Colman Edwards took an unexpected turn in his education, as he initially started as an engineering student in college. During his time at Sacramento State College of Business Administration, Colman decided to switch his focus to the business. After completing his first accounting courses, everything came together. Throughout his professional experience, Colman has found a passion for technology, which he credits for influencing his career thus far.
In 2014, Colman began working as an accounting manager for Accretive Solutions, which became Countsy in 2017. After a year, Colman transitioned to an implementation role within Countsy and currently works as the Director of Technology. At the beginning of his position on the implementation team, he helped team members use the latest features in both NetSuite and Expensify. As the Director of Technology, Colman primarily focuses on technology integrations and standardizations within Countsy.
In 2019, Countsy was named NetSuite’s Business Process Outsourcing Partner of the Year for providing clients with integrated and scalable business solutions. Their company has been cloud-based since its formation. Colman works to help organizations transition to the cloud as smoothly as possible and focuses on NetSuite integrations. In this interview, Colman provides excellent insight into NetSuite standardizations and best practices that your organization can benefit from.
In this podcast episode, you'll learn how to:
- Handle operations using NetSuite Global Search.
- Search past records to make quick accounting changes.
- Customize records and forms to speed up your processes.
- Remove unorganized data and old items to stay organized.
- Migrate from QuickBooks and other accounting software.
Colman Edwards’ advice on NetSuite is also featured in NetSuite Best Practices for Accounting and Mid-Marketing Consulting Firms || How Outsourced Accounting Providers, Virtual CFO’s, and System Integrators Can Support Fast-Growing Clients with NetSuite [Download the Free eBook]. Highlights include:
Watch the Podcast Interview
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- Colman switched from engineering to accounting in college, saying it just “clicked” for him. “But my love for technology pushed me to where I am today,” he says. As the Director of Technology, he focuses on standardizing technology across the entire organization, allowing firms to more easily scale using NetSuite from the outset.
- Colman Edwards of Countsy leads client firms as they transition from existing platforms to NetSuite. He finds that companies require different capabilities as they grow. As a result, you may come across clients that want to migrate from a platform like QuickBooks to NetSuite for more robust reporting, tracking, or other needs.
- “When you’re pulling history from QuickBooks, there are fewer transaction types, so it’s more simplistic. But if I am pulling from NetSuite, it gets more complicated because I am using a full history extract and there can be more dependencies. I know that NetSuite’s implementation team doesn’t migrate a full history, just trial balances. I think it will be up to third party vendors, like accountancies, to pull the full history and load it into NetSuite,” says Colman.
- In the end, you’ll need to pay attention to the details like clean lists, a streamlined general ledger, and accurate financial reports. “Starting clients on NetSuite early is very scalable, especially as they grow and outgrow a currency,” says Colman. “They can stay on the platform until they get to the IPO stage.” According to NetSuite, 29 of the Wall Street Journal’s “Billion Dollar Startups” use NetSuite, including tech companies like GitHub, Localytics, and Daqri.
- “Getting on NetSuite early, even though it might be a little overkill, is okay in the beginning,” according to Colman.
- “Knowing how to use the global search bar at the top of NetSuite is important, or you’ll get a lot of information you don’t need,” says Colman Edwards. He gave the example of looking for a vendor, but also pulling up customer records with the same name. “Just type in a colon and that will bring up only the vendor.” The same global search functionality works for custom reports you may have saved. Learning to navigate the global search bar will increase your productivity immensely, he noted.
- If you’ve ever entered a few records, gone to lunch, and need to pick up where you left off, you’ll appreciate the past records function, notes Colman Edwards. “It helps you get right to the record that you were at two records ago to make any updates or changes.” The functionality is similar to using your browser’s history to go back to a recent page you were using.
- “Customizing forms for NetSuite out of the box is essential,” notes Colman Edwards. “If you go to a vendor record, to actually get to where you see an invoice, it's three or four clicks. You click on the vendor and you're set on where you want to go, and minimize the time and clicks for any task.” Any transaction, customer, vendor form, and more can be customized. When Countsy onboarding clients with NetSuite, Countsy wants to get the entire client organization used to accessing the same information with the fewest clicks from the start. It also speeds up training and implementation time for accounting providers as they implement a standardized, customized set of forms for their clients.
