Blog Category: CPQ Readiness

The CPQ Implementation Guide and Avoiding Common Pitfalls

This CPQ Implementation guide was designed to give a general overview of the process from start to finish and how to navigate challenges, and optimize your CPQ project.

Implementing a Configure, Price, Quote (CPQ) solution for manufacturers is an exciting time for everyone involved. The business is heading towards a sustainable, flexible, and scalable future. This future enables smooth quoting processes while also focusing on exact customer requirements they have come to expect in their everyday purchasing, speed, ease, and accuracy 

This is a truly exciting time for many customers, but of course, there are worries and fears of a CPQ implementation going wrong.  Let’s take a deep dive into how Configure, Price, Quote software projects can be started on the right foot in our CPQ implementation guide. We’ve broken it down into three categories, define, develop and deploy. In addition to an implementation guide, we’ve also provided some challenges companies have faced when implementing and how to address them!  

The CPQ Implementation Guide Step 1: Define your project  

Setting your teams up for success by defining goals before the project starts is an essential way to clearly state where the project should head and even timelines.  All implementation projects need to start with planning and definition. The objective of the first phase is to reach a joint agreement about the project. It consists of one or more workshops to determine the functional needs of the solution, and it also forms the basis for the project budget and timeline.  

Creating a roadmap for success 

For CPQ implementations, there’s no one size fits all solution for manufacturers. Projects are unique based on several different factors. That’s why it’s critical to start the project with realistic expectations. Defining pain points, targets and business benefits are some normal expectations. A common issue for manufacturers with CPQ projects is starting with too large of a scope. In a roadmap workshop creating the minimal viable product (MVP) is important. The MVP usually starts by planning a phased rollout where it begins with one integration, one product, or one market.

Another key process for a successful roadmap is talking to the different users of the CPQ. For instance, sales and engineering will probably use the product in different ways, making it important to take into consideration their insights for a successful rollout. Including someone who understands the inner workings of the various systems you use will also help enable a smooth process.  

Define your users 

CPQ is a solution that can go beyond just helping your sales team. Of course, your sales team will be able to sell faster, produce accurate quotes, and more, but did you know engineering, and even marketing can be impacted positively by CPQ? 

Going beyond the typical quote to cash journey involves enabling not only sales to use CPQ but others. Your marketing team can use visual CPQ, often called visual configuration, or visualization directly on your website to provide photo-realistic images of your product, engaging the buyer before even speaking with a sales rep.  

Engineers can use CAD Automation to quickly generate drawings and files based on any configuration. Even non-technical sales reps will be able to configure products using guided selling and needs-based questions. Knowing who will be the end-user of your CPQ solution will enable you to select features that are best suited for how you do business. 

Define your KPIs 

A logical step in your CPQ implementation would be to pick some key performance indicators (KPIs) to map out major goals. Some common goals we see with our manufacturing customers: 

  • Sell highly configurable products faster 
  • Reduce order errors 
  • Increase deal sizes 
  • Increase time to production
  • Give 100% accurate customer quotes
  • Define possible integrations 

Define product features and integrations  

CPQ comes with a host of integrations to CRM, ERP, PLM, and more, knowing which of these processes you’d like to integrate with at the start of your project will help you avoid manual workWhen selecting a CPQ, make sure they have standard integrations to the essential systems you need to integrate to. Focus only on crucial integrations in the early phases to allow for a quick return on investment. Add the additional integrations in later phases and do separate ROI calculations for the specific integrations. 

Discover how CPQ fits with your existing systems in our eBook

Additional options may be needed for some but not others, such as visual configuration. For some sellers, a bill of material may not be good enough for an end customer to decide to purchase the product. Some items simply need to be seen before they are purchased, and visualization can speed that up. While others who sell services such as motors are more concerned with the output than the visuals. This and more don’t need to be selected early in the process but can help you convince customers even more.  

CPQ Implementation Guide Step 2: Develop Documentation 

Documentation can be a slippery slope when it comes to where manufacturers’ data is stored. Common places for data to be stored are in excel sheets and even veteran team members’ heads. successful CPQ implementation will have all this data in one place, so finding it is critical.  

A great way to do this is to start again in increments. Selecting one product for instance, and gathering all the data tables, UI fields, and configuration logic will show how the process should work optimally. Deciding this will help prioritize the scope of the data.  

CPQ Implementation Guide Step 3: Launch  

The final step in the CPQ implementation is the deploy phase. Planning for a CPQ rollout has some common qualities and should be planned well in advance of the launch. Here are some common questions asked about the rollout: 

  • How will users be trained? 
  • How will you market it internally? 
  • Following up on KPIs 
  • Where do users report issues and get support?  
  • How is success measured? 

Avoiding common challenges 

CPQ purchases can be an exciting time for manufacturers. Akin to turning over a new leaf from the old way products were sold to a new faster, more efficient way to work. Not only will your team be able to ensure accuracy but also enable your customers to get their products fast as their accustomed to.  

So why are there so many horror stories of failed CPQ projects? Those failures can mean a lot of things too expensive, data issues, technology limitations and more. Luckily, we’ve got a whole blog on why they fail, (Read: 10 Reasons why CPQ Projects Fail), but let’s highlight some of the main topics.  

