Archive for the ‘Channel Business’ Category

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Different Strokes – selecting CPQ solutions to work for your audiences

March 21, 2019

It’s obvious, but when creating any product or service, the target market or audience is a fundamental consideration in the design process. Designing software is no different, and for Configure Price Quote (CPQ) Software there’s an additional complication: there are at least two audiences.

Let’s consider how to develop CPQ applications to satisfy two users. It is different for each user and here’s why (by example):

If your organization has selected, designed and implemented a CPQ Platform, it’s likely to have been a huge investment, touching all parts of your IT. However, if you are relying on a 3rd party application per Manufacturer, the investment is much lower. A third party application usually requires the user experience to be simplified, maybe sacrificing some functionality or number of configurations/workflows supported.

Knowing this is critical when selecting a CPQ Vendor.

Thanks to Frank Sohn of Novus CPQ Consulting, an independent CPQ Consultant, who had shared this observation on the Novus CPQ Circle Community;

http://novuscpq.com/cpq-circle-community/

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Charity Work at channelcentral

February 21, 2019

Back in 2016 staff asked channelcentral to create a Charity Committee. Since then two charities have been supported: SNAP! and Special Effect.

These charities are local to channelcentral’s offices in the UK. The Committee felt that our support would make a greater difference to their operations, than a National Charity. Furthermore, the Charities resonate with channelcentral’s own skills and experience. The donations are based on staff fund raising which is matched by the Company. Charities:

  • SNAP! provides support for the parents of children with special needs.
  • Special Effect uses high tech solutions to allow people with severe disabilities to enjoy computer gaming.

channelcentral has also made one-off contributions to International Relief Organizations following the Houston and Guatemala natural disasters.

Recent charitable fundraising success
In the last financial year fundraising included a WII Sports Challenge, Spring Clean Sale, Summer BBQ and Pop Quizzes.

Time for Giving
In addition each staff member can take one working day a year, away from the workplace, to undertake charitable work or volunteering. Staff can also spend time selling off old Computer assets on eBay to raise money (including the work to securely wipe all data).

Flexibility
Since 2016 we’ve listened to staff and changed our policy accordingly. Every charity event is optional. Staff can apply for funding for other charities and we’ve extended that to sponsorship. We’ve also put in guaranteed values so that not everything is dependent on staff fundraising.

Tim Moyle, CEO, actively encourages the company’s charitable efforts:

‘Our aim as a company is to have a positive impact on our customers’ businesses and staff; our charity activities are an extension of this. To see the work that our charities undertake is so impressive, and so rewarding to see our staff connecting across the organization, in a way that might not happen otherwise.’

We believe that we are making a difference to people who are supported by our Charities.

More Info:
channelcentral page: Charity

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Back to basics – getting product descriptions right

January 31, 2019

In trying to fix the complicated problems, it’s sometimes easy to forget to fix the simpler ones. In 1934, Percy Shaw patented the reflective road stud, more commonly known as the ‘cat’s eye’, and made a small fortune by (allegedly) earning a royalty each time one was sold. Simple technology, but hugely effective in keeping the driver ‘on track’ in the dark, and still used today.

Is there anything simpler than the description that is applied to a product?
Simple, but accurate and informative product descriptions result in fewer returns and better customer satisfaction.

If you are called Radical Cycles and you release a model called the Gravel Buster, a man’s Trail bike, available in Black or Blue in various frame sizes – don’t you just concatenate the data?

Radical Gravel Buster (55cm) Blue Men’s Trail Bike

Why might this be difficult for eCommerce or CPQ applications?
Accepting that not all products and their descriptions are this simple, particularly in the IT sector, there are other challenges:

  • Legacy IT is not your friend. When storing long strings was problematic, Product Managers used to have to work within 16 character, or similar, limits. This often resulted in holding multiple descriptions often creating more issues than it solved.
  • When faced with a very low character limit, the use of acronyms, which are understood by Product Managers, but sadly not by anyone else.

Poor descriptions creating havoc
This is a product description from one of the World’s largest Software Vendors, dated January 2019: CCSN,ALL,MLP,ERR01,EUW,001,N/A,1 YR ESD

It’s hard to know where to start, but not having the Vendor’s name is a problem. Nor the product name. Another issue is that a comma is often used as a delimiter (separator) in databases, so even just importing this is an issue.

Eliminate guesswork
If you are operating a Web Store, just getting good, consistent descriptions is a problem. channelcentral recently helped a Retailer locate a better, free data source, than the one they were paying for. The issue was that with poor product descriptions, customers had started to guess the appropriate service for a product, resulting in costly returns. The availability of improved product descriptions has removed the need for guesswork.

