into a consolidated, multi-currency view across the entire organisation to manage global sales operations.

And the introduction of new business intelligence capabilities with Suite Analytics including detailed scorecards, and incorporation of Excel-like custom formulas within any NetSuite Dashboard and saved data search.

Craig Sullivan, NetSuite vice president of international products told CIO UK the overall theme of this latest software update was to bring together the more functionally rich needs of the 'power' user, who may need to drill down through and manipulate data in a more ad hoc way, with simplified customisation capabilities and guides for more functional flexibility. "We've added assistants in the first stages of setup to make the implementation process easier," he said. "The analytics side is bringing traditional data warehousing functions through to the mainstream business user interface."

The US-based company chose London to unveil the annual update of its hosted customer relationship management (CRM), enterprise resource planning (ERP) and e-commerce suite to underline the fact that the UK is one of its fastest growing markets. "In a few months we will have a new data centre in Europe," said NetSuite chief executive, Zach Nelson underlining a commitment to supporting market traction he said was greater here in some areas than in the US.

Nelson also called on representatives of customers, ACAL, Wolseley Securities and Carphone Warehouse/Opal at the launch to pay testimony to the business benefits of the software and its SaaS delivery.

Steve Ratcliffe, commercial director of the specialist finance house for small and medium house builders, Wolseley Securities said the difficulty in finding a traditional software package to track house sales as a key business indicator led it to take on NetSuite. "We looked at packages to draw all the various data sources together like SharePoint or developing something in-house, but couldn't justify the expense for around 100 users," said Ratcliffe.

David Bradshaw, principal analyst at Ovum was also at the launch. He said customers were attracted to SaaS for the same functionality of traditional business software, but without the overheads of supporting infrastructure, maintenance and upgrades. "Lately, the IT department is saying it hasn't got time to do that kind of stuff with a three-year pipeline of strategic work to do," said Bradshaw. "Customers don't want to have reinvent the wheel every time they upgrade, nor do they want to have to write code for specific functionality."

NetSuite also took aim at traditional software vendors, using the data import and mapping assistants to highlight ease of migration and flexibility in comparison to competitors Sage, SAP and Microsoft. It also highlighted a new extension of its SuiteFlex development platform in development and due for a major launch later this year.

SuiteBuilder, Nelson said would allow customers and partners to automate the replication of customised instances of the application suite. "This is good for prototyping where, in most cases you would have to re-code all the customisations for a new customer," he said. "And suddenly a services business can become a software business - clone it and sell it over and over."