What ERP and ice cream have in common

Over the past 11 months, I have traveled all over the world as the #NetSuiteNomad. In most countries I have visited in Europe, Africa, and South America, ice is still a luxury. I have learned the word for “ice” in over a dozen languages in order to ask for it in my drinks. This experience has made me think a lot about how much I took ice for granted, and spurred an interest in learning more about the history of the ice industry.

In Nick Carr’s book “The Big Switch” he discusses the evolution of many companies through American history and how they adapted to the concept of technology as a utility. He talks a little bit about the disruption that electricity brought to the ice industry. In the 1800’s several “frozen water companies” started in the US.

“Huge sheets were sawn from lakes and rivers in northern states during the winter and stored in insulated icehouses. Packed in hay and tree bark, the ice was shipped in railcars or holds of schooners to customers as far away as India and Singapore, who used it to chill drinks, preserve food, and make ice cream.”

It’s amazing to think that today I can push a button on my refrigerator and have a cup of ice in less than 2 seconds, and there was once an entire economy dedicated to harvesting, storing, selling, and transporting ice that then enabled brand new markets to form in remote places all over the world, including a market for ice cream!

The ice companies were, of course, rendered completely obsolete when electricity became a mainstream utility and people could begin to artificially create ice in their homes. This was bad for the ice companies, but great for ice cream companies because they now had much easier resources to produce and sell their product to customers all over the world without relying on the ice companies anymore.

This brief history lesson in ice got me thinking about what we are doing at NetSuite with ERP.

NetSuite was founded in 1998 before cloud was popular. At that time, and even in many solutions today, enterprise business solutions could only exist on a client-server model. Companies like Microsoft, IBM, SAP, even Oracle were only offering ERP as a hosted service. Salesforce had just begun to disrupt the market with their “no software” model offering a cloud model for CRM, but customers were still hesitant to store financial data in this new “cloud.”

When NetSuite was founded we weren’t trying to make ice anymore, we were making ice cream!

To get ice in my drink today, I don’t have to go to a lake in the winter, collect the ice, store it in a warehouse, wrap it up in bark, then ship it to a store, process it, cut it, package it, and sell it to a restaurant, where I can then order my ice coffee. And to get ice cream, I’m in no way dependent on the ice companies anymore.

Just like the utility of electricity rendered the ice businesses obsolete, cloud computing has disrupted the ERP market. Customers don’t want to maintain servers, hire expensive in-house technicians to build custom reports, go through painful upgrades, and start from scratch to try to make the tool work for their industry with no peer group using the same system. Not when they don’t have to anymore.

Cloud ERP can help you run your business without any of the headache and expense of antiquated hosted server models. If you’re tired of investing in a business model that is literally melting, let’s get some ice cream and talk about how NetSuite can enable your business for the next phase of its evolution.

Kelli Lampkin

Kelli Lampkin is a writer, traveler, comedienne, and entrepreneur.

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