Always focussed on turning complexity into simplicity in the IT Channel through its CPQ applications and data services, channelcentral continually innovates to improve the customer experience, keeping the user ‘on track’.

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How CPQ Fuels PC as a Service (PCaaS) Growth

January 15, 2019

The enormous growth of PCaaS that is predicted over the next five years offers both opportunities and complexities for vendors and their Channel. Configure Price Quote (CPQ) applications designed specifically for the IT Channel can provide a competitive advantage to multi-channel sales vendors to meet their customer requirements throughout this cycle of growth.

Market Predictions: the market for selling Personal Computers (PCs) as a Service was worth over a $10bn in 2017. This is widely forecast to be worth an amazing $140bn by 2023. It’s very likely that this will be dominated by large deals for large companies who crave operational expenditure (OPEX) over capital expenditure (CAPEX) but also see value in Manufacturer Services that can lower operational costs, especially on low level tactical IT activities. However, smaller organizations also desire these expenditure preferences, so it is widely expected that growth in smaller deals will form part of that $140bn. CPQ applications for multi-channel sales will be key in facilitating this growth.

Monthly Pricing: imagine going into a store where everything is priced monthly? You don’t need to imagine – just go to a mobile phone store! By contrast, when buying a PC, with a few exceptions, everything is currently priced as an outright purchase. Financing PCs isn’t new, but applying a monthly price to a product isn’t in itself PCaaS. The Service wrapper is a key component of the user experience. However, not everyone thinks the monthly payment is always a user requirement.

Understanding Quoting Complexities: we understand PCaaS and we recognize the market opportunity and the cascade from large organizations to small. The problem is that quoting PCaaS is more complex than a traditional CAPEX sale AND what’s worse is that the user may want two quotes – one for CAPEX, one for PCaaS:

  • CAPEX: cost of PC & Services plus margin = sales price. Some additional effort if “Deal” pricing or bundles are in play.
  • OPEX: cost of PC & Services plus Monitoring/Support Services plus margin plus Finance, plus margin.

There’s a further complication for Sellers: if a sale is on a CAPEX basis, the Buyer renews when the PC is retired, lost, stolen or broken. When a sale is made on the PCaaS basis, the PC is retired when the Finance and/or Service expires. These options offer opportunities but also complexity.

Simplifying with CPQ: can help reduce complexity. channelcentral services allow users to simply select the products, the suite of services required to support PCaaS and has always provided indicative finance costs on three to five year terms. Other CPQ companies specialize in asset management.

Without CPQ solutions, life could become much more complex – just as everyone is driving simplicity.

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Forrester Global Channels

December 7, 2018

channelcentral is thrilled to be included in Forrester’s Channel Software Tech Stack for 2019. The channel technology stack is a group of technologies that brands leverage to manage and improve their indirect sales processes and partner programs.

We’re delighted Forrester positions channelcentral in the Finance category. It is important to us that the Applications and Data Services we provide make a positive financial impact for our customers. We sit alongside some impressive names including Oracle, SAP and PROs. In addition we feel that we make a significant contribution to Channel Enablement and Data categories in the sector.

Jay McBain: Principal Analyst, Global Channels at Forrester is extremely active in promoting the Channel’s role in helping Manufacturers reach Consumers.

On Jay’s cool infographic there’s lots of information about the 106 Software Companies featured. https://go.forrester.com/blogs/channel-software-tech-stack-2019-infographic/

How does channelcentral compare?

  • We’re one of 14 companies categorized as Finance.
  • At 33 employees we’re below the average of <100 people. There are some very large organizations on the list.
  • We’re one of the 23% of companies NOT headquartered in the US. Nearly a third are in California! So Silicon Valley is alive and kicking.
  • At 11 years old we’re below the average company age of 19 years. However, that number is inflated by three companies that are >100 years old, including one from the nineteenth century.
  • With all original owners in tact we have not been part of any M&A (Mergers and Acquisition) activity.

channelcentral fully respects all of the companies that made Forrester’s list. Some we compete with, others we complement. It’s quite astounding that so many people work to support Channel Business around the Globe. We also value the work of Jay McBain and the team at Forrester.

Forrester comments:

“The channel is growing significantly, and brands need advanced (and integrated) purpose-built tools based on the latest technologies such as cloud, mobility, social, predictive analytics, and big data.”

channelcentral feels well positioned to meet and exceed this requirement – our key strength is our expertise and ability to take complex data sets and provide user friendly tools that provide fast, accurate and relevant product and service quotations for Manufacturers, Resellers and Distributors in the IT Channel. channelcentral services enable companies in the IT Channel to become more efficient, profitable and easier to do business with.

Note: for disclosure channelcentral does not subscribe to Forrester’s services (at time of writing).

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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/