Archive for the ‘Channel Business’ Category

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The (changing) CPQ Landscape

October 30, 2018

Theoretically every company that offers CPQ Applications is in competition with each-other right? Well not necessarily. It’s an emerging market and as such there are lots of niche players: channelcentral is one of them. Our niche is around being expert in Technology products, offering a fully managed service (including portfolio maintenance) and presenting our CPQ Applications and Data in eCommerce environments (less so ERP or CRM platforms) as multi-tenant (for Channel of Franchise deployments). Sales pitch over!

Other niche players may be doing specific vertical markets or graphical configuration experiences or be aligned to specific platforms. Some may be doing commission or reward schemes which have sufficient levels of complexity to warrant a CPQ experience. Still CPQ but very distant from what we currently do.

CPQ has been getting a lot of coverage recently with Forrester and Gartner particularly active. Another reason for the coverage has been the number of large (massive) dollar acquisitions. The larger players have either been acquired by, or have aligned with, large ERP/CRM companies:

  • Steelbrick, now part of Salesforce.
  • Callidus Cloud, now part of SAP.
  • Big Machines, now part of Oracle.
  • Chameleon, part of Pros but aligned with Microsoft (see note below).

Pros CPQ showcased in Microsoft Dynamics Vertical Market Website:
https://enterprise.microsoft.com/en-us/solution/industries/discrete-manufacturing/pros-smart-cpq-solution/

Each of those huge software organizations is striving to improve it’s CPQ capability to compete with the others and differentiate their own products/services. There was plenty of speculation with Apttus and Microsoft but that deal did not come to fruition. Adobe has just acquired Magento that doesn’t own a CPQ vendor, but instead relies on 3rd party extensions (as Salesforce (sort of) used to).

That’s not to say that if you are looking for a solution for, say, Salesforce, you’d only look at Steelbrick but I’m sure over time these applications will become increasingly embedded. Equally some of the CPQ Vendors who are part of large software ERP/CRM vendors may want to retain their platform independence.

Expect more change in this exciting space.

 

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Data! Who Knew?

October 25, 2018

Well Tim O’Reilly, Founder and CEO of O’Reilly Media did. Way back in the Noughties he came out with this ‘often-quoted’ gem:

“We’re entering a new world in which data may be more important than software.”

Tim also spoke about the Internet as an Operating System: back in 2010! He has over 2 million Twitter followers; he knows what he’s talking about.

In our experience data has different meanings depending on context: source data for driving CPQ engines, dashboard data for reporting success and ROI, APIs for exchanging data to enrich the user experience etc. That’s where we’ve been but look to the future and new things are possible.

Meanwhile, Data is getting a bad name – specifically:

  • Data Tracking: search for an item on Google and then see banner adverts appear all over the internet, like you’re being stalked.
  • Big Data: people who bought this (mobile phone) eventually bought (cat food) or here’s a perfect job for you based on snippets of macro data.

A lot of conversations we have with customers and prospects focus on ‘user experiences’ and the inevitable ‘feature fests’. More recently though new customers are talking about data services displacing application services. Some organizations don’t want to add another third party application into what can often be a complicated ERP or CRM system. However, they are very interested in the data to drive their own native applications (SAP, NetSuite, Magento, Salesforce).

That’s why we developed our boost! Services: Web Services that deliver data to improve business outcomes.

See how much of Tim O’Reilly’s “Internet Operating System” came true:
http://radar.oreilly.com/2010/03/state-of-internet-operating-system.html

Learn more about boost! Web Services:
https://channelcentral.net/boost.asp
https://racksimply.com/

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CPQ: exploded

October 23, 2018

channelcentral offers CPQ (Configure, Price, Quote) solutions, most of which integrate into eCommerce Sites (Web Stores). CPQ software can be viewed as a tool to Configure, Price and Quote complex products, helping companies rapidly and cheaply produce accurate quotes on configurable products and services. There are many definitions online of what CPQ means, here’s one:

http://salesconfiguration.org/key-functionality/what-is-cpq/

When CPQ is deployed into eCommerce environments it allows additional functionality and that extends the ‘acronym’. When engaging with people who are not familiar with CPQ they often query the acronym. We’ve had customers say: “your solution has Buy Now, why does the acronym stop short of that?”. It’s a good point as most CPQ systems assist search by filtering portfolios, shape demand, incentivize users, link to CRM systems, show stock and Buy Now (Add to Host Cart).

Our version of CPQ…

  • Single Sign On
  • Product Location
  • BOM Import/Paste
  • Demand Shaping
  • Configuration
  • Solution Journeys
  • Competitive (selling against)
  • Pricing
  • Bundles
  • Incentive (rewards)
  • Quotation
  • Send to CRM
  • Buy Now

Not exactly snappy but don’t discount CPQ because you think it’s just slots, bays and quotes.

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Canalys Channels Forum Review

October 17, 2018

The largest independent Channel Event in EMEA

channelcentral was an emerging vendor sponsor for the Canalys EMEA Channels Forum this year, and we had a terrific response at this year’s fantastic event in Barcelona. Greg Starks (CSO) and Dan Mason (CTO) represented channelcentral on the 9-11th of October, with Tim Moyle (CEO) also managing to attend part of the event! It was a very busy few days and a perfect opportunity to meet multiple customers and prospects in a very well organised, structured and desirable setting: the stunning Hotel Arts near the beach (see image).

