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For the startup biotech lab, implementing efficient systems can be a daunting task. In today’s economy stretching funding is critical, so smaller companies may opt to start with manual procurement and accounts payable processes. But while manual systems may seem like the more affordable option, the reality is that an automated procurement system paired with an ERP that will keep your company audit ready and in compliance will save time, headaches, and money in the long run.

QuickBooks is often implemented at startup, or when a company grows to the point that they can no longer keep up with a manual accounting system. But what happens when a company outgrows QuickBooks? We sat down with Paul Giese, NetSuite data migration expert and founder of Optimal Data, to discuss the best way for growing life science companies to scale to the next level.

Why do biotech organizations implement NetSuite?

There are several benefits to implementing NetSuite. To start, NetSuite has robust reporting functionality. When reporting to department heads, building saved searches and custom financial reports can save accounting and FP&A time. Second, NetSuite allows organizations to prepare consolidated financial statements systematically. Many biotech organizations start out managing their consolidated financial statements in Excel because QuickBooks doesn’t support this functionality. With NetSuite, you can manage financials within the ERP system, reducing the risk of manual errors. Third, NetSuite has foreign currency functionality for organizations that receive and pay bills in non-USD. Finally, NetSuite is Sarbanes Oxley (SOX) compliant, which is required for a public company. You can build approval workflows and custom roles to segregate duties properly. NetSuite is also cloud-based, so you won’t need servers or hosted environments to store data safely.

What is the first step in the implementation process?

The first step is to find an implementation partner. I recommend finding an implementation partner with experience in the biotech industry. I’ve worked with several partners in the biotech space, including Sikich, Centium Consulting, and SquareWorks. If you are a Prendio user, Prendio has trained implementation experts to build the full NetSuite – Prendio connector for your company.

What can an accounting team expect during the NetSuite implementation process?

The implementation partner will work with you to understand your processes, segment structure, and other systems, like Prendio, that need to be integrated with NetSuite. The experienced implementation partners will be familiar with the everyday needs of biotech organizations and will be able to advise on best practices based on their experience. This knowledge will benefit the biotech’s accounting team, primarily if the team has not used NetSuite before. The implementation partner will also complete the training and coach the organization on data migration.

What is data migration?

Data migration is the process of moving data between systems. For a biotech moving from QuickBooks Online to NetSuite, the company would need to move segment data, like GL accounts, departments, and programs. They will also need to migrate relational data, such as customers, vendors, and employees, and finally, the transactional data, which includes historical financials and open accounts payable transactions.

Is data migration a risky process?

It can be. A few potential risks with the project include:

  1. Loading vendor bills that have already been paid. This could result in issuing double payments to vendors.
  2. Losing the ability to run historical financial statements, impacting the ability to close financial periods and hit filing deadlines.
  3. A NetSuite go-live date that is delayed because the team did not have the internal resources to complete their data migration correctly.

Of course, there are also normal data risks when dealing with sensitive data like tax IDs and bank information. Having an experienced partner, like OptimalData, can reduce these risks.

What can a company expect when working with OptimalData to migrate from QB to NetSuite?

I aim to make the NetSuite data migration process as easy as possible. I led the NetSuite implementation at Surface Oncology and understand the demands on small biotech accounting teams. I want to ease that burden for my clients so they can rest easy. As of March 2023, I’ve helped 28 biotech companies migrate their data, so I’ve seen all types of scenarios relevant to the biotech industry.

What are some specific ways that OptimalData helps its clients?

Some of the benefits of working with OptimalData include:

  1. The ability to retain your detailed transaction history. Typically, if a company loads historical data independently, they would load a monthly journal entry. However, you lose the details of what makes up the balances. I can migrate individual transactions from QuickBooks to NetSuite, allowing clients to retain that information.
  2. Clients can translate their QuickBooks data to their new segment structure. For example, many clients will embed their program data into the chart of accounts because QuickBooks doesn’t support multiple segments. My tool allows clients to map their legacy financial data to the new segment structure so clients can see their true comparable history.
  3. Clients minimize their accounting system downtime. I can load historical financials in several hours. Typically I do this over a weekend so the client doesn’t need to stop entering data for days or weeks.
  4. I provide my clients with an audit documentation package. These tieouts are critical to making the auditors comfortable with the data migration process between the two systems.

To give an example of an issue that OptimalData can help resolve during a data migration, I’m currently helping an organization with multiple subsidiaries in a single QuickBooks instance. NetSuite has system checks to ensure that proper, standalone financial statements are maintained for each subsidiary. QuickBooks does not have these rules. I’m working with the client to identify and load the transactions to the correct subsidiary. This will allow the client to produce accurate standalone financials in NetSuite.

Do you have any final tips and tricks you’d recommend to a biotech company poised to switch to NetSuite?

Here are a few final recommendations:

  • If you are going to invest in NetSuite, invest in a high-quality implementation. The system is only as good as it is implemented.
  • Plan ahead. Try to complete the NetSuite implementation before an IPO. This allows your team to get comfortable with NetSuite before the pressure of the regulatory requirements of being a public company.
  • Communicate with external stakeholders. This includes letting 3rd party software providers, like Prendio, know that you are implementing NetSuite. Also, check with your auditors to confirm what documentation they need to get comfortable with the implementation.

No matter what ERP system your research organization chooses, Prendio’s built-for-biotech eProcurement solution is flexible enough to integrate and communicate data seamlessly. Speed your company’s progress by choosing an affordable, SOC 2 compliant eProcurement platform that scales painlessly as your organization grows, giving your teams one less thing to worry about, so they can focus on what really matters: making the discoveries that will improve the human experience.

To speak with Paul about switching to NetSuite, click here or email him directly at paul@optimaldataconsulting.com.

To see how the Prendio eProcurement software can save your organization time, money, and headaches, click here to request a demo.