Management isn’t fully invested in the product 

Involving different parts of your organization isn’t easy but addressing the requirements of each group will help the project succeed. CPQ being a knowledge-based tool needs the knowledge from different departments to succeed. Backing from senior management is essential, to allow for prioritization of the implementation of the CPQ over the day-to-day business tasks for all these organizations, including the busy experts. 

Lack of user adoption  

Let’s face it, if your investment isn’t being used by your team, your CPQ project is very likely to fail. Some common causes of this is the new project not being well integrated into their workflows or the configurator is confusing and slower than how they were selling before. Making sure all these concerns are addressed will help your users feel comfortable working with CPQ. Training with CPQ is a great way to get your team to acclimate to the project and show the benefits of using the software in real-time.  

Scope creep 

Scope creep is an uncontrolled growth in a project’s scope after the project has begun. This is very common in CPQ projects as you learn about and define processes that quite often were never documented before. Therefore, it’s important to define project objectives early in the project and refer to them as much as possible when deciding on changes to the project. It’s also important to have a defined change control process, with a steering group that has backing from senior management. There’s no easy solution to scope creep but being aware of the problem is essential. 

Losing focus on customercentricity  

CPQ enables you to get more out of your internal processes, faster quoting, better accuracy, and a better sales pitch. This is great, but sometimes companies lose track of how it can help customers. A well-designed CPQ project helps enable your company to utilize not only CPQ but visual configuration and Design automation to keep the focus on expediting the customer buying experience while providing realistic expectations that keep them coming back.  

Bad data quality 

A good sales configurator will use your product data existing in current systems. But how good is the quality of that data today? Do you have an organization in which all knowledge is stored in people’s heads and documentation is missing? As stated above, the output from the configurator will never be better than the input, which means you need to make an inventory of your product data and documentation. You might need to structure and systemize your product data before selecting or implementing sales configuration software. If you don’t, the implementation will probably take much longer than expected, and changes in the tool will be done multiple times back and forth before being able to release. 

Underestimating the rollout 

Not planning the rollout phase is a challenge that can be avoided by planning the rollout at the beginning of the project. Not having qualified support, or measurable KPIs can lead to challenges during the rollout phase of the project.  

A CPQ implementation with proper guidance can make all the difference  

CPQ can be the first step in your journey to a truly customer-centric digital buying and selling journey. The best way to implement this process is with software experts like the ones at Tacton who have a proven track record of engaging not only your employees but your customers and maximizing your investment in CPQ. 

We hope this CPQ implementation guide helped you narrow down your search. Whether you’re at the beginning of the process of searching for CPQ or getting ready to implement, Tacton has you covered from start to finish. If you’d like to learn more schedule your personalized demo and creating your roadmap to successful product implementation.  

Who are the Typical CPQ Users? That Answer May Surprise You

cpq users

Who uses CPQ? This is  a question that gets asked a lot more and more these days as Configure, Price, Quote solutions become the norm for many manufacturers

Many manufacturers have started their digital transformation journeys and defining their CPQ users has become an integral part of their success. Many companies begin their engineering and sales team as the initial CPQ users, but did you know that it’s possible to extend the solution to different departments of your business? Let’s take a look at some unexpected beneficiaries of CPQ.

CPQ Users 1: Sales

The rapid shift to online buying and selling has been a bumpy ride for some manufacturers. Without CPQ your sales team has to use manual processes to create the custom, complex products your customer wants. This manual process leads to long response times, inaccurate quotes, and an unhappy customer. This doesn’t even account for the high costs of training new sales reps on an increasingly complex product catalog. Often times customers are looking for a more visual experience, that isn’t offered in many sales pitches by manufacturers.

All of those challenges for the sales organization can be solved with CPQ. It’s possible to connect every process together for a streamlined buying experience ensuring that sales always delivers the right quotes and sells a deliverable product. Even your newest sales rep with the help of guided selling can quickly become an expert on the product because CPQ creates only accurate products and even CAD drawings to show customers. Enhancing the customer experience is possible with visualization that shows the final product in the real-world environment where it will be placed.

Discover how connecting processes can make your sales cycle, faster and more appealing to customers

CPQ User 2: Marketing

Understanding the manufacturing brand and connecting customers to create a profitable pipeline for sales isn’t always an easy task for the marketing team at manufacturing companies. With an online and high-touch buying journey for customers. Meeting these customers with a personalized experience for a great experience is the goal. This turns into high-quality leads for the sales team. But how can manufacturing go from B2B to a B2C experience?

That’s right, CPQ with visualization extends the custom product configuration to customers directly from a manufacturers’ website. Just like Nike does with their custom shoes, manufacturers are beginning to do with their products. Now that customers have the stunning, and accurate visual of their product it’s critical to capitalize on their interest. Self-service is another important aspect of marketing. With self-service customers will be able to start the process of buying a product, that is actually configurable, before even talking with the sales team. This may sound not so great for your sales team, but capturing interest via self-service will help sell to an existing or new customer while allowing more time to deal with bigger accounts.

Learn more about how visualization is enhancing the eCommerce experience

CPQ User 3: Engineering

With so much back and forth between engineering and sales on product specs, technical requirements, and more it’s important to try and streamline this process to enable engineers to work on creating innovative products instead of time-consuming administrative tasks. This doesn’t even account for the management of seemingly infinite product variations that need multiple systems to manage the data.