- “Cloud-based accounting is the way to go,” says Colman Edwards. “We’ve been cloud-based from day one and have been pushing our clients to do so. We see that trend of clients moving quickly to cloud-based accounting.” Colman says they have had clients who transitioned from QuickBooks Desktop to NetSuite as more people work remotely. He notes that QuickBooks is great for smaller clients, but if they are growing, getting on NetSuite early provides the perfect platform to do so. Is there a tipping point when a cloud-based application is essential? “Usually it’s about reporting,” says Colman. As companies grow, their reporting needs become more sophisticated and NetSuite meets those requirements.
- Colman manages the implementation team at Countsy, setting up technology startups on their platform tools, with NetSuite as the backbone of their tools. Their services include setting up NetSuite and migrating the client’s history. Colman also reviews and evaluates software technology to streamline and automate back-office processes. You can learn more about Countsy at Countsy.com and connect with Colman on LinkedIn.
A lightly-edited transcript follows below:
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Joshua Feinberg: Hi, I'm Joshua Feinberg from the AI in Accounting podcast, and I'm here today with Colman Edwards, who’s the Director of Technology at Countsy. In this episode, we’re going to talk all about NetSuite best practices for beginners and power users, the biggest mistakes that NetSuite users tend to make, and where the future of accounting and NetSuite are headed. But first, you’ll get to hear Colman’s career journey and what’s led him to his place as Director of Technology at Countsy, NetSuite BPO Partner of the Year.
From College Engineering Classes to Accounting to Implementing Accounting Technology
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Colman Edwards: Yeah, so, I definitely would say I didn't have this planned so that this was going to be my career path. I think I started as an engineer in college and then made the switch-over to business, and, after my first couple of accounting classes, it just clicked for me. So, I made the switch to accounting and started in the accounting field. My love for technology has kind of pushed me to where I am today. Accounting is fun and fine, and I like that, but the technology is really what drives me forward. So, I started with Countsy about six years ago. We were called “Creative Solutions,” and I was just a staff accounting manager over there for one year, and then I made the switch-over to the implementation systems. I was kind of pushing the technology we are using on our platform, netsuiteexpensifypull.com. I showed the implementation team new features that were coming out and how to connect with NetSuite so that they weren't using it. So, then I got hired onto the implementation team. From there, I kind of worked my way up and became the manager and now the Director of Technology, where I focus on the technology we use, integrations, standardizations amongst the whole company. So, that's where I now ended up here.
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Joshua Feinberg: And that approach is pretty different compared to traditional CPA firms, right? By being very technology-focused?
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Colman Edwards: Yeah, Countsy is very focused on technology. We're cloud-based from the get-go. So, everything we use is on the cloud. So, finding the best systems for the cloud to make everything as smooth as possible and as integrated as we can.
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Joshua Feinberg: Yeah, that makes a lot of sense. What I primarily wanted to talk with you today is about NetSuite, and your favorite tips and best practices around using NetSuite, standardizing on NetSuite. When you first come across someone brand-new—perhaps it's somebody who just joined Countsy; maybe it's a new client that may use a different ERP platform or cloud accounting platform in their previous job—what do you tell them on how to get started? What's your favorite tip or best practices for someone brand-new to NetSuite?
Advice on Getting Started with NetSuite
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Colman Edwards: Probably to figure out how to use the global search bar at the top of NetSuite the most. Depending on the amount of data in NetSuite, if you just start typing at the top, many forms or records can show up. So, knowing how to use that bar. An example is if you're looking for a vendor, you can have a vendor and a customer with the same name, trying to get the right one. You just type in VEN: and then pull up the vendor. It helps kind of get exactly where you're looking. I see that the most, and then probably using the records going back if you made any changes. Look at the recent records; people don't use that as much, but it gets you right to the record that you were at two records ago to make any updates or changes.
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Joshua Feinberg: Does that past records functionality work across teams, or that's just for where you are as an individual?
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Colman Edwards: Individual.
