How a NetSuite Consultant Increases User Adoption with Flashlight

We love hearing from our customers — especially when they share how our tools helped them resolve a tricky issue. From productivity hacks to meeting compliance requirements, there’s no shortage of ways Strongpoint can meet the changing needs of your business.

Recently, Anchor Group's Jacob Terneus reached out to us with a great example. Jacob used Strongpoint's Flashlight tool to quickly identify help and description fields that were missing text — increasing user adoption and saving them hours of time.

Keep reading to hear Jacob's story, in his own words.

Flashlight Use Case: Missing Descriptions on NetSuite Customizations

A few months ago, I took on the task of cleaning up NetSuite customizations for a nonprofit company. Even though they had only been using NetSuite as their ERP software for a few years, there were dozens of scripts and workflows — not to mention several hundred custom fields — that were missing descriptions.  

The description field of a customization is key to keeping your NetSuite environment in good working order. Because they're stored directly on the customization, up-to-date descriptions can improve user adoption and reporting accuracy. They're also one of the main methods of passing along institutional knowledge to other employees. 

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Adding Descriptions

I usually use the same text for both the description and the help text for custom fields, so I try to write a description that makes sense for both fields. This approach not only documents the custom field, but reduces inaccurate or misused data by providing a field help right on the entry form in NetSuite. 

The temptation to build customizations without adding descriptions is high, of course. I don’t know anyone who hasn’t omitted a description at least a few times. But this can be a fatal mistake as it assumes both (1) that you will always be involved in any new NetSuite project in this account, and (2) that you will always remember what you’ve done already.  

My experience has been that both of these are terrible assumptions. Why? 

  • Your company will likely grow and hire new employees that interact with these NetSuite customizations
  • Your company will likely hire one or more consultant firms (like Anchor Group) to build larger customizations
  • You are likely to either move around in your company or leave entirely.
  • You will likely forget how and why you made field X or workflow Y, so even if you are the one interacting with it in a year, you might forget a dependency (Dependency = tech speak for something that relies on something else to function properly.  For instance, if I have code that tries to capture the value from custom field Z, that code is dependent upon custom field Z to exist and to have the right data type.)

So, why put this type of stress on yourself? If you simply take one minute out of your day to add a description text every time you create a new field in NetSuite, you’ll be creating a more productive environment for everyone. It’s best practice to do this for every new customization you’re inputting into NetSuite — a new record type, a new field, a new workflow, a new script, etc. This simple documentation practice will be invaluable to your organization.

Fix Missing Descriptions with Flashlight

So, say I’ve convinced you — you’re now resolved to write descriptions in NetSuite from here on out. There’s only one last piece of the puzzle: old customizations with their crust of unknown dependencies and mysterious uses. You can either go back into your account and update every single help and description text — a task that’s nearly impossible — or you can use Flashlight! 

Flashlight is a free product built by Strongpoint. It’s quite useful for all sorts of documentation and account protection — this post is showcasing only a small corner of a much larger tool.

After I installed Flashlight (which took about 10 minutes of work and then maybe one hour of waiting for it to document my account for the first time), I was able to access an array of saved searches.  

One of these searches showed me all of the customizations that were missing descriptions. An instant 'to-do' queue! Of course, I still had to do the grunt work by figuring out what each customization was for — including chasing down the original creator — but that process was made simple because of the work queue Flashlight provided. 

With that said, there will likely always be a few fields that don’t get a description because it isn’t worth the work to hunt them all down — but I was able to fill in most of them in about a day.

 

Now, I’ve asked myself — could I have built this saved search myself? Sure. But not everyone could have. And I hadn’t really thought of a search like this until I saw that Strongpoint had built a slick one already. I knew that an audit of our account was needed, but Strongpoint’s tools helped to direct my focus.  

Again, this search is only one small feature within a larger tool; for instance, Flashlight also offers an excellent auto-generated dependency map, the ERD, which I used in my investigation into various mysterious customizations. This map shows you immediately which other processes depend upon the customization in question.  I’ve checked the ERD before when performing a general audit, but mostly when looking to change the behavior of a pre-existing script or workflow.

Flashlight serves a bit like an audit consultant by pointing out some of the easy ways we could improve our documentation and helping to highlight red flags. Now my nonprofit client has a much better documented NetSuite account and, in consequence, any further customization work is likely to be cheaper, easier and less prone to malfunction.

About Anchor Group

Anchor Group is a highly-rated NetSuite consulting group from Madison, Wisconsin, committed to providing top-notch NetSuite implementation services and helping companies make the best of their NetSuite ERP system. The team's upbeat midwest attitude and desire to serve their clients with the heart of a teacher set them apart in the NetSuite ERP consulting industry. Anchor Group is also one of the few NetSuite Consulting firms in the US to specialize in SuiteCommerce Advanced (SCA).

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