Archive for September, 2009


iQuote: Sizing Down

September 30, 2009
Not all users of iQuote have the luxury of a large screen. If you’re not lucky enough to have a gigantic flat-panel on your desk, you might find yourself having to scroll around iQuote when building your quotes – it’s one drawback of showing comprehensive information about iQuote systems and options.

To help free up some screen space, we have added a new arrow icon at the top of the System Specifications table. Click it to collapse the table (and reclaim 30% screen space), and then click again to expand if you forgot to check how many different levels of RAID your system can handle, or how many NICs it has.

But if you think that’s good, wait until you see the same principle in action for Options. As a first step we have upgraded the Software/OS Options panel to use categorised collapsible panels, which not only saves acres of screen space but will guide our users to the right products much more quickly. Next up – Warranty and Services.


iQuote will have the Power

September 25, 2009

Groundwork for the Power Enhancements is well under way. We’re happy to report that we have made some major advances in this area. The objective is to be able to show an accurate power draw for a system in real-time. This will have many uses (including showing the user how to generate a greener quote) but the main drivers are to allow an iQuote user to accurately size a UPS (Uninterruptable Power Supply) and PSUs (Power Supply Units).

The PSU Sizing thing has become a particularly hot issue recently as we’ve already mentioned on this Blog. UPS Sizing has been around for decades. We feel that it is time consuming (and duplicated effort) to shell out of iQuote to use a separate tool (albeit a very good tool) to size power options and so we are working hard towards integrating them into iQuote. Once we’ve achieved this we’ll be able to provide single click option addition that we know users like. We’ll keep you posted.


Web & Blog: Consolidated !

September 24, 2009

Web Site Screen Grab for Blog

The new Web Site now incorporates our Blog. If you are reading this you are either on our WordPress site or you are on the Web Site. Previously we had a Web Site and we had a Blog – both separate sites albeit linked by a single hyperlink. What we wanted was to use WordPress to create, manage and search engine optimise our Blogs, but display them on the Web Site.

This seems like such a common requirement however when we looked into it we realised that not many people do this and therefore there wasn’t a great deal of information about how to achieve it. Undaunted Dan has worked out a solution and now when a Blog is published on WordPress it is pulled into SQL and re-published in a window off the Web Site Home Page. Within a few minutes.

What a brilliant way of keeping what is effectively a Brochure Web Site current and fresh! We’re really pleased with the results and the flexibility it provides for our customers. What’s more if you would like to have this same capability we’re available to help you:


Channel 2.0: Convenience

September 23, 2009

What happened when I asked a LinkedIn question on Channel 2.0? I’d read a good blog on Channel 2.0 and wanted to validate that against public opinion. The LinkedIn Q&A seemed the most appropriate place to ask the question – plus it’s free.

The first thing I learnt was that people are generally getting a little fatigued by the whole 2.0 thing. 5 years after it was first used to describe Web 2.0 it seems to be being abused somewhat – maybe to  kick start tired Sales activity. So there’s a level of cynicism out there with good reason.

I was fortunate in that Tom Emrich of ValMark (Value Based Marketing) picked up on the question. He read the Blog article and felt that the author was pointing at specific areas of the following:

Old School (4 Ps)
Place — Channel 1.0 and linear funnel view

New School (4 Cs)
Customer want and need
Customer cost of purchase and use
Convenience of customer purchase and use – Channel 2.0
Customer relationship and communication

You can read more from Tom at his Blog:

So why am I interested in Channel 2.0? If it is a genuine trend that the focus will move from Push Sales & Marketing to Pull Sales & Marketing (or should that be Pull Purchasing?) then Consumers that make decisions will have to have more information and better systems than they do today. services could well play a part in this transition: “Convenience of Customer Purchase…”

The Channel Organisations that help their customers move to Convenience will be winners.


Quote Tools on Vendor Portals…

September 23, 2009

PIC_sweetsHow do Quotation Tools on Vendor Portals fit in today’s connected world? When we designed iQuote we went with a MultiTenant approach allowing iQuote to accept variable data from its host and sit in Channel or End User as a separate system. There were many reasons for this but one of the main reasons was that we felt that Channel Sales often handled many vendors and would prefer something that was closer to their business.

If I’m in Sales and I’m selling 50 vendors the chances are that I touch 5 or 10 of them daily. To manage that number of vendor portals daily is going to be an overhead on my productivity. Most people are managing 20+ user names and passwords already – all with different rules. Vendor portals have their uses for sure, but we’re not sure Quote generation is a good or practical use. Move quotation INto the channel not present it TO the channel. That way you can improve the level of integration and proximity to Sales – and achieve greater utilisation and ease of business.

