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Multi-Vendor PC as a Service (PCaaS) in Market Pro

October 4, 2019

Back in January 2019 channelcentral Blogged on how CPQ was an enabler for PC (or Device) as a Service (PCaaS):

https://channelcentral.blog/2019/01/15/how-cpq-fuels-pc-as-a-service-pcaas-growth/

In fact, without CPQ, it’s difficult to understand how PC as a Service can exist. PCaaS isn’t (today) a one stop shop: it’s rare that a PC Manufacturer provides Hardware, Services, Software and Airtime. PC, Services, Operating System sure. Office 365 or Google Docs? 4G (or 5G) airtime contracts? Not so easy.

To solve this, channelcentral has invested in one of its CPQ platforms (Market Pro for HP Inc) to support true multi-vendor PC as a Service. Solve is the word too. We had to architect in a few areas:

  1. In the film Ghostbusters crossing streams was a no no. In Market Pro we had to ensure that we didn’t combine Capex (think payment up front) with Opex (think Finance contract).
  2. We wanted to leverage the work we’d done with HP Services, who had created innovative suites of services to support “as a Service” procurement and lifecycle management/support.
  3. We also wanted to leverage the support for Indicative Finance.
  4. The solution had to be flexible, so that a Market Pro Host could choose, and ultimately self-manage the portfolio of subscription products.

The outcome?  When a user applies Finance to a quotation, we flip into “as a Service” mode. Users can apply the HP Services in either mode. The hardware and services become a monthly subscription and the user is presented with complementary subscriptions. The first host to offer Multi-Vendor PCaaS chose to include Office 365, OneDrive for Business, Exchange Plans (for Shared Mailboxes) and Webroot SecureAnywhere Business Endpoint Protection.

Want to find out more on how CPQ can facilitate PCaaS?  Email marketing@channelcentral.net

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Optimizing CPQ Applications

September 9, 2019

User experience covers a variety of topics. A poorly designed user flow or a badly designed screen layout is irritating, but nothing gets users more frustrated than application latency. On initial launch, a CPQ application can have really good performance, but over time it degrades: application optimization is not a single task, it’s more like a maintenance contract! CPQ applications spawn data, valuable data and simply archiving that overhead is not ideal.

At channelcentral we used to speak about a four second rule. It’s an arbitrary number, but we believed that if a user didn’t see a result on click within four seconds they’d click again as the assumption is they didn’t click correctly OR the application needs a reminder. Today: four seconds needs to be nearer one second – user expectations are higher due in part to the Smartphone experience.

channelcentral recently undertook an architectural review of the applications that run in its “CMS” framework. One finding was that a lot of latency was caused by “Web Services” where applications pull in data to enrich the content with time sensitive data (notably price and inventory). Users were experiencing wait times of between four and 10 seconds and that was clearly unacceptable.

The Development Team looked at Microservices (MSA: Micro Service Architecture) as a potential solution to latency caused by data requests. Once deployed, application performance improved by up to 10X.

Moving from monolithic to modular has other benefits in terms of deployment, fault detection and code maintenance. There are some ‘cons’ with Microservices, but improving performance to that extent makes it an architecture we’re investing in.

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CPQ Application B2B Banner Advertising – The Right Tool For The Right Job

August 16, 2019

The key to successful marketing is targeting the most relevant target audience in the right place at the right time with the right message.  Sales conversion, from awareness to purchase, is having the right communication and requiring minimal effort from the buyer.  Configure Price Quote (CPQ) application banner advertising can make a significant contribution to a holistic campaign or tactical promotion.

Marketing mix

Once marketing planners have devised their strategy and plan, existing and potential customers are segmented into groups, generally characterised by their needs.  Targeting the chosen group or audience with a communications message is usually achieved by a ‘marketing mix’; a carefully planned mixture of media, such as advertising, public relations, digital marketing and exhibitions.

Decision making process

A mixture of marketing communications media is typically used supporting a buyer through the buying decision making process, commonly known as AIDA, (Awareness, Interest, Desire, Action).