Streamlining and digitalizing these commercial, engineering, and factory processes with CPQ gives the users one source of data truth. That’s because CAD automation enables engineering and sales to deliver product specifications that can actually be produced. Being able to quickly and effectively solve technical product variance challenges using accurate product data and analytics can be another added bonus of CPQ.

Check out how CAD automation is helping sales and engineering streamline the sales process

CPQ User 4: The project lead

Identifying the challenges of a digital transformation journey with CPQ requires your digital team to understand the current business challenges, define a clear problem, desired outcome and the time to value. This means managing stakeholders such as marketing, sales, and engineering while navigating the project.

This means reinventing and future-proofing the operation from customer experience to the back office operations for deliverable solutions. Being able to gain a complete understanding of the challenges and articulate them across the organization will enable a fully cross-functional team that utilized CPQ in an optimized way

CPQ User 5: The information and technology teams

Understanding the relationship between operational, informational, IoT, cloud, marketing, sales, and analytic technologies and the importance of strong integrations is critical to a successful CPQ project. Setting the proper strategy and ensuring the right tech is used and adopted throughout the business is a challenge that the IT and tech teams face.

With powerful integration capabilities, CPQ is able to work with any CRM, ERP, PIM, PLM, CAD and eCommerce solutions on the market. These integrations streamline the process for every part of the organization ensuring everyone from sales to factory is working with reliable software.

The more CPQ users the better

To sum it up, the more CPQ is used across the organization the more complete and exciting the journey will be for your customer. Tacton CPQ extends past the typical use of CPQ for just sales or engineering. This value to marketing, project management, IT, and tech will help create full buy-in from the team. Ready to learn more about our holistic digital transformation efforts? Book your custom demo with us today!

Where does CPQ and CAD Fit Into Your System Architecture?

where does cpq fit into your system architecture

Not familiar with CPQ tools? A starting point for digital transformation:

Configure Price Quote (CPQ) tools help manufacturers sell highly configurable products faster and more efficiently. Whether it be direct, partner, or extended online as a customer self-service sales tool, guided (and remote) selling enable anyone to accurately configure complex products and services for prospective customers. CPQ tools help manufacturers ensure correct pricing, deliver personalized and highly customized quotes, and massively reduce the time it takes a salesperson to create a proposal using spreadsheets or other homegrown tools. So Where does CPQ fit into your system architecture?
Manufacturers who choose to implement CPQ tools as part of their digital transformation strategy often find themselves asking how they can fit a new solution in an already existing framework of Customer Relation Management (CRM), Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP), and even eCommerce solutions. A system landscape is a bit like a puzzle that without a clear framework can seem difficult to solve, but once every piece is put correctly into place can be something organizations can see results from quickly. With the massive shift due to COVID-19 manufacturers have learned just how critical it is to find products that can transform operations and work seamlessly within existing business-critical systems.

Fit the pieces together

Creating a harmonious landscape is easier said than done. Without proper thought about how the pieces fit together adopting CPQ tools can become a fools’ errand. That’s why defining how each piece of the landscape puzzle will fit together can give answers to use which product and when. When implemented in your tech stack, CPQ provides the single source of data truth for the entire organization to operate on, regardless of the system they use. While CPQ is the foundational component for manufacturers to sell configurable products, it’s the integrations into the front and back-office systems that truly enable operational efficiency and a seamless customer experience.

The shift from B2B to B2C requires eCommerce for manufacturers

Manufacturers have long created a B2B experience for their customers, focusing on product logic and its features. While this has worked in the past with the analytical buyer focusing on the core competencies of the product. This leads to a long, slow buying journey that would take time to complete a purchase. The rise of companies like Amazon has made customers less likely to wait for satisfaction, they want to know the benefits of your products in seconds, not days or weeks. B2B customers are behaving like B2C customers meaning they want products fast, accurately, visually, and across channels. They refuse to wait for your long sales pitch. Even after the purchase, to keep customers coming back manufacturers must give an excellent omnichannel eCommerce experience.

CPQ is a simple way to execute your eCommerce journey. Embedding a product configurator with visualization right on your website will show how simple and easy it is to get their manufacturing product, no matter the complexity. This is a chance to win on two fronts in the battle for customer engagement. First, customers can configure their product down to the smallest detail without the help of your sales team then request a quote or add to the shopping cart using self-service integrations to buy from anywhere. Self-service creates a shortcut for your customers. Giving both customer and seller a head start on configuration makes the negotiation process easier. This information will be quickly relayed to your CRM systems. Using a CPQ system integrated into an eCommerce platform puts the power of product configuration in the hands of customers, it’s only the beginning of a seamless connected journey.

Driving leads with CRM

From Salesforce to Microsoft Dynamics, CRM systems are the first step in creating a centralized customer experience in manufacturing. Your sales team and marketing team is always hard at work driving leads that can be used to build segmented target audiences. The audiences become relationships that are nurtured and analyzed by creating a robust tracking system.

Once these prospects become interested in your product, they usually always ask for an RFP (request for proposal) based on their product portfolio and provided data.

Often enterprise manufacturers can be slow to adopt digital tools or even know where to start. A CRM is necessary for managing leads, opportunities, and customer contact, but it does not have the functionality required for managing the complex, customized products and services manufacturers sell.