Applications that are better suited to Vendor Portals: pricing, bid pricing, MDF and soft margin handling, deal registration, forecasting, marketing plans – all the things that are handled by organisations such as the Foundation Network. Just not Sales Quotations.


iQuote: Power Supply Options on G6 Servers

September 23, 2009

iQuote will carry ProLiant G6 Power Supply Options. When the G6 ProLiants were launched by HP we took a decision to suppress some of the options including the Power Supply Units (PSUs). At the time we felt that technical validation was needed to ensure that the PSU was correctly specified against the server build. That is still the case however feedback has been that we should at least show the options. So we’ve added them and will validate them on quantity (so physical constraints) and rules in terms of mixing (or in this case NOT mixing wattage).

HP does have a Power Advisor application that can be downloaded from this URL:

We recommend that iQuote users take advice on PSUs from the HP tool. Over the next few weeks we will be enabling some currently disabled options such as 2nd Memory Banks and Drive Cages.

In the long-term we are working on a PSU Sizer that resides within iQuote. This will provide indicative power draw based on your precise configuration and make recommendations on PSU sizing and redundancy. We have that methodology in place we just need to populate and build it over the next few weeks.


Improved iQuote Export

September 23, 2009

Your Logo HereThe iQuote Excel Export now carries your Logo and Terms and Conditions. We had some feedback from iQuote users that they would prefer just to be able to email out the Excel spreadsheet that iQuote generates. Previously they had to copy and paste line items into a standard template or add terms & conditions plus a logo to iQuote’s export.

Each Distributor or Reseller has a unique logo and terms & conditions – iQuote handles this so the variables are set at Host level. We hope that our several hundred users benefit from this timesaver.


The Cost of Quotations #2

September 14, 2009

More on the cost of quotation. In the previous article I raised a question: is the creation of quotations actually selling? This seemed to me to be a good use of the LinkedIn Q&A so I asked the question. I got seven responses and most of them were consistent. Consistent in saying ‘it depends’.

In the opinion of a number of experts from around the Globe if Sales are merely pricing up a specification that is handed to them from a customer it’s administration, if they are adding value by offering more (or even less) than the customer request, offering lateral solutions, price bundles and alternatives then it’s selling. Interesting views and who am I to argue?

To put all this in context (in iQuote context of course) this research sets a challenge: how can we minimise the time it takes to perform administrative (non value add) quotations while also decreasing the number of quotations that add no value? I firmly believe that we are most of the way to achieving this. More on quotations soon but in the meantime here’s what the team is working on to add value:

  1. The management portal only reports Saved Quotes today however for every Saved Quote we get about 3 New Quotes (for verbal quotes and information queries). Look out soon for New Quote stats too.
  2. End User Cashback has been applied to the vast majority of PSG products where they apply. Nearly there.
  3. We are starting to use some iQuote power to make adverts more context-sensitive.
  4. The export now contains Bid Letter reference and Bundle code. We are also working on a Bid Letter uploader to make this process automatic (and open up a load of pricing possibilities).
  5. A Model ProLiants are being added.
  6. Something that we think users will find extremely useful and relevant to the early part of this post: a form that allows a sales person to enter a shopping list to validate (in case of error) but also to customise and add value to.
  7. It would be useful to stitch more than one quotation together (we call this quote concatenation) so this is being worked on too.

Apart from that we are doing some work with quote versioning, power sizing and a quotation health check system….it’s all go here.


The Cost of Quotations #1

September 8, 2009

3249132315_17b26bd6bcOne of the costs of running a sales force is the cost of managing quotations. By ‘managing’ we include activities such as scoping, researching, product selection, creating, pricing, re-pricing and technically validating. By ‘costs’ do we actually mean time? If Sales are preparing quotations or re-pricing an old quote are they selling? Is it an opportunity cost rather than an actual cost due to the way sales people are remunerated?

Whether you consider quotation management as selling is an interesting topic in itself. It’s certainly part of the sales process and a good quotation will improve the conversion rate from quote to order.

So when a business like ours says ‘we could save you time’ you are probably both interested and sceptical. You are interested because if you can save time you can generate more opportunities. You are sceptical because many systems that are designed to save people time simply don’t. has invested time to speak to iQuote users to understand how they use iQuote, how they operate, what we could do better and where we can save them time. The sheer velocity, especially in broadline Distribution, that quotes are delivered sets the challenge. How could we speed up lightning? However, when we looked at the areas that Sales became hamstrung by process and complexity we started to appreciate how we accelerate the end to end experience.

To be continued…


XML & iQuote

September 3, 2009

XML offers a number of possibilities for iQuote. Dan, our Technical Solutions Director, has been looking at ways that iQuote could be improved and extended by using XML. Through this work we have already achieved Quote Versioning:

  • If a user has a quote but exports it in different versions a number of times we are capturing that. Soon users will not only see saved quotes, they’ll also see exported quotes linked to their saved quotes. This is a strong step forward for re-quoting and quality recording.

Looking ahead Dan is looking at whether XML could be a good way to import customer-specific pricing including Bid Letters (OPG in the case of HP). As always we’ll keep you posted.