NetSuite OpenAir for CROs

Sikich has long supported clinical research organizations (CROs) and life sciences clients. We find that NetSuite, the cloud-based ERP system, can be a great software foundation for these companies. It has the flexibility and scalability to accommodate specific processes and growing workload requirements. NetSuite allows configurations to satisfy specific process and operational conditions, which helps us deliver a best-fit solution with a low administrative overhead. In the cloud, you can grow the solution to support many more projects, clients, and business entities.

We created Sikich SuiteSuccess for CROs based on NetSuite, which incorporates the industry expertise and experience gained in many successful client projects. Now we are extending the coverage with NetSuite OpenAir, the professional services automation (PSA) solution for our CRO clients. You acquire a single solution and work in a consolidated software environment, but now it comes with advanced PSA and additional capabilities. We chose OpenAir for a number of reasons, including its native integration with NetSuite. This makes it easier to ensure that data and processes can flow as CRO stakeholders need them to.

We made sure to create a CRO-ready ERP solution that can support the industry’s unique requirements. A business management solution for CROs needs to enable flexible billing and contract management. Even on the same project, you may repeatedly switch back and forth between time-based and unit-based billing, and your software tools should help streamline such billing changes.

CROs also need to manage their contracts flexibly. For instance, they need to be able to reflect in their ERP system whether resources and materials which are not used by the end of a project will be redirected to a new research project for the same or for another client, and whether the client has to be reimbursed or not. One way for CROs to establish a meaningful, competitive distinction is to offer clients a bid-to-bill process that is faster and more efficient than others can. For that reason, ERP for CROs also has to support smooth, fast-moving workflows. SuiteSuccess for CROs is designed with that in mind.


For NetSuite, OpenAir was an important, strategic acquisition in 2008. Today, OpenAir is still a best-in-class PSA software. In our experience, OpenAir is superior to any other solution, including NetSuite’s own Services Resource Planning (SRP), in combining project accounting and resource management. Instead of spending time on project administration, you can focus on your research mission. The Sikich CRO practice likes to emphasize four main points to highlight the advantages of OpenAir.


You can more easily find the scientists with the best fit of skills and experience to contribute to your research projects, because OpenAir lets you identify skills and availabilities in the same search. NetSuite project management, too, can help you accomplish this, but the OpenAir user interface is more intuitive and the search itself is faster and more stable. In OpenAir, you can assign a group of resources to a project, whereas you need to allocate them one at a time in NetSuite.

The bookings worksheet and planner views in OpenAir are intuitive, easy-to-use tools that let you make resource updates quickly. Given that resource schedules can change frequently during projects, you can minimize project administrative time in favor of more impactful work.


OpenAir provides an advanced work breakdown structure (WBS), which combines the project tasks and WBS you find in NetSuite into one, efficiently managed record.

OpenAir WBS supports intuitive, appealing Gantt charts, which can make it easier to share project plans with your clients. Budgeting with OpenAir lets you run and track what-if scenarios on your projects through its multi-budget capability.


Billing and revenue recognition in OpenAir are more flexible and easier to manage than in any PSA software we know. OpenAir’s billing utility supports two billing and revenue scenarios:

  • Usage-based billing lets you bill based on a value like tests performed or other unit consumption. This billing method is common in many CROs.
  • Cost-based revenue recognition in conformity with Accounting Standard Codification 606 (ASC 606) requires some professional-services companies to calculate percentages of completion for billing as a measure of actual compared to forecasted costs, or actual compared to forecasted hours. This practice is not standard for the CRO industry, but for those CROs that follow it, OpenAir can help streamline project accounting.


OpenAir reporting is more versatile and powerful than what you get with NetSuite or other PSA tools. In OpenAir, you can set up reports and KPIs as you like, without worrying about system limitations. You can use dashboards to enable user actions from the reporting screen without requiring people to navigate to other software capabilities. For instance, if a project manager has a resource need, she can get it from the OpenAir dashboard directly to the project’s resource schedule and fill the need.

This is why we highly recommend OpenAir as your CRO’s PSA solution. Ready to see what it can do for your CRO organization? Please contact us at any time!

This publication contains general information only and Sikich is not, by means of this publication, rendering accounting, business, financial, investment, legal, tax, or any other professional advice or services. This publication is not a substitute for such professional advice or services, nor should you use it as a basis for any decision, action or omission that may affect you or your business. Before making any decision, taking any action or omitting an action that may affect you or your business, you should consult a qualified professional advisor. In addition, this publication may contain certain content generated by an artificial intelligence (AI) language model. You acknowledge that Sikich shall not be responsible for any loss sustained by you or any person who relies on this publication.

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