While CRM transforms the way a company sells, a CPQ tool integrated with CRM is required for efficiently selling configurable products. In fact, the recommendation for companies selling industrial products is to implement both at the same time if possible. This avoids the challenges of changing the selling process multiple times within a digital transformation.

Sub-workflow solutioning with CPQ

Now that you’ve passed the first test of getting a customer excited about your product and they give you data to create products it’s important to utilize a CPQ tool to get a quote quickly back to the customer.

Before CPQ it would take days and weeks of back and forth between your sales and engineering teams to create a first quote, let alone an accurate one. CPQ is easy enough to use that anyone can create an accurate foundation for a customer quote. The solutioning is done in a way inside the CPQ tool to create the optimal product based on the needs of the customer. Optimizing a quote for a customer can seem difficult, but it’s easier than ever to do this using guided selling that reviews every answer given and gives them only products that are fully optimized to their needs. Guided selling enables anyone to generate a quote based only on needs and requires no technical knowledge.

Once you and your customer have agreed to a configuration with a customer, it’s even possible to create dynamic proposals with CPQ. This proposal can be uploaded prior to reflect your branding or even a configuration that’s been proposed and accepted before.

Creating these quotes opens a dialogue with customers that have been difficult in the past. Manufacturing customers have had to go through incorrect quotes, spreadsheets, and text-based descriptions to get a final product. CPQ can go beyond an initial configuration and quote. Showing them how the product will look with realistic visual configuration ensures your customer, sales, and engineering teams are all aligned based on the expectations of products while reducing costly miscommunications.

These quotes can include custom CAD drawings directly from Design Automation. This can be done even without involvement from your CAD engineers with a connection directly from CPQ. Ensure detailed 2D and 3D designs of configured products straight from your CAD system. Reducing order errors, automatically generating configuration-specific drawings will keep the front of the house and back of the house happy.

More on CAD

CPQ and CAD automation work together by providing knowledge from your engineering team to your sales without having to go through constant meetings and emails. This happens by codeveloping product logic between your engineers and CPQ. Codifying product logic and validating it with info from CPQ.

This enables your sales rep to sell what your engineers can create because it was co-developed with your engineering team. Eliminating guesswork.  Needs-based guided selling meets engineering​ to dynamically generate 3D CAD models based on customer configuration requirements​ This empowers sales reps to generate CAD drawings without help from engineering.

A quick stop back into your CRM systems

With the solutioning complete in the CPQ tool your sales team can quickly export the result, including a proposal document, into your CRM software. Using built-in functionality such as Salesforce and Dynamics (or any CRM) with the information from the CPQ can make it easier to report while creating follow-ups options as well as forecasting future opportunities.

The final piece: Order fulfillment

Your sales rep is excited as ever to have just closed a deal faster with CPQ and CRM connected but one more important connection remains, order fulfillment. The customer and your sales rep know what they want, now it’s time to deliver. Creating the optimal solution requires an equal data and pricing structure that uses the segmented data from your CRM to create market-based pricing. This is where your ERP system is fed critical information from Tacton CPQ. The ERP system then will plan the production, ensure the delivery and send an invoice to the customer.

Manage product variance

A great example of managing product variance is with our integration to SAP Variant Configurator (VC). Tacton can leverage the product data and configuration rules from SAP ERP and SAP VC to deliver accurate, up-to-date pricing, bundling, and product configuration information to sales teams, partners and end customers.

IT administrators can spend their working hours transferring data on materials, BOMs, pricing, and more from SAP to CPQ. Resource-inefficient implementations require custom code developed by programmers to convert extracted data into formats that can be imported to the CPQ tool.

As a result, any changes an SAP administrator makes will probably require additional maintenance (at a high cost, of course). But with Tacton the sales configuration data is extracted and translated from SAP VC models on a frequent, scheduled basis, eliminating these problems.

Allowing Tacton CPQ to configure the modules and SAP VC to cater to the modules on a manufacturing level for production. Let SAP VC handle the production and Tacton CPQ to be responsible how modules are selected.

Here’s how it works from your customers point of view. Product inventory, capacity, and available-to-promise from SAP ERP are made available to the quoting screens in your CPQ tool. After this is done, your opportunities and quotes are created in CPQ and pushed to SAP sales order management. Finally, to complete the order to fulfillment process, you process and ship your orders, invoice them and collect payments within SAP. The entire process is completed when inventory is updated and made available to the CPQ tool for the next quoting cycle.

A connected loop

You know the acronyms, CRM, CPQ, and ERP very well and now understand the importance of an eCommerce integration. When working separately can be very useful for helping your manufacturing customer succeed. Once they are combined, they can be the basis of a digital transformation for your company. Connecting everyone in your operation from the first person to contact prospects to the person who sees it roll off the assembly line can create a place for centralized operations. CPQ is the mortar that binds your CRM and ERP systems together.

Connecting all these processes will also enable your business to go fully online with eCommerce as well. Embedding an online configurator with self-service can help manufacturers reach go even further. The customer can start the solutioning journey online even before involving any sales rep. With a needs-based selling approach, the customer can express their needs and get a solution accordingly. Your customer gets involved and can fill their shopping cart with products that fit their needs. Once all these items are combined your business will be the envy of the industry.

