Archive for the ‘Quote Software’ Category

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CPQ user authentication for eCommerce plugins for the IT Channel

November 6, 2019

Facilitating secure business interactions

Hidden connections between a CPQ application and an eCommerce platform are now commonplace in the IT Channel, facilitating a vast number of transactions daily.  channelcentral has worked hard to create a seamless, yet ultimately secure, integration process for its customers and their users using SAML (Security Assertion Markup Language). SAML is fast becoming an industry standard for for communicating identities across the internet.

How does this work?

It’s complicated, but put simply – SAML handles authentication negotiations between three separate parties:

  • An Identity Provider, in this example a CPQ Host (e.g. a Distributor).
  • A SAML Service Provider, in this example a CPQ application plugin provider (i.e. channelcentral)
  • A User – an employee or customer of the Identity Provider (Distributor or Reseller).

The authentication process is as follows:

  1. The user is presented to the CPQ plugin provider (channelcentral in this case) when they click a link.
  2. Assuming the user request was valid, the plugin provider sends a token back to the user (invisibly).
  3. The token is routed automatically to the CPQ Host (Distributor) for confirmation of validity.
  4. The CPQ Host either declines (in which case the user is prevented from accessing the CPQ application e.g. iQuote, PowerQuote, Market Pro) or successfully authenticates the user and issues a new token.
  5. The new token is received by channelcentral and user is granted access.

Distributor control

So, what are the main benefits of introducing SAML authentication into the login process?

  • The CPQ Host, i.e. the Distributor, controls who accesses what. If the Distributor withdraws a service, access can be prevented, even if links still exist in their eCommerce store (or an old email that someone has found).
  • Importantly, it also prevents people/competitors spoofing the Distributor’s users to see their pricing/stock.
  • Improved deployment speed – being a widely-accepted standard, SAML allows interoperability between the highest possible range of back-end systems within the IT Channel.

Does your CPQ provider take user authentication as seriously as channelcentral, when plugging applications in to external eCommerce?  For more information on CPQ user authentication contact us at marketing@channelcentral.net

CPQ user authentication

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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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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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SIX Ways to Transform Ease of Business

April 4, 2019

Most companies would identify with this particular statement: “We want to be easier to do business with.”

It’s how to become easier to do business with; that’s the challenge, not deciding it’s a good thing. In the CPQ market we believe the following are solutions to that challenge:

1. Replace disjointed and labour intensive processes with smooth, accurate and where possible, automated processes. Moving from spreadsheets to online systems provides behavioral insights that help you improve your processes. Good sales come from good processes.

2. Open all hours. Make your ‘closed’ sign redundant. Allowing 24 x 7 access to your sales tools not only stretches the sales window, but also means customers can work when they want to, not just when you do.

3. Replace email ping-pong with slick workflows. Identify clunky processes which result in endless email replying. Who likes mail trails with 30 replies? Nobody. Deploy slick workflows to simplify more complex buying processes. If you are working on a document or proposal why not look to collaborate online instead of mailing edited files to other indefinitely?

4. Surface key buying decisions together: stock, price, promotion in your sales tools. Alt-tabbing between apps is the modern day ‘swivel chair’. Consolidate data. If it costs, say $20, to do a quote, why do five different quotes to win one deal?

5. Introduce guided buying. Don’t always expect your customer to start with a blank canvas. Use starter kits, bundles, solutions, templates etc. to save time. Apply machine learning to improve the quality of these shortcuts.

6. Utilize your Business Information (BI). Decisions based on real data is better than guessing what your customers want. Use their data to improve their user experience.

Ease of business doesn’t improve with one giant investment, it’s lots of tiny steps and the odd leap.

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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/