Knowing when to use NetSuite searches vs reports is something that will come with experience, but for now, this little primer may help you get started.
NetSuite Searches vs Reports
Is there a difference between the two? Is one better than the other? Which one should you learn first? Which one is best for my business?
The answers: Yes. Yes and no. Both. They’re both important.
Now that we’ve got that out of the way, what do I mean by all of that? There is definitely a difference between the two. How they access data, the format of their output, their limitations all make them very different from each other, which is why neither one is better. As you get to know the system, you may gravitate to one over the other, but that will be situationally dependent. Try to learn them both – at least at a basic level – because different situations call for different results, a search can do what a report can’t (or vice versa).
And this is what makes them both best for your business: if you only learn how to use one, you’re missing out on everything that the other can do. Both NetSuite searches and reports are there to help you make smart, informed decisions about your business, and if you are not fully utilizing both, you are missing out.
Before I move forward, let me give you my perception (from the better part of a decade working with NetSuite) of the difference between NetSuite searches vs reports: if you are looking at dollars and cents or quantities, and want a user-friendly, visually-appealing, easy-to-understand snapshot of data, then go with NetSuite reports. If you want to get a pure list of data, be able to customize the data that comes out, or pull the data out into Excel for further crunching, go with NetSuite searches. I’ll explain more about each in a moment.
Let’s start with reports. Most people find them easier to use. They are definitely more user-friendly than searches. There are a number of canned reports that you can use right out-of-the-box. For Sales, there are Sales by Item, Sales by Customer, Sales by Sales Rep reports that are pre-built. The same goes for a variety of other reports. You can then take those reports and customize them quickly with filters, additional columns, and even some very basic formulas.
When you view the reports, the data can be grouped together, expanded, and formatted in ways that make it easy-to-read and understand for any user. This makes them popular for creating shared reports where one user creates a report to share with others, which enables a team to all see a quick snapshot of data and ensure they are seeing the same thing. They are simple to put on a dashboard for quick views, and even allow you to view them in fancy bar charts – something every executive loves.
Where reports lack is their flexibility. The formulas are very limited. You are restricted to certain formatting and field options. In many ways, it feels like you constantly run into brick walls trying to get the data that you want. You may not experience it at first, but you will… eventually.
Searches are more focused on pulling lists of data. They are like pulling pure data from the database, but instead of using SQL coding to do it, there is a nice graphical interface to use. At first, it may seem daunting. After awhile, it will feel easier to use and more intuitive than reports because you run into less roadblocks. You have a deeper depth of fields available to use and pull into your report. You can add more powerful filters that help to really tailor the results to your needs.
Occasionally, NetSuite searches will run into limitations, but often times, with a bit of SQL knowledge, you can create custom formulas to calculate the data the way you really want it. Instead of pulling spreadsheets out of NetSuite and manually manipulating the data, it can be done right within NetSuite. But this is also what scares most people off from searches. They think that they need to be a developer to know enough SQL to get the job done. It’s not easy, and it won’t happen at first. But if you have some basic Excel formula skills, this will start to make sense in the same way.
The limitations with searches definitely come in the way the data is output. It is pure data in list form. With some advanced skills, you can tidy it up a bit to get a basic list. I stare at data all day, so I can “see the picture” the many lines of data is giving me, but for someone not accustomed to this, it can be daunting. The other downside is the accuracy of the data. The data from NetSuite is fine! Please don’t write NetSuite telling them I said their data is inaccurate. But what can be inaccurate is how you are pulling the data. Reports can be a victim of this too, but not to the same degree as searches because of the extra power that it has.
Which do I prefer? NetSuite Searches or Reports?
Searches. I like data. It’s pure data. I don’t need pretty visuals. However, I use them equally, because I am not always the audience. If there is data that I need, I use searches, but if there is data that needs to be available to someone else, like on a dashboard, I choose whichever tool gets the job done the best way possible.
NetSuite Financial Reports
Just call me. They’re ugly. Sorry, NetSuite. They’re actually great and very powerful, but very confusing at first. It took me a couple years before I even tried to tackle one, and so if you are reading this page now, let’s hold off on this for a minute. If you need help with one, just call me.