Leverage your digitalization investments with CPQ

Sales and Marketing use their investments to engage customers, manage relationships, and ensure they are acquiring relevant data. Engineering investments ensure they have proper product data, technical drawings with CAD, and have the proper information to manage the product life cycle.

The factory makes investments to support supply chain, execution, and efficiently building products. The wealth of data across these investments is absolutely critical to internal efficiency and external customer experience. Placing a smart CPQ system at the center of your digital transformation is the most efficient strategy to build a technical stack that connects your end-to-end processes. 

Learn more about the current state of digital manufacturing with survey results

CPQ is the future proof solution you’ve been looking for

COVID-19 has illuminated a lot of issues in manufacturing, one of which is disconnected systems that slow down how manufacturers sell. Your customers aren’t coming back into the showroom anytime soon. Finding ways to still work seamlessly, and accurately with customers can make the difference between winning and losing deals. Right now, is the perfect time to focus on reinventing the buying journey for your customers while improving internal operations from sales to the factory floor.

Learn more about Tacton on our LinkedIn page!

CPQ Success: Trusting the Configurator

Success with CPQ starts with trust

CPQ Success begins with Trust

Let’s face it when it comes to working habits, we all have our routines. From checking your inbox to seeing what the day holds to how you interact daily with customers and prospects. Change can come at a glacial pace at times for manufacturers. Adopting solutions like Configure, Price, Quote (CPQ) is a challenge many manufacturers face after they purchase it. How can CPQ buyers get their teams to change habits that have formed over the years of both success and failure? Building trust with a product configurator is easier said than done. Let’s look at some tips on how to get your team to buy-in. 

Shift the sales mentality  

Think about the typical selling process for highly configurable products for a moment. A prospect connects with a request for your product. This product can have a lot of moving parts, use an elevator for example. How many buttons does it need? What are the accessibility requirements? How many floors?  

These and many more questions are needed to be answered before a sale can be complete. Your team has a way of dealing with this by going back and forth with the customer and engineering. This creates a lengthy inefficient process that takes time and can still be incorrect when it rolls off the assembly line. Not to mention your customer could change their mind at a moment’s notice. All these challenges cost time and money, but they still usually get the product to the customer, even if it’s at a discount. Which makes it important to both trust your sales team while giving them a solution that considers their experience and optimizes how they sell.  

Building trust between configurator and experience 

Building trust with any product isn’t an easy task. CPQ is no exception. With years of experience, your sales team has a defined way in which they sell, taking them out of their comfort zone isn’t something that is an overnight change. Bridging the gap between their excellent sales experience and a configurator is a way to not only trust your team but also show how much faster they can sell. With guided selling, it’s possible to shift the sales mentality by removing constant product reviews, while also accounting for changing customer demands.  

CPQ Success

Check out how our customer Burkert created a bridge between experience and product (free direct download!).

Preparing for CPQ: Creating compatibility between product and user  

The first step to creating a solution that enables success for all parties is to drive a constructive dialogue. At the end of the day all most people want is to control how they work, no surprises or unexpected errors. That’s why creating a seamless selling journey for your team and customer can build a process that gets deals done while engaging with the customer.  

Every sales journey is different, from returning customers to new ones. At the start of the process, it’s all about defining the end-product. What purpose will It serve? Does the customer know exactly what they want or just a general idea? CPQ with guided selling can answer one of these questions or all of them depending on the sales rep.  

Every selection shows the consequence of the action, added or removed products are shown in a bill of material that before CPQ was done manually and related to the role of the user. Now instead of your sales team relying only on their intuition, it’s possible to validate your customers unique needs. This creates a safety net of sorts, the more answers you have for the product, the more constraints are shown.  

Setting the expectations  

The more your team understands the product the better. Using CPQ enables your team to understand the product with or without in-depth experience. This helps everyone involved learn about the application of the final product. Analytics can show that one item is selling more than another, or one configuration is clearly more popular than another. Creating these realistic expectations can take the uncertainty out of the selling process.  

Interested in reading more? Check out our guide to the B2B Manufacturing Trends of 2021!

 

In closing  

Confidence takes time, your best sales rep has years of trial and error when selling to prospects. Every mistake was a learning experience that led to optimizing a manual sales process that would still take days to produce a quote. That’s why building trust with a product configurator is critical to long-term success selling to the new B2B buyer. The knowledge of your sales rep isn’t discounted, it’s optimized with CPQ, together they can use instincts built over years of selling while producing firm quotes in minutes instead of weeks.  

Interested in learning more? Schedule your personalized demo today! 

Top 10 Reasons Why CPQ Projects Fail

Why do Cpq implementations fail?

So, Why do CPQ projects fail?

This week we’re excited to have Patrik Skjelfoss Principal Business Consultant at CPQ.se

Before co-founding cpq.se Patrik worked with Tacton CPQ for 13 years focusing on Heavy Vehicles and Manufacturing Equipment.

A little about CPQ.se

CPQ provides a true competitive advantage for manufacturers. A smooth implementation of CPQ requires the right combination of experience and expertise. cpq.se has successfully carried out CPQ-implementation projects since 2001. This has led them to become experts in the field of CPQ. Today, many large organizations seek their consulting services for updating and expanding CPQ to new divisions and business areas. Their pragmatic approach to CPQ implementation invites their customers to identify their priorities in order to quickly deliver tangible results.

