Thursday, 23 April 2015

CPQ - It's never as easy as 1-2-3

CPQ - It's never as easy as 1-2-3

I’ve see an increasing number of customers coming to us asking for a ‘CPQ’ solution and preferably in the ‘cloud’.
‘Can you recommend one?’, ‘Can you implement Apttus?,’, ‘What do you think of Big Machines?’, ‘Will Vlocity meet our needs?’
Typically it takes a short call to discover that what they really need is a solution to (take a deep breath)… take opportunities in their CRM system and convert them to Quotes, run a configurator to build a quote, run some pricing, add some discounts, email a quote, generate a proposal, get a signature, send an order to fulfillment and billing and update CRM… oh and don’t forget all those quotes against existing contracts, new contracts, order changes, updates to exiting assets and complex promotions, bundling and special pricing terms –and it’s got to work for internal sales, via a partner portal and for a consumers self service web site and all this for B2B and B2C customers and products..
That is a lot more than ‘CPQ’, that is a complex, multi-channel, end-to-end sales journey with a multitude of complex processes winding through it.
And this is where it fundamentally differs from SFA (Sales Force Automation) implementations. With a few tweaks SFA apps from Salesforce, Microsoft and Oracle can be implemented in a few weeks.
But a Sales Process – from Opportunities to Quotes, Orders to Assets and Contracts back to Quotes – is a very subjective process – every company has their own take on how that process should happen, what the steps are, who carries them out and what makes a step complete. It is the effectiveness and efficiency of these processes that make the difference between getting an order, or loosing it to a competitor.
The sheer number of possibilities means that some real hard graft has to be put into defining and designing those processes. There are no short cuts.

‘Go Buy Some Stuff’

For example, I was in a meeting recently and a person representing ‘The Business’ told the IT architects and designers that they just wanted a website with the same catalog/pricing/delivery functionality as their main competitor.   “Go and buy some stuff from them, try it out and build something the same”.   That is just lazy and a surefire way of starting a project doomed to fail.
After the initial stunned silence that person was quickly educated as to how a design process works and what the responsibilities of ‘The Business’ are! There are no shortcuts and there is always room to improve on a seemingly ‘perfect’ process – it may just give you that edge over the competition.

The Dash to the Cloud

What I have also seen is that the dash to the cloud has meant more apps in the mix. What was once provided as a large, megalithic system from Siebel, Oracle or SAP that had all the capability you might need is now provided by a multitude of niche software vendors, apps and add-ons.
Yes, that move to the cloud has improved the Operational side of the IT department, but it hasn’t done anything to help define, design and implement long running Quoting/CPQ processes that can span these numerous applications and departments.
Process mapping and process integration is key to providing the end user with a sales tool they can quickly understand, easily navigate and see the benefit of using.
 Just looking at a recent implementation of a Contract Management solution. We utilized a raft of applications (CRM, CPQ, Document Generation, eSignatures, Campaign Management, Outbound eMail and eMail response, Billing and Fulfillment) as well as an integration platform to hook it all together and orchestrate the process.

Come on, lets learn from our mistakes!

With so many pieces of the jigsaw needed just to provide a quoting/contract solution it is now critical to properly plan and map these process journeys – it’s no longer all in one application, so the “it’s in there somewhere – just need to find it” approach just does not work any longer.
And cloud projects can no longer be just about implementing application features and functions. It has to be about great process design, utilizing deep industry knowledge and best practices and finding the relevant domain expertise.   It took a while to get there for CRM on-premise projects with a few disasters along the way – we must learn these lessons and not repeat the same in the cloud – it gives the IT industry a bad name!

So to wrap up, CPQ isn’t about the cloud vs on-premise and it’s not like an SFA project. These can be complex projects and they will take time (and money) to implement properly…regardless of the platform.
So if you’re embarking on a ‘CPQ’ project, please feel free to add a comment below or get in touch if you think we may be able help.

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