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Joshua Feinberg: So, like, if you got up, and you went out to lunch, and you got a little distracted when you came back, and you didn't even get to pick up the pieces for a couple of hours later…
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Colman Edwards: Yeah. It's for your login.
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Joshua Feinberg: So, it's almost like looking at the history in Chrome.
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Colman Edwards: Yeah, yeah, exactly.
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Joshua Feinberg: That's cool. Do you find any of that changes depending on the kind of business, the vertical, the nature of their business model role within a company, where you tell them to start? Are those two tips with using the search bar and using the records?
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Colman Edwards: Yeah, that's global for anybody.
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Joshua Feinberg: So, kind of like basic training, one-on-one, getting somebody onboarded? Yeah.
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Colman Edwards: Exactly. Yeah, making sure they're comfortable with the interface, where they go, and the best places to find what they need.
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Joshua Feinberg: Would you find that advice to be any different depending on whether there's somebody on your team who's doing outsourced accounting on behalf of clients? Or would it be any different in a role within a client site, like a controller or finance role?
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Colman Edwards: Well, I think that's kind of global amongst everybody: to see the saved reports that you have saved, find the page; you can do that all from the global search and to know how to find that gets you to where you need to be. So, on the client-side, they're mostly looking at vendor records or finding custom reports that they might have saved. Using that global search and knowing how to kind of zero it in on what you're looking for really helps speed it up and not have to look through a whole list of items.
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Joshua Feinberg: So, if you think about the other extreme—the person who's been using NetSuite for years—… it sounds like you got started with the platform three, four, or five years ago already?
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Colman Edwards: About six years.
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Joshua Feinberg: Six years. Yeah. What’s interesting is when I've talked to people about mid-market ERP systems, they were using the ARP platform in their previous job, and probably maybe it’s 30-40% of their job. They ended up liking it so much that they ended up moving to a firm where they could get just to do implementation and consulting 100% of the time. It's like the great fan’s story of evolving and kind of pivoting your career. For somebody that has been entrenched in NetSuite for several years—maybe you meet them at a conference, perhaps they’re a product manager from NetSuite. Maybe they’re an integrator who just focuses on that—what's your favorite tip for an advanced power user?
Best Practices for NetSuite Power Users
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Colman Edwards: Probably customizing the forms in NetSuite out of the box. If you go to a vendor record to get to where you see an invoice, it's three or four clicks. So, customize a record. So, you click on the vendor, and you're set on where you want to go. Minimizing the time and clicks for any task is kind of our goal. It speeds up processes that get to where you need to go faster. So, customizing pretty much every form, and that's what you can customize. That's what we do, and we push custom forms that Countsy uses globally for all of our clients through a bundle we have. So, every user in Countsy is essentially seeing the same type of form for all our clients.
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Joshua Feinberg: So, it sounds like it'd be a huge boon—not only for onboarding new staff but making it easier to support clients’ consistency turnover.
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Colman Edwards: Exactly. That's our goal. I can see us kind of standardize how we do things. So, anybody can step in and help take over if needed.
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Joshua Feinberg: So, the custom forms in this package, it sounds like you have quite a few?
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Colman Edwards: Yes. So, pretty much any transaction form, customer records, vendor bill, vendor records, everything. Transaction forms, as well. So, it takes you—if you're creating a journal entry, you have the exact steps that you need to do, exact forms that you need to set. You can just easily tap through them, enter what you need to without having to click here, click on the other side with this information. Saves time.
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Joshua Feinberg: That sounds like an issue not only with saving time but also with speeding up training and having redundancy with the team standardization process.
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Colman Edwards: Exactly, and if all the forms are the same amongst all of our clients—like, you say, with bringing in a new hire—they don't have to find that field if it's different on this client than the others.
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Joshua Feinberg: And I guess, too, it also creates a sticky kind of relationship with Countsy, too, that they get used to doing things a certain way, and there's this whole layer that you built, and it's something that's proprietary, custom, or what Countsy does on top of NetSuite out of the box.
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Colman Edwards: Yeah, exactly.
