Posts Tagged ‘CPQ Software’

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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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Information is power: talk like a ‘Techie’, sell like a ‘Tiger’

April 18, 2019

Occasionally, staff at channelcentral are lucky enough to meet our CPQ users, where they share their experiences using our CPQ Tools. Instead of guessing what our CPQ users really value, they simply tell us. Genius.

Our CPQ users generally fall in to two categories:

  1. Sales people – our key target audience. Working in the IT sector, but generalist sales people, good with people, strong admin skills and well organized.
  2. Technical people – to a lesser extent our target audience. Depth of technical knowledge. When they use our tools, we’re in some ways prouder.

For some applications Sales people are our primary target audience. Here’s why:

One of our users recently told our CEO that she loves our CPQ Applications because clients don’t expect her to know the answers to technical pre-sales questions, which she can look up quickly within product technical specifications, in our CPQ application. When she can answer almost instantly, they’re amazed; she’s triumphant.

She has worked out that knowledge trumps pre-conception. Nobody expects her to know the answer, they fully expect her to go away and find out. They expect to wait hours or days to progress their project or purchase. She can quote independently in real-time.

Provide people with the right information, in the right tool and you are enabling anyone to be expert in any industry – and to be able to deliver customers information when they need it.

Combine knowledge with sales ability. You’re a tiger.

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Configure Price Quote: Call Center Integrations

April 10, 2019

It’s pretty much standard for Manufacturers to use Call Centers to supplement the work their Distributors do, to create demand for their products. Whether that’s inbound or outbound the principle is the same: a Call Center person is talking to a Reseller (Retailer) about a potential deal, which often leads to a quotation.

In the case of a Reseller, they’ll no doubt receive an email from the Call Center with the call to action: “Contact your Distributor for stock and price.” Weeks or even months later: “Did you end up buying that product?”.

Seriously. In 2019. This is how things work.

channelcentral has a different approach:

  1. Deploy the same CPQ platform in your Call Center as in your Distribution tier. Surface stock levels per Distributor in the Call Center CPQ instance.
  2. Create a workflow to allow Call Center Users to email quotes ‘off the system’ to the Reseller.
  3. Include links to transact the quote in Distributors’ Web Stores OR to edit the quote in the CPQ application that is embedded in the Web Stores. Choose one or many Distributors for each country.
  4. Record everything and report it.

Placing the CPQ application in the Reseller tier allows the same awesome workflow, but for end user interactions.

It’s 2019. This is how things should work. Seriously.

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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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Application Punchout: Five Best Practices

February 28, 2019

In a recent Blog channelcentral discussed how using CPQ Data could drive a seamless user experience when configuring products within a Web Store. For those companies that don’t have the IT Development bandwidth to execute front end CPQ application, but still want to offer product configuration within their Web Store a “Punchout” is still the best solution. Punchouts are also referred to as Plug-Ins – for these purposes they are the same thing.

Here are five best practices based on channelcentral’s experience of working with Channel organizations:

Branding
If it’s possible: replicate your branding on the application you punchout to. If it’s not possible, use the branding from the provider or supplier with co-branding. Don’t do something in the middle it never works well and as Companies change brand as frequently as every 7 years, it’s likely you’ll get caught in a re-brand every 3.5 years (one for you, one for them).

Dynamic Data
Try to get dynamic data such as price and inventory in synch with your punchout application. Use Web Services to feed data in real-time. Otherwise the user can’t see valuable decision criteria in the punchout application, or worse, sees different data. There’s a reason you show stock and price in your Web Store, so there’s a reason you should show it in satellite applications.

Single Sign On (SSO)
“I need another login” said NO-ONE ever. If you are going to send a user from your Web Store to a punchout, let them know (include the legal stuff e.g. GDPR) and provide them with seamless access. No login screen.

No Hiding
If you’ve made the decision to add an application to your Web Store it’s because you believe it will help users and drive results. So when you place the link to it deep inside a complex, cascading menu system it’s going to rely on a fairly determined user to find it. Here are some other ideas:

  • Use banner adverts or site sidebars (if your site supports them).
  • Promote the tool in Blogs, Emails, Newsletters, Email Signatures etc.
  • Where relevant use “deep linking” so if the user is browsing a product in your Web Store and your punchout application adds value to that product, link from your catalogue.

Checkout
Once the user has used the punchout application, drive them back to your Web Store. Add to Cart, continue shopping, checkout. Go beyond just export or share.

With the right APIs all of the above can be achieved using relatively simple, yet secure industry standard techniques. All of channelcentral’s applications are designed to be hosted by a Web Store.

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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.