CPQ.se is headquartered in Uppsala (near Stockholm), and provide their services to the entire northern European region.

New products, new opportunities but also new challenges 

CPQ purchases can be an exciting time for manufacturers. Akin to turning over a new leaf from the old way products were sold to a new faster, more efficient way to work. Not only will your team be able to ensure accuracy but also enable your customers to get their products fast as their accustomed to. So, why do CPQ projects fail?

CPQ projects fail without backing from senior management

The CPQ process is spread all over the enterprise and touches many groups including sales, IT, engineering, marketing, and order management. The planning and development of a CPQ solution must involve all of these organizations and must address the requirements of each group. CPQ is a knowledge-based tool, and it’s never better than the actual knowledge and data in the tool. Usually, the product expert or senior sales rep who is too busy working with deals is the person most needed for this type of project. Backing from senior management is essential, to allow for prioritization of the implementation of the CPQ over the day-to-day business tasks for all these organizations, including the busy experts.

Scope creep

Scope creep is an uncontrolled growth in a project’s scope after the project has begun. This is very common in CPQ projects as you learn about and define processes that quite often were never documented before. This is why it’s important to define project objectives early in the project, and refer to them as much as possible when deciding on changes to the project. It’s also important to have a defined change control process, with a steering group that has backing from senior management. There’s no easy solution to scope creep, but being aware of the problem is essential.

Aiming at 100% of sales done with CPQ

If you ask an engineer working for an elevator company how many floors the elevators can have the most, he might answer 100. However, maybe 95% of the sales have fewer than 10 floors, and all elevators above 20 floors require some engineer-to-order? So, does it really make sense to allow for 100 floors in the configurator?

We recommend aiming at 80-95% of the configurations done automatically by the CPQ software, and allowing for some manual work for the rest. The reason is that there is typically an 80-20 rule in regards to implementation, where the last 20% of the configuration complexity will take 80% of the implementation time of the tool. It is much better to focus on 80% of the sales initially in the project and to make sure there is a ready process for the other 20% of the sales.

If the project is a success, why not aim higher in the next phase of the project?

Bad data quality

A good sales configurator will use your product data existing in current systems. But how good is the quality of that data today? Do you have an organization in which all knowledge is stored in people’s heads and documentation is missing? As stated above, the output from the configurator will never be better than the input, which means you need to make an inventory of your product data and documentation. You might need to structure and systemize your product data before selecting or implementing sales configuration software. If you don’t, the implementation will probably take much longer than expected, and changes in the tool will be done multiple times back and forth before being able to release.

Too few or too many integrations

Implementing integrations take time, whatever the IT-guy will tell you. Even a standard integration may require some adaptation because the software you are already using and want to integrate to is customized. Adding integrations to all your surrounding tools will add up to a hefty budget, and with some delays added, your project might get stopped before it is released.
Hence it is important to prioritize integrations and to allow for manual integration in the early phases of the project.

Do your prices reside in ERP? Are they only changed every 6 months? Can you export them to Excel initially, to get the project going? If you can get a manual integration to work, try to push the implementation work to the future.

However, from a similar perspective pushing integrations to the future which require a large amount of manual work is also a bad idea. The manual work will cost money and may cause update errors. When selecting a vendor, make sure they have standard integrations to the essential systems you need to integrate to. Focus only on crucial integrations in the early phases to allow for a quick return on investment. Add the additional integrations in later phases, and do separate ROI calculations for the specific integrations.

The configurator cannot solve the configuration problem

The configuration is a complex subject. To put things into perspective; the number of atoms in the universe is estimated to be 10^80. A configurable product with 100 choices and 10 alternatives for each choice has 10^100 combinations. It is important to select a configurator that can solve complex configuration problems, an incorrect selection of sales configurator may lead to being forced to simplify the configuration problem too much and hence giving incorrect configurations or prices to the salesperson.
Too much focus on tangible products

A typical product does not only consist of hardware, but also other intangible products. It’s not uncommon for companies to have higher margins on services, spares, and extended warranties. These products should not be forgotten when implementing the configurator – because without these the configurator is not complete. And if the configurator is not complete, the deals will either be missing these high margin products, or the sales will simply not use the CPQ due to the missing products.

The CPQ isn’t easy to use

If the solution is difficult to use or just slow – it will fail because no one will use it. Your solution should simplify a complex process, not replace one complex process with another. There are often tradeoffs in functionality when simplicity is the primary goal. Make sure your CPQ is achieving a good balance between these two elements. Checking reviews before you select a CPQ vendor can help you learn more from real CPQ users.

The CPQ doesn’t focus on the key users

CPQ projects tend to be initiated by all other departments at companies except sales because sales are too busy working on quotes for customers. Hence the key tasks of the tool often misunderstood and not implemented properly. The most important task of a CPQ is to help the salesperson create a correct, competitive, and valid quote quickly – and what that means exactly is different for different companies. Makes sure key people from the sales department are involved in the selection and development process to ensure that their requirements are covered.

No focus on data maintenance

In most configurable products, the master data changes continuously. New options are added and old ones disappear, new suppliers emerge, prices change, etc. Often, these changes are made on a daily or weekly basis. Typically, these changes are managed in ERP or PLM systems by people not involved in the CPQ maintenance. It’s vital that master data maintenance requires a minimal amount of changes in the CPQ software. It is also equally important that an organization is set up to be responsible for the maintenance of the software because with even a minimal amount of maintenance it still needs to be tested and validated.