If you are unfamiliar with Canalys events:

The Canalys Channels Forums are major independent events for IT channel partners across EMEA, APAC and LATAM. The events bring together major technology vendors, distributors and resellers to discuss industry trends, forge new business relationships and create sales opportunities. Our emphasis on high-quality content, top-level speakers and innovative ideas and platforms has enabled us to grow and become the world’s largest independent IT channel events.

At Canalys we can meet new, old and existing customers. This is a wonderful opportunity to expose our brand and services to Manufacturers & Channel Partners in attendance. For new customers we meet at Canalys, we can explain how our services work and how we can possibly benefit their company. It builds a strong foundation for a relationship between two businesses.

I really enjoyed meeting customers, new and old. It’s a great opportunity to get feedback on what we’re getting right and what we need to improve on. Also probing for opportunities to deliver new complementary services.
Tim Moyle, CEO, channelcentral.net Limited

In addition to some great meetings with vendors, we were able to demonstrate our boost! data service to several resellers. This allows resellers who have customer-facing web stores to dramatically improve the user experience for customers purchasing servers, storage and networking. Resellers consume the boost! service data, then use our “Attach Patterns” to create a very easy-to-use interface for attaching common/popular options to the base system, integrated seamlessly into their web store. boost! supports HPE Servers, Storage and Networking, and Dell “Stock and Sell” servers, with more brands coming soon.
Greg Starks, Chief Strategy Officer, channelcentral.net Limited

Thanks again to everyone involved in Canalys, and we hope to see you next year.

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Annual Company Meeting #11

October 2, 2018

31st July 2018 saw channelcentral complete its 11th year of trading. Once the dust had settled on the Annual Accounts, we held a Company Meeting in our Tewkesbury Office for all staff. Aside from discussing the financial results and outlook it was an opportunity to welcome new starters, hand out some awards and review what our staff think of channelcentral via our annual Company Survey:

• In part due to “re-on-shoring” some of our Development function, our net headcount increase over the last 6 months is 8 heads. channelcentral has 33 Employees (including sub-contractors). 5 years ago that number was 10. Now we have 10 Developers!

• 5 of our 33 Employees either have been, or still are, Apprentices. Another 2 either have been, or are, Undergraduate Placements.

• Via our Company Survey we improved in almost all areas. 100% felt satisfied or very satisfied in their jobs.

We handed out awards to:

  • 5 employees who have reached 3 Years of Service.
  • 2 employees who have reached 5 Years of Service.
  • 1 employee who has reached 10 Years of Service, and has therefore earned a sabbatical.

This year’s award was themed “Snapchat Selfies”.

‘We would like to thank all of our customers, and key suppliers without whom we would not have succeeded thus far.’Tim Moyle CEO

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SEVEN Dysfunctional User Experiences Buying Services Online

September 25, 2018

If you’re selling services as an attach to IT products, you need to make it as easy as possible. Users will have searched, researched and selected a product, but without a service the user may be reliant on basic warranty that rarely matches the need or product lifecycle.

So when you’re purchasing that product it’s absolutely essential that attaching a service, potentially from a large list of services, is obvious, easy, intuitive, appropriate. It’s a shame that’s rarely the case and here are the main eCommerce blunders that users often experience:

1. Duo: a site is so poorly structured or has terrible data management that you have to buy the product, then circle back to find a service (often from a different web site), buy it as a separate journey, often to the same basket. And if you get it wrong…

2. Mashup: when looking for a service you have to trawl through all of the hardware accessories and software add-ons to find services.

3. Bookworm: there are so many services offered that you are reading dozens of part descriptions trying to decode them and select the best one for your budget.

4. TLA: product descriptions that use so many proprietary acronyms that part of your buying experience is Googling acronyms.

5. Shapeless: random parts in random order with no element of what the Manufacturer or Retailer would recommend.

6. Tumbleweed: literally nothing compatible is shown at all.

7. Cat Food: sites that use “Big Data” often offer items as complementary that are totally irrelevant. Cat food with your Laptop?

CPQ Applications or CPQ Data Services can fix this. Compatibility, recommendations, plain English filters, acronym ‘expanders’, consistent descriptions even through to Device as a Service plans. No more Cat Food.

Attaching services to products is a huge market opportunity for Manufacturers and Channel Partners. Very simple actions can drive major advances in user experience and ultimately Sales.

Click here for channelcentral CPQ Services

Click here for channelcentral boost! Data Services

 

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Engage & Grow update in iQuote

July 17, 2018

Engage and Grow is an increasingly popular Sales Program for Hewlett Packard Enterprise’s Channel. For years, the points rewarded as part of the Program have been recognised from iQuote sales.

With the Worldwide popularity of iQuote and the Engage and Grow Sales Program, it was felt that better visibility of the points available to the Sales Rep was needed when producing a quotation.

As such, a modification has been made in iQuote to allow users to see their Engage & Grow points when navigating through the Configure, Price, Quote Software. A breakdown of points will also be shown in a summary modal dialogue within the basket.

Engage and Grow Points in iQuoteThis visibility should serve to make the Sales Program more successful and increase the opportunity for reward to HPE Partners.

Login to iQuote today and start realising the benefits!

iQuote is developed for Hewlett Packard Enterprise by http://www.channelcentral.net