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Joshua Feinberg: That’s cool. Big mistakes that you see people making—regardless of whether they're new, or an intermediate level, or an expert user—what would you want to save somebody from having to painfully experience on their own with NetSuite?
Avoiding NetSuite Mistakes with Disorganized Data
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Colman Edwards: I probably see the biggest mistake is just unorganized data in NetSuite: a lot of duplicate records, like duplicate customers, old items that haven't been cleaned up. So, when you go in there, and there's a drop-down, somebody’s entering a new item type on an invoice for a sales order shows every item. If there's 1,500 in the list, but you're only using 50, really clean it up, so only what is active is showing. That's probably one of the biggest issues I've seen.
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Joshua Feinberg: Is this just with vendor lists? Or do you see this kind of across the board?
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Colman Edwards: Across the board with vendor lists, items in NetSuite for sales orders and invoices, customers as well, and making sure everything's organized and clean, so there won't be a duplicate vendor entered because you didn't enter “Inc.” after it, or something like that, and then you created a separate vendor record and have to merge those later.
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Joshua Feinberg: So, this isn't like when you're in a CRM, and you see that every contact record is unique on an email address, or every company record is unique on a domain. There is a chance for it to get totally out of control if nobody's watching this.
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Colman Edwards: Yes, exactly.
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Joshua Feinberg: Do you ever have clients that Countsy takes over that were previously using NetSuite either from another outsourced provider or internally? Or do you use that for the luxury of starting from scratch?
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Colman Edwards: Most of the time—I'd say probably 95% of the time or more—we’re bringing them over from QuickBooks Zero or something. Very few do we have coming from NetSuite, but I'm working on one right now actually from NetSuite to NetSuite, and that’s where I’m finding a lot of the issues. Yes.
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Joshua Feinberg: It tends to be way more complicated because there's just a lot more room for things to go off the rails.
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Colman Edwards: Yeah, it's actually when you're pulling history from QuickBooks, there's less transaction types that you can do. So, it's more simplistic. NetSuite can get a little more complicated. So, when I'm pulling the history over and doing full history extract, there's many more record types and dependencies on other records when I'm pulling those. So, it's a little more complicated.
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Joshua Feinberg: Do you feel that this is something that the industry as a whole is in good shape on, like, evaluating these migrations? Or do you feel that, because of the scale that Countsy is doing NetSuite work, that you’re kind of inventing the playbook for others to follow?
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Colman Edwards: I think we are in the lead here. I know NetSuite’s implementation team doesn't do full history. They just load trial balances only. So, I think it's onto the third-party vendors, like Countsy, that actually will pull full history and load it into NetSuite for a client, and that takes the bulk of an implementation usually, and how much data they have. So, I think we are kind of leaders in that field.
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Joshua Feinberg: This one of these things that, if you get right out of the gate, helps a lot, but if you sweep it under the rug, like, it'll just fester and cause problems later on?
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Colman Edwards: Yeah.
00:13:03.930 --> 00:13:07.290
Joshua Feinberg: Inconsistent data, not being able to find things in the general ledger…
00:13:07.920 --> 00:13:17.580
Colman Edwards: Yeah, exactly, and just to make sure you have clean financials going forward, and you're not wasting time trying to enter a duplicate or clean that up.
00:13:20.520 --> 00:13:32.760
Joshua Feinberg: So, I don't know if that many people have had the luxury of saying, “Gee, I knew that there was going to be this massive digital transformation wave; we just didn't know when it's going to happen.” With everything that's going on right now—where do you see the industry headed, both for outsourced accounting and for mid-market ERP implementation, for NetSuite as a whole—is there anything that you see going on here, where you're going to say six, 12, 18, 24 months out that this was, like, a key inflection point. Is it straightforward to see the path forward?