A partnership for manufacturing success

It’s easy to see why CPQ projects fail from time to time. The mammoth amount of work and data to get the project off the ground can at times seem daunting. This fear can be valid if you choose a CPQ vendor with lesser experience. With Tacton and CPQ.se you can put your trust in industry-leading experts who have handled complex implementations for more than 20 years with a visionary product. We’d love to help you transform your business, scheduling a demo can make your CPQ project run smoothly, and on time.

Schedule your personalized demo 

CPQ Software: Is my Product a Good Fit for Tacton?

CPQ Software: Is My Product A Good Fit for Tacton? 

A note about the author: Brian O’Grady has worked with Tacton for over 20 years as a Sales Engineer and now as a Product Marketing Manager. Before Tacton, Brian had stops at Microsoft and RSA Security 

In the 20 years I’ve worked at Tacton this is probably the question I get asked the most. As a Sales Engineer it was my task to judge the suitability of products with Tacton’s configurator and our CPQ software 

It would be nice to say that this task has gotten easier, but in many ways, it’s become more difficult. 

But for all the right reasons. 

Tacton Only Handles Complex Products? 

One of the things I first learned was that it wasn’t just complex products with intricate rule-systems that benefited from Tacton’s technology. Of course, we love to boast of our ability to configure, price and quote large steam turbines or complex packaging lines, but I remember the customer who used Tacton to design wedding invitations.  

Sometimes quite simple products benefit greatly from using our  CPQ tools. This is because we can replace a primitive system that creates and maintains tens of thousands of simple rules with a state-of-the-art constraint-based system that uses a fraction of the rules with far less maintenance too. 

A chair manufacturer may have hundreds of materials, dozens of finishes, and many product linesthe logic may be simple but the maintenance over time as the choices change will swamp the staff and significantly delay product updates. Having a constraint-based configurator like Tacton dramatically reduces the effort and time needed to roll out new changes as they happen, providing a huge benefit to these companies. 

Tacton Cannot Replace My Complex In-House Processes? 

A situation that I am increasingly seeing is the use of Tacton as a kind of triage configuration tool. By this I mean a tool to give a quick rather than accurate indication of a potential solution. 

A company I spoke with recently, has quite detailed processes and tools to determine the cost of manufacturing a plastic component, with CAD design, mold costs, use of different plastics and evaluation of production runs overtime. They are not interested in replacing their existing tools but are trying to take the pressure off their engineering teams who are asked to handle an enormous number of requests for quotes. 

In these cases, Tacton can offer a best-guess evaluation tool that can give a sales rep or customer aaccurate estimate of the price quicklyEven if this estimate is only accurate within a few cents of the actual cost it can be good enough to decide whether to go forward with further discussion and negotiations.  

This frees up engineering resources to focus on high probability opportunities and provides more accuracy where it will be of most benefit to both the customer and their own company.  

Its All About Configuration Right? 

With the increasing adoption of CPQ software as a standard tool used by companies to support internal and external sales channels and our enablement of customer self-service portals and B2C eCommerce sites, the task of judging who will benefit from Tacton has gotten harder. 

Tacton CPQ tool allows companies to handle not just product complexity but also handle complex sales. Our support for complex pricing, approvals and integrations to legacy systems means that it may be the streamlined way Tacton handles quotes and business processes rather than any logical requirements of the products themselves that is key benefit provided 

The relatively recent launch of our real-time 3D visualization software and augmented reality capabilities will make things even more interesting. Now the deciding factor to use Tacton’s tools may be the way we allow customers to see what they’re orderingplace it into their own environment and interact directly with the 3D representation that could be the deciding factor to use our tools.  

“In 2018, the CPQ market grew by 12.4% to an estimated $1.2 billion (Gartner).” So, don’t be surprised by the large variety of customer logos appearing on the Tacton websiteThe range of applications for advanced CPQ software is only going to get larger 

CPQ Software: Is my product a good fit is a question your competition is asking us. Are you ready to find out the answer as well?

With that in mind, it’s time to get in contact with us and schedule your demo to learn how Tacton can support your company.  

3 Tips for a Successful CPQ Implementation

CPQ implementation

It’s time, you’ve finally convinced the higher-ups in your company to make your work and life a little easier by purchasing Configure, Price, Quote (CPQ) solution. That was the seemingly difficult part, but without proper planning and thought your CPQ implementation can experience early growing pains or fail completely 

To avoid this and keep the ball rolling on digitally transforming your manufacturing operation it’s important to plan accordingly for both success and failure. Here are a few ways to set your team up for a successful CPQ project. 

Set must-needs early  

Before you can start your project it’s important to align from the top of the organization to the bottom. How will CPQ effect sales, engineering and even marketing? Without asking these questions your project can become doomed before you even purchase a single license.  

Engaging with your key stakeholders will help the project run smoothly and eliminate silos that have built up over time. Another business-critical question to ask is how does the CPQ integrate with your current system? Does CPQ offer integrations to Dynamics, Salesforce or SAP? It’s important to be able to ask these questions early and often to pick the right CPQ. Now that you’ve figured out the must-needs for a CPQ project it’s important to consider what part of CPQ is important for your business.  