Using social media will raise awareness of a product or brand, as will display advertising.  Newsletters, paid searches and search engine optimization (SEO) will support interest and desire in a product or services.  Email marketing has been used heavily over the last decade to drive decisions, often combined with promotions.

Promote action where action is required

A banner ad in a CPQ application is in a totally focussed environment:  a user or viewer of the banner ad already has awareness, interest and desire for such products.  A CPQ application tool which integrate to an ecommerce platform is the perfect medium to convert desire to action, allowing a user to seamlessly update their shopping cart with a pre-configured discount bundle by simply clicking on a banner ad.

If the banner ad in the application is part of a larger integrated marketing campaign with the same consistent branding, there will be a higher level of recognition and trust for the target audience.  Furthermore, a focused campaign is likely to bring down cost and increase revenue for the advertiser.

To find out more about CPQ application banner advertising email marketing@channelcentral.net

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IT Auditing…for Targeted Marketing

May 23, 2019

Has this call or email conversation happened to you?

IT Partner: “Would you be interested in this amazing new product?”

Customer: “Sure, what is it?”

IT Partner: “Gimmix X120. It’s the best.”

Customer: “Yes, I know they’re fantastic; we’ve got five in the office already. It’s not that I don’t believe you, it’s just that we have no need for any more right now, I thought you’d know that.”

It’s common. Shotgun blast marketing from a CRM tool that has almost the right amount of information to be effective. Presenting solutions to a customer works better if you know what they already have, so what might be relevant to them. You can either identify the opportunity or look at technology that’s in situ to see if there’s something complementary or revolutionary to move a customer’s IT forwards.  Promoting an Add-on for Office 365? Then target customers WITH or migrating TO Office 365.

If you’re an IT Vendor that sells through the Channel, wouldn’t you have more confidence if the IT Partner said: “We have 300 customers, and we have identified 50 of them as best to target for this campaign.” Sending marketing communications to an irrelevant target audience is not recommended.  An additional 250 pointless or even frustrating marketing messages isn’t in anyone’s interest.

The rub is: CRM tools aren’t built as audit tools. That’s why one IT Partner engaged with us to build one, optimized for IT, to plug-in to their CRM tool:

https://channelcentral.net/pdfs/Highlander%20Case%20Study%20links%20reduced%20file.pdf

Another benefit of using a CRM plug-in – if your organization knows what IT is deployed in a customer, when your sales person sails off into the sunset, your pipeline doesn’t sail off too.

If the potential of an IT Audit plug-in is of interest, and you would like to find out more, please email: marketing@channelcentral.net 

 

 

 

 

 

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BI Reports: Delivering Value to Businesses

May 13, 2019

BI Reporting to Measure and Manage your Business
channelcentral launched monthly BI Reporting earlier this year for all its CPQ customers. The reports are in graphical and text format, focussing on key metrics of customer utilization of our CPQ applications. Feedback from customers has been very positive.

The key benefits include:

  • Providing evidence of the Return on Investment (ROI) from the CPQ application;
  • Sharing insights;
  • Enabling customers to make informed decisions quickly.

What’s new?
channelcentral has provided reporting to customers since launching in 2007, however this has now transformed from ‘data’ to ‘information’.  Three key aspects of reporting have changed with the introduction of BI reporting:

  • The addition of graphical presentation.
  • Time – instead of single-month data tables, it’s now shown in a chart covering six rolling months.
  • Geographical groupings – so companies who operate across borders can see consolidated reports. Although this can be done with data reports, it’s more difficult to interpret.

Using value to make decisions
The real value of this reporting, along with any data that feeds into a company’s management information system is:

  • Timeliness – timing is critical if intervention is required, to resolve an issue or to improve engagement.
  • Presentation – information that is simple, easy to digest and enables decisions to be made quickly is truly valuable to a business.
  • Accuracy – the data presented is an accurate reflection of usage and values, so the customer can either see the value the application is adding, or if intervention is required to drive up utilization, regardless of whether the user is a staff member or a customer.

