Posts Tagged ‘channelcentral.net’

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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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Building a Case for CPQ

October 11, 2018


If you are a stakeholder for a CPQ System, at some point you will have to justify the investment. Don’t wait until you are asked, build your case in advance. You’re looking for a CPQ System to solve a problem that exists. Try to be specific and avoid business cases that can be easily challenged: “we need to improve our ease of business” or “all of the people that have the knowledge are retiring”. Almost certainly true but hard to hang a number on.

A good CPQ Vendor will guide customers into areas where there are financial benefits to be had. At channelcentral the main value we see is attach selling, which we improve by use of “guided selling” motions. A secondary value is reducing the workload of skilled knowledge workers. If were looking to build a case, on behalf of a customer, we might look at:

Attach Rate Improvements

Choose what could be described as run-rate business. Assume a quote win rate. Look at how a CPQ System could improve the Pitch Rate (#times something is quoted with a parent product) and make a range of assumptions. Apply margins. If the gain is more than the outlay: there’s ROI. Your company may insist on a minimum level of ROI to invest in a project: find out what that is.

Example:
System Quote Value per Month: $1M
Attach Value %age per Month: 50% so Total Quote Value $1.5M
Success Rate: 33% = $500k Sales
Increase the %age by 10%: Total Quote Value now $1.6M ($33k incremental business)
Net Margin on $33k say 40% = $13.2k
Cost of CPQ: $2k per Month.
ROI: $11.2k.

The Net Margin figure should be higher than normal as the variable costs associated with attaching to an existing order are low.

Skilled Knowledge Worker Improvements

Through audit it’s possible to calculate an average ‘cost per quote’ for a business. Sales time plus technical resources, re-quote count etc. Estimate the minimum quotation value that makes sense to your business and anything that doesn’t meet that level needs to be either a Customer or Sales quotation. Then re-calculate the cost per quote versus $margin.

An interesting side-effect is that our experience has showed the deal pipeline that the Skilled Knowledge Worker manages often goes UP not DOWN. This is because their availability is better to manage large deals. Instead of spinning in the Hamster Wheel of low value, low margin deals.

If you are wondering why we do this ‘with a customer’ rather than ‘for a customer’ the answer is simple: you need access to figures that most Companies wouldn’t share: raw margin and employee costs. We could make assumptions but they wouldn’t be accurate.

Lastly, don’t be afraid to ask customers to self-quote. Many of them will gladly do this (if it’s easy, available and comprehensive) and if your system uses Single Sign On you can identify them and follow up. Some won’t do it which is OK: use Sales.

Building an ROI case doesn’t need to feel like hard work.

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Avoiding ‘Tax on Use’ in CPQ Billing

October 9, 2018


Lots of channelcentral’s competitors use a Software Licensing billing methodology: cost per seat usually. Some bill based on utilization: the more you use the tool, the more you pay. It’s proportionate. It’s fair. It’s also madness; here’s why:

• Customers don’t like variable costs, at all.
• If you, or your customer, is trying to promote the use of CPQ tools versus manual ways to provide quotations to customers then why tax on use?
• Does adding a customer, or processing a quote, cost a CPQ Company anything?
• Win/Win billing systems (e.g. taking a commission from orders) quickly turn into Lose/Win or Win/Lose.

From the outset channelcentral set out to avoid ‘Tax on Use’. An annual subscription covers the cost of the service and includes the license, hosting, support and IT integration services. It includes unlimited utilization by Employees and Customers. Those subscribers know exactly what they were going to pay for the contracted term. Customers like predictable costs.

The more the customer uses the CPQ Application the lower the cost per quote or transaction. If channelcentral improves the functionality of the CPQ Application, resulting in better results or greater utilization – the subscriber is getting ‘More for the Same’.

On a similar thread some of our competitors have different costs for different feature sets. This is a stealth tax – demanding higher costs for features that already exist and don’t really cost more to add. Having a fully inclusive service for a customer adds to the subscription feel and generates greater goodwill and loyalty.

channelcentral’s experience is that its subscription model promotes higher utilization and delivers better results, with less complexity than models that tax on use.

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Auto-Add: Friend or Foe

October 4, 2018

A common technique in Configure Price Quote systems is to automatically add something to the Shopping Cart once a ‘parent system’ is loaded by the user. Unless the Manufacturer mandates the addition it can easily be removed or displaced. Question is: if the software, hardware or service is not mandatory why add it in the first place? Common answers:

1. It’s recommended by the Manufacturer or Channel Partner.
2. You’re probably going to add it anyway.
3. People are forgetful.

The real answer though is: it delivers significant improvement in ‘pitch rate’ and this ultimately leads to an improvement in ‘attach rate’. Pitch being what is quoted, Attach being what is sold. channelcentral has seen up to 100% increases in pitch rates with Auto Add. Yes it’s a blunt instrument but hey.

Friend or foe? It’s about making the recommendations relevant and appropriate. If you are trying to attach a $2,000 service to a $500 System Unit it will most likely end in ‘serial deselection’ by users and a few complaints to boot. If you are adding several items to the Shopping Cart the user will be confused and abandon.

Get it right and you’ll see numbers improve, get it wrong and utilization could suffer. Better still analyse deselections and what products are commonly used to displace the auto-add. Continuous improvement. Make it easy to remove but make it as easy to add an alternative product (use Top Recommended Options or Product Sub-Filters to help the user).

Auto-add: friend if done right, foe if not.