[Tech with Tacton] Stay Flexible with Product Variability

CPQ  navigation must be flexible  

As you read in Part 1, product variability can become a nightmare without the right solutions. CPQ is one of the solutions that can transform your business.

Most CPQ systems merely encode a procedure for generating a quote as quickly as possible. For simple high-volume products, that might be enough, but for products with a high degree of variability and many technical interdependencies, the navigation must be flexible, as we noted in Part 1: Navigating Manufacturing Product Variability.

CPQ needs to be a smart product navigator, empowering different stakeholders to explore the product variability in their own ways, and ensure that it is correctly encoded.

So, let us look at what is required under the hood.  

The greatest challenge of navigating the variability of physical B2B products, such as machinery or transportation equipment, is that the variability is constrained by thousands of compatibility restrictions. Those interdependencies interact. A valid combination for one constraint might violate another one. And there are often thousands or more. The combined consequence for the product variability is beyond human comprehension.

In order to support flexible navigation of the product variability, two things are essential: 

  1. A smart engine: that can search the vast maze of restricted product variability in many ways, and tools to present the variability intuitively for different audiences.   

  2. A smart definition of product variability:interdependencies are defined intuitively, clearly corresponding to the real interdependencies. The definition also needs to be concise, so that the same interdependency does not have to be defined multiple times. The definition should be inspected, understood, and validated by the people involved in deciding about variability.

Most configurators on the market rely on sequential encoding of rules (even if they support some form of constraints). They encode a procedure, a sequence of decisions for configuring the product. The interdependencies are in the head of the person encoding the decision sequence. The same interdependency must be implicitly considered in multiple places for different decisions in the procedure.

One by one, each decision-rule might look simple but that’s not the case.  

With a visual flow-chart, the procedure might even look intuitive. But with many interdependencies, the procedure quickly becomes a mess that is a nightmare to maintain. The procedure is not flexible for different uses. And there is no way to validate that the rules are correct. Millions of combinations cannot be tested.

Messy Variability = Messy Business  

Almost everything related to products in the whole organization depends on variability, which changes frequently when the products evolve. When the product variability remains a mess, everything else remains messy. This includes pricing, quoting, order processing, e-commerce, product planning, engineering, and much more. With a transparent product variability as the foundation, everything else related to products can be simplified and truly digitalized.  

When more touchpoints in the product life cycle digitally access the product variability, more stakeholders need to be considered, which increases the demand for flexible navigation. Conversely, the easier it is to navigate the product variability, the more useful it will be for different stakeholders in the life cycle. The greatest challenge will be faced by manufacturers that transform into selling their products as a service since they will need to minimize the product life-cycle cost of the variability they offer.

Tacton Smart Commerce addresses all the needs of the product life cycle and product variability with CPQ. So, what is your business waiting for?  

These challenges and so much more can be addressed with Tacton CPQ. No need to worry about messy variability anymore. Check out how Tacton CPQ can connect all your stakeholders and so much more in our Manufacturers’ Guide to Smart Commerce 

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