The story behind the data and its potential
Although the reporting is presented concisely, customers can be provided with the data feeding the BI Dashboard, to look into and understand ‘why the numbers are what they are’.  Furthermore, other than pitch rate, there is further potential use of the product data.  Our BI reporting metrics could include most popular systems or breakdown of user functions (sales/technical) if required.

Be aware of missing BI metrics
BI Reporting should be comprehensive.  Reporting should include actual figures for the numbers of quotes and value of quoting, in addition to percentages. Beware of missing metrics or very round number growth – this could be a sign of a low utilization ‘cover up’.  Any low utilization should be highlighted to a customer; to use the data to drive Sales (to use and promote) and Marketing (to drive customer breadth). channelcentral does not add ‘spin’ to customer BI reporting.  With added commentary we consider that marketing. Without commentary we consider it reporting.

The growth of BI Reporting
According to forecasts by analyst Markets and Markets, the global Business Intelligence (BI) market is estimated to grow from USD 17.09 Billion in 2016 to USD 26.88 Billion by 2021, at a Compound Annual Growth Rate (CAGR) of 9.5%. The short-to-medium term for BI reporting certainly looks bright, and channelcentral certainly intends for its customers to benefit from the growth.

Everyone’s a winner
Sharing useful business information can lead to higher customer loyalty, more profit and ultimately strengthen a company’s competitive advantage.

Want to find out more about channelcentral’s BI Reporting?  https://www.channelcentral.net/bi-reporting.asp

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Whose Quote is it anyway? A New Evolution in CPQ Collaboration.

May 8, 2019

If you are doing a quote for a customer, is it your quote to them, or their quote from you? Actually it’s both, but traditional workflows don’t manage this well.

Many communication tools (Slack, Teams, Basecamp) are designed around collaboration. CPQ solutions generally aren’t: Sales send a quote to a customer via email, customer reviews the quote offline, requests changes via email, re-quotes, moves to final version and then purchases. It’s email. It’s disjointed. It’s the sort of experience that some of the communications tools listed try to displace.

channelcentral is interested in the concept of quote sharing. It’s not just about the application and the infrastructure; a key enablement ingredient is how the tool is integrated into a customer’s eCommerce environment.
CPQ CollaborationWe’re part way there:

  1. Our applications support quote versioning.
  2. We’ve added workflows to allow quote recipients to launch quotes from emails, even if that quote didn’t originate from your supplier.
  3. Hosts can quote in the context of their customers already.
  4. We have web services available to query our “quote store” and open quotes.

So it’s within touching distance to send a quote to a prospect as a link, mutually comment and edit the quote spawning new versions (within the same CPQ application), and then select a final quote to proceed to the procurement workflow. It subtly changes the dynamic between Sales and Customer: you’re a team working to achieve the best outcome. Subtly? Substantially in fact.

If this evolution of CPQ is of interest to you, please contact us: marketing@channelcentral.net

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Information is power: talk like a ‘Techie’, sell like a ‘Tiger’

April 18, 2019

Occasionally, staff at channelcentral are lucky enough to meet our CPQ users, where they share their experiences using our CPQ Tools. Instead of guessing what our CPQ users really value, they simply tell us. Genius.

Our CPQ users generally fall in to two categories:

  1. Sales people – our key target audience. Working in the IT sector, but generalist sales people, good with people, strong admin skills and well organized.
  2. Technical people – to a lesser extent our target audience. Depth of technical knowledge. When they use our tools, we’re in some ways prouder.

For some applications Sales people are our primary target audience. Here’s why:

One of our users recently told our CEO that she loves our CPQ Applications because clients don’t expect her to know the answers to technical pre-sales questions, which she can look up quickly within product technical specifications, in our CPQ application. When she can answer almost instantly, they’re amazed; she’s triumphant.

She has worked out that knowledge trumps pre-conception. Nobody expects her to know the answer, they fully expect her to go away and find out. They expect to wait hours or days to progress their project or purchase. She can quote independently in real-time.

Provide people with the right information, in the right tool and you are enabling anyone to be expert in any industry – and to be able to deliver customers information when they need it.

Combine knowledge with sales ability. You’re a tiger.