Master of Accounting (MAC) students at NC State’s College of Management got a sneak preview – and some hands-on experience – with NetSuite, a business management suite of enterprise resource planning (ERP) and customer relationship management (CRM) software tools designed for small to mid-sized companies.

The NC State MAC students are the first students in the country to use NetSuite in the classroom, said Marianne Bradford, assistant professor of accounting at the college. Bradford and Rufus Lohmueller, owner and president of Lohmueller Consulting, Inc., now 360 Cloud Solutions, of Raleigh, are an exclusive faculty-business team working with NetSuite’s corporate offices to design and implement an official university-level program.

NetSuite is an all-in-one business management application that provides CRM and ERP services, presenting the information in a format that makes sense for the individual user, whether that is the company president, the marketing director or logistics manager.

“More and more of our clients ask us for references for experienced NetSuite users,” Lohmueller said. “Where better to start gaining experience than prior to graduation?” he said. “Today’s businesses prefer staff that can be instantly prepared to use contemporary solutions.”

Having been involved with implementation of business management software throughout his 25-year career, Lohmueller said he has come to recognize how valuable it is for individuals to enter the workforce with knowledge of the tools they will be using.

“A familiarity with the tools available today is essential,” he said. This is especially true since business management applications now encompass more that accounting alone.

“Today’s managers need accurate information from the areas of CRM, sales force automation, marketing and web presence functionality – they all come together to provide the company with essential information to make decisions and remain competitive.”

“The opportunity for a student to be exposed to the use of these tools prior to graduation enables them to be more immediately productive in their chosen career path,” Lohmueller said.

The MAC students who had such an experience concurred.

“The college’s partnership with Netsuite will allow students to explore its capabilities and take those experiences with them out into the business world,” said MAC student Taylor Newberry.

She also said that she enjoyed working with the software. “While exploring NetSuite as part of a class assignment, I found that it was so logical and comprehensive that I had to wonder why a company would not choose it,” he said. “The dashboards that facilitate the management of key business processes from a single screen eliminate so much unnecessary work in any given business day.”

Martin Sokolak, another student, said he found working with the software suite “very beneficial for us. Having an opportunity to work with the Netsuite software for a couple of weeks helped me to understand the theoretical material about ERP software solutions better.”

It’s that real-world connection that Bradford was aiming for when she first approached Lohmueller to ask if he would consider “some pro-bono sessions to introduce some NetSuite basics,” she said. “I was excited about being a first mover on this, because those who teach ERP have been looking for a package this user-friendly to teach with for years,” she said.

“Working with Marianne and the NCSU students has been refreshing,” Lohmueller said.

“There is an interest and a degree of excitement that makes it fun,” said his wife and business partner, Judy Lohmueller. “It’s obvious that the students are embracing the software as a service tool that has been developed completely based on the Internet  – it’s in keeping with the times.”

Since starting to work on the classroom project, Lohmueller has given a presentation on NetSuite at the 2004 Accounting Information Systems Educator’s Conference, and worked with Bradford on developing the classroom project. That project takes the students through the ‘order to cash’ cycle, enabling them to appreciate the true integration of ERP/CRM software, Bradford said. Students go through all the steps in the process and along the way produce reports and documents that support the operations and decision-making processes.

The NetSuite experience is part of an evolving information technology concentration in the MAC program that includes a course on ERP, Bradford said.

Based in Raleigh, N.C., Lohmueller Inc., now 360 Cloud Solutions, provides technology consulting services with a ‘High Tech, High Touch’ approach. As specialists in business management solutions, the company ranks in the top tier of NetSuite partners—earning NetSuite Star Partner accolades in 2004, 2003 and 2002. Needs analysis, process review, assistance with selection of optimal solutions, NetSuite sales, implementation, training and ongoing support are snapshot service offerings of Lohmueller, Inc., now 360 Cloud Solutions.

The NC State College of Management’s MAC program prepares students to sit for the CPA exam. Its curriculum is designed to provide a broad-based understanding of accounting and business practices required of a professional accountant and business consultant, while at the same time offering a rigorous technical accounting education.