Contributor: Mike Bramble, Managing Consultant – Commercial Performance Applications

A few years ago, CPQ (Configure, Price and Quote) was an acronym that many organisations knew of but had on the ‘we’ll look at that later’ list. The benefits of CPQ have, however, been known for a long time.

A lot changes in IT in a few years and a lot certainly changes in the sales environment (usually at a much quicker rate). Reservations that organisations have previously had about moving core business and sales processes to the cloud can help explain why CPQ has not necessarily been high on the priority list (‘Hey, we’re still selling stuff aren’t we?’). If the last few years have taught us anything it’s that traditional business sales models have had to adapt to many different factors; changing customer expectations, and pandemics, to name a couple.

Has any of this changed for you? If we have learnt anything, it is that customers, partners, VARs, distributors, in fact anyone buying, now expect (and demand) a seamless, consistent, accurate and responsive sales process, all of which CPQ will help provide. Throw in the shift to the subscription economy and CPQ becomes more relevant than ever. If you still think that CPQ remains on the ‘later’ list, but be sure to bookmark this blog and come back to it in a few months’ time. Maybe you’ll have a different perspective!

If you’ve recognised this change, then let’s continue by looking at some key things you need to consider in preparation for bringing CPQ into your infrastructure and process:

  • Which CPQ is best for you? – You’ve probably noticed that I’m writing this blog as an employee of Enigen, who happen to be an Oracle Partner. Yes, Oracle CPQ Cloud is a fantastic product, and I would always recommend it for the right organisation but the decision as to what CPQ product is best for you must always be based on functionality fit, scalability, and flexibility. Talk to the vendor, talk to the implementers, talk to reference customers, view the demos – you’ll soon get a feeling as to what is right for your organisation. Have a look at independent evaluations of CPQ products as well (e.g. Gartner) to get a feel for where the product is, where it’s heading, and whether it’s a niche industry product. Done all that? Good, we can look at the bigger picture…
  • CPQ is a Transformative Platform – CPQ as an application will always sit somewhere in the middle of your sales infrastructure. It is not usually a stand-alone piece. This means that it will act as an inheritor of data, a master of its own CPQ specific data and a provider of quality data to other downstream systems. What does this actually mean in project terms? Well, at the very least it should make you think about the other applications that CPQ will integrate with. Is your CRM data good enough for CPQ to use (and avoid manual input of customer information)? Is your Order Management application going to cope with any anticipated increase in order volumes? Are you able to enhance your sales processes in CPQ with additional data? The list of questions goes on of course, but I’m sure you’ve realised by now that your CPQ project is not just about CPQ! You will need to consider if other applications need attention as well. If they do, you’ve got a bigger project to consider. Do not, however, let that be a blocker to your goal of process improvement and innovation.
  • Know CPQ’s Boundaries – It’s baked into the name, Configure, Price & Quote. It’s headline capabilities are to configure things you sell, to price those things, and to quote for those things you are selling. OK, so that’s pretty much the CPQ 101 done, and of course, there are many, many nuances and use cases in each of those headlines, but what does it really mean? From my perspective it means that you should configure the application to bring your new improved sales processes to reality but within the boundaries of C, P and Q. What a Company sells, and how it sells it, is generally one of the key USP’s at their disposal. So by all means bring that to life in a flexible platform (like Oracle CPQ Cloud), but don’t try to make CPQ something it’s not. Does it have CRM capabilities? No. Does it do Order or Inventory Management? No. There are much better applications for that (CRM and Order Management would clearly be the answer here!) and all of that additional functionality is but an integration or two away. But by using the right application/platform for the right processes, and using CPQ for what it’s best at, you maximise your investment and efficiencies.
  • Be Objective About What You Do Now – ‘If it ain’t working…’ – I’ll bet that a lot of IT projects start with the good intention of looking at/reviewing current process and improving them. How often do those good intentions get diluted as the project progresses, with the tendency to re-implement sub-optimal processes due to budget, time, or other constraints? Well, implementing CPQ will be no different if you don’t plan carefully, and incorporate vital elements like strong project and change management. But CPQ is a powerful platform that will allow you to implement those desired sales process improvements quickly and effectively, so don’t lose sight of the benefits. And the ROI could be much quicker than you think. Take this golden opportunity to streamline what you do and how you do it.
  • Look to the Future – Sales processes change, people change. CPQ is a long-term investment in your sales processes. Getting up and running with a CPQ implementation will give you what you need now, but have you thought about the future? How will you be selling in one year, three years’, five years’ time? Will you need better integrations to your back-office or fulfilment applications? Will you need to integrate to an online portal? There are many more questions to challenge yourself with, but make sure you build CPQ for day one with a keen eye on the future.
  • Get the Right Implementation Partner on Board – CPQ is transformational – There I’ve said it again! You need to be confident that your implementation partner can deliver on your vision. They should have the experience and breadth of CPQ knowledge, a solid understanding of your industry, and a desire to understand your business and processes to be able to make that vision real.

I hope that’s enough to get you thinking about CPQ and how to approach it. In a later blog, I’ll look at some core features of CPQ you need to know about and how they will help you.

If you’d like to hear more from me, I appeared recently on our partner Zilliant’s podcast series B2B Reimagined, talking in-depth about how CPQ and Price Optimisation are a perfect match for manufacturers. You can check that out here. Be sure to reach out to myself or my team directly if you have questions about CPQ. You can reach me on LinkedIn or get in touch with our team at info@enigen.co.uk.

– Mike

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