Define what part of CPQ is most important to your business 

Is configuring more important than pricing to your operation? Do you want visual configuration to be a part of your sales pitch? These questions are unique to your business. Some will want to focus more on helping your engineering configure 100% correct products, while others will want to blow the doors off competition with a one-of-a-kind visual of their unique productAnswering these questions will help you narrow down the KPI’s you want to use in your success metrics.  

Create KPI’s to measure success 

Now that you’ve considered all your must-needs and aligned with different departments it’s time to focus on KPI’s to measure the success of your investment. Those determinations will come from what you think is most important to your business initiatives. Here are some examples our customers used to measure their success:  

Every set of KPI’s different, but it’s important to note the setting your targets before you implement CPQ are an important part of any project. Without having concrete goals to reach you won’t be able to see if the project is being managed properly. These metrics can be tracked using CPQ analytics that measure both business and customer success. 

 These common mistakes can be easily avoided by asking the right questions before and during your CPQ implementation. Now that you know the potential pitfalls it’s time to take a deeper look into how to take your CPQ project even further with Tacton Smart Commerce 

How to select a CPQ in 6 Easy Steps

How to select a CPQ

So, you need to select a CPQ (Configure Price Quote) solution for your organization?

Still not 100% sure? Here are 10 reasons why your organization needs a CPQ.

Still here, Great. Below are 6 easy steps on how to use resources like Gartner’s Hype Cycle and Magic Quadrant for selecting the right CPQ for your company:

1)     Check Gartner’s Hype Cycle

The Hype Cycle for CRM Sales Solutions uses a graph to represent the “maturity” of emerging technologies through five phases.

When to use the Hype Cycle

The Hype cycle helps you answer the following questions:

  • Which sales software should my organization invest in?
  • Which are some upcoming tools that would be worth looking into?
  • Which software solutions are a “safe bet” and can deliver value today?

2)     Check Gartner’s Magic Quadrant

The 2019 Gartner Magic Quadrant for Configure, Price and Quote Application Suites is the final report of Gartner’s research, giving an overview of the various competitors within the CPQ market. The software providers that meet their stringent criteria are the ones that are named in this report.

All companies that made it on the quadrant can be considered the best performing CPQ solutions in the market.

3)     Keep an eye on the horizon: Think in years not quarters

Investments in software should never be short term. It’s important that the software provider has a long-term vision of the market it services so that it can adapt its solutions to new realities. In this light, it’s worth ensuring that the software is compatible with some of the following trends:

  • Cloud computing: This means that the software can be accessed from anywhere, and the data is updated in real-time across the entire platform. The possibilities of cloud-computing are endless. For example, A sales rep can configure, get the right price and all the purchase documents ready, using data that was updated moments ago by headquarters located half-way around the world.
  • Software as a Service:  One of the major benefits of a SaaS CPQ is that the software will adapt to ever-changing industry needs.
  • Smart Commerce: This is a trend that not only applies to software but rather the manufacturing industry as a whole. Smart Commerce is about a digitally connected buying journey, where data is used seamlessly across the various stages of the buying journey, resulting in an enhanced buying experience with the customer at the center, and improved internal processes that mitigate overheads and prepares organizations for industry 4.0. [link to our industry 4 survey]

4)     Ask yourself: what capabilities/features do you really need?

It’s a good idea to return to Research Papers like Hype Cycle and Magic Quadrant. These are great sources to get an overview of the features and capabilities that your organization may need.

Here are 3 CPQ features that are worth looking at:

  • CPQ integrationsthe ability to connect the CPQ to the CRM (i.e., Salesforce, Microsoft Dynamics 365), or an ERP (i.e. SAP) or even a PLM. This allows the ease of data to enable a smooth transition from a purchase order, to a production order together with all the documents needed (ie. eBOMs etc.).
  • Visual ConfigurationThat is, the ability to configure a product and see the changes in a 3D or AR model in real-time.
  • CPQ analyticsThis is the ability to tap into the data generated during the buying journey. You can use this data to improve the buying experience, the sales process or even the product itself.

5)     Check out Peer Review sites:

Gartner does have its own peer review site called Peer Insights, where you can find a ranking of the various CPQ software solutions.

There are also other sites like G2Crowd or Capterra, which have comprehensive reviews of various CPQ providers.

Warning: Remember to take peer-review sites with a grain of salt. It’s important to remember that sometimes reviews are very subjective and that a 1-star review is at times more about their own problems than an objective judgment on the service.

6) Most important: Demo the product. Convince yourself

One of the most powerful ways to learn is by doing. In other words, it’s important to CPQ out for yourself.

Most CPQ providers will offer the possibility of booking a demo of their product. We also offer tailor-made demos.

At Tacton we have created some test environments where individuals can see the various features available, especially when it comes to Visual configuration.

Configure your own Truck: www.tructon.com

Configure your own Elevator: parkerlifts.com/

If you’d like to demo our AR visualization capabilities, download our IOS app and scan the QR code for the demo environment.

Tacton also has many customer examples that you can on our resources page.

 

Choosing new software like CPQ can be overwhelming. We hope these tips have helped you refine your search and shine some more light into your buying process.

If you have any questions regarding CPQ, or if you want to book a live demo, please do not hesitate to contact us.