The Future of Outsourced Accounting, ERP, and NetSuite
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Colman Edwards: Yeah. So, for Countsy, we've been cloud-based from Day One, and so, for us, this is what we've been pushing for all of our clients from the get-go, and we see that trend outside of Countsy moving that way a lot faster now—especially everything going on now. We've had a couple of clients start recently who, once shelter-in-place started, had to move away from QuickBooks Desktop with checks and move to an online, cloud-based service that you can do from anywhere. So, the future is moving towards cloud for everybody, I would say, and NetSuite is in a great position for many clients. QuickBooks is great for the smaller clients, but for clients that are growing, NetSuite is a perfect platform and getting a client on NetSuite early—even though they might not need the full capabilities of NetSuite—but getting it on early, starting that implementation… the implementation, in the beginning, is a lot smaller than when you're already huge, and you want to make the switch-over to NetSuite, getting that data, and it’s a much bigger pull. So, starting NetSuite early—which we do for our clients—is very scalable. So, once they grow and outgrow Countsy, they're on a platform that they can stay on and get to an IPO if needed, I think. I think NetSuite was saying that about 70% of tech IPOs were on NetSuite. So, it's a great platform to get up for clients and let them take over.
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Joshua Feinberg: Would you say that one-size startup is hitting an inflection point, where they would need outsourced accounting, that they're pretty much at the place where it would make sense to consider a more substantial ERP as opposed to leaning on just cloud accounting? Or is there a certain amount of revenue, or a number of employees, or a business model that would accelerate that?
00:15:52.230 --> 00:15:56.760
Colman Edwards: There's a lot of factors. Once they want to get the more sophisticated reporting, that's where NetSuite can come in place. There are more classification fields that they can use, too: customize reports out of NetSuite, saved searches that they can use for reporting. It's great. It's a great place where they can get all that data and start early and have that in the future for reporting.
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Joshua Feinberg: So, it sounds like if you're thinking one, two, three years out—especially with digital transformation being so accelerated right now that it's not just cloud enough anymore—it's entirely possible that businesses get way more serious about how they're tracking information and move to what historically has been considered more of like a mid-market ARP platform much earlier?
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Colman Edwards: Yes, exactly. Getting on NetSuite—even though it might be a little overkill in the beginning—later on, and that's why it's easier on the BPO platform that Countsy has, where we can get them on, do the accounting for them, and, once they're large enough, go in-house, they can then take over and don't have to worry about a second implementation, moving the data over and getting on a platform that they'll need.
00:17:14.760 --> 00:17:23.880
Joshua Feinberg: It's probably not something that they're thinking in the back of their mind, that there's time and financial costs and risk, right? With a migration?
00:17:24.450 --> 00:17:31.290
Colman Edwards: A lot of risks—especially once you're that large, and your business is in place, and you need to get into a new system. A lot of risk in moving the data, moving the systems, and doing the integrations. There's a lot that happens during implementation, especially the larger clients.
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Joshua Feinberg: Definitely all good stuff to know. Colman, if anyone has any questions about anything we talked about today or wants to follow what you're working on, or what Countsy is working on, is there a good go-to place, like a social media website, or anything you’d recommend for following?
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Colman Edwards: Yeah. So, Countsy has our website, countsy.com, as well as Twitter, that you can find there that Countsy does. If anybody wants to contact me personally, they can contact me directly with my email, and I'll be happy to answer any questions or reach out to anybody for any questions that somebody has.
00:18:21.000 --> 00:18:22.350
Joshua Feinberg: Well, that's awesome. Colman, thanks so much for joining me today on the podcast. It's been super helpful to get your tips on how beginners and advanced users should approach NetSuite, and the big mistakes that people make with just inconsistent data and duplicated data, and thoughts on where the future and all of this is headed—not just with cloud but moving into more substantial ERP systems much sooner, as the world becomes even more digital. Thanks again for your time and for sharing so generously all your school-of-hard-knocks best practices, and tips around NetSuite.
00:18:57.510 --> 00:18:58.950
Colman Edwards: Yeah. Thank you very much. It was my pleasure.
What's your favorite NetSuite tip? And what did you find most valuable from Colman Edwards' podcast interview? Let us know in the Comments section below.
And if you're serious about taking your NetSuite knowledge to the next level, download the free eBook: NetSuite Best Practices for Accounting and Mid-Marketing Consulting Firms || How Outsourced Accounting Providers, Virtual CFO’s, and System Integrators Can Support Fast-Growing Clients with NetSuite.