Top 10 reasons why CPQ projects fail

The CPQ does not have 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 is 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 of 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 probably 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

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 is able to solve complex configuration problems, an incorrect selection of sales configurator may lead to being force to simplify the configuration problem too much and hence giving incorrect configurations or prices to the sales person.

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.

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 sales person 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 insure 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 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.

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8 secrets for a successful CPQ project

1. Focus on solving concrete problems 

Always start with a concrete product and set a goal to get the product live in a production environment. With today's SaaS-CPQ-solutions, efficient product modeling/pricing tools and a straightforward system configuration, it is not at all impossible to launch a first product within a month or two.

2. Be aware of the limitations of CPQ

In the field of psychology, the Dunning–Kruger effect is a cognitive bias in which people mistakenly assess their knowledge in a specific field is greater than it is. It is related to the cognitive bias of illusory superiority and comes from the inability of people to recognize their lack of ability. Without the self-awareness people cannot objectively evaluate their competence or incompetence.

When you try to launch a CPQ-system, it is easy to fall into this trap. To describe the logic that limits how the product can and may be sold in a general way is somewhat cumbersome. Here it is important to understand what you need to understand before you start with product logic. Then the way to a working CPQ will be as straight as it can now be.

3. Listen to everyone involved – and to the customers

For some, external assistance may be required to ensure that the CPQ system provides useful results. Ideally, if you kick-start a project with a whiteboard meeting where all the key people involved spend an afternoon figuring out details and documenting the requirements you have.

4. Take on industry expertise

More and more companies have begun to realize that CPQ is not a miracle cure in itself. Many companies that start working with CPQ assume that "we have a lot of product data – plug in a CPQ and let it tell us something interesting".
Here we see that we as consultants have an important role to play in moderating, questioning and provide industry best practices.

5. Realize the value of tests in reality

By making a rapid first version of your CPQ-system you’ll get a quick take part in multicultural, multilingual and even intergenerational insights and learn from them. By going live quickly and exposing the CPQs ability of the organization, you can quickly make customizations that make the system several hundred percent better.

6. Be aware of the "black box-problem"

Trust is another subject that CPQ is forced to face when it comes out in reality – something that is known as the black box problem. How can this be overcome? An important part is not to complicate things more than that they can be explained.
Often it is domino effects in product logic/price models that gives weird (but accurate) effects. Here it is important to be well prepared to explain and describe the logic in an educational way.

7. Establish clear measurements

Having clear operational measures for your CPQ-project is important to prove that it works – and deserves continued support. But many companies do not give this aspect sufficient attention in their CPQ projects.
This is a problem with emerging new technologies such as CPQ. The result is likely to be CPQ projects that are bridges to nowhere, pilots that are not scaled up and projects without any business value. Therefore, we do not make pilots. We make sure to go directly to production and in this way are the goals we set up linked to the company sales. It makes it very easy to judge what works and not.

8. Look inward

Where do you find people who can both understand CPQ and the requirements from the business? It is not an easy task. There is a clear lack of CPQ skills.
One often overlooked method to bring down skills shortages is to look internally to find people who can take CPQ trainings. This way you can work so that there are people who have both CPQ and industry expertise. This is a very important part of our deliveries. We see no long-term benefit of the system if it cannot be managed internally. Our role should only be consultative once we have released the first product.

Configure Price Quote Software


CPQ is normally a cloud-based software that helps sales teams to automate their quotation routines and manage interactions with clients.

Configuration

The C in CPQ stands for configuration. This means keeping track of all the logic that goes into a complex product. Certain options are required, others can not be combined.
The number of permutations is normally enormous. Even simple products often have millions of possible ways of combining a product. This means that the maintenance-effort required to keep the product logic up to date is one of the most important factors when evaluating the configuration engine.

Pricing

The P in CPQ stands for pricing. The next set of logic to master is the rules and constraints regarding prices and discounts. Certain items come cheaper as a bundle, some item are alliable for bigger discount while other can not be discounted at all.
This means that workflow and organizational hierarchies are needed to do pricing effectively. Keeping track of prices and the possibility to escalate the sales opportunities to management is all part of pricing.
Support for different pricing models, pricelists and purchasing agreements are essential in pricing.

Quotation

The Q in CPQ stands for quotation. Texts, specifications and images all come together in an advanced template that dynamically adjusts the quotation for each customer.
The ease of use and flexibility of the document generation is a very important factor when evaluating how the quotation can meet your business needs.

For a global company it’s often a requirement that both configuration and quotation must natively support multiple languages.

Vendors

According to analysts the leading vendors in CPQ are Apttus, Oracle, Salesforce and SAP. Niche players in manufacturing are PROS, FPX and Tacton. 

Configure Price Quote software - the key benefits

Configure Price Quote software shortens the sales processes by automating the configuration, pricing and quoting of complex products, services and bundles.

“configure price quote” software is getting attention from global companies looking to reduce errors and streamline sales of complex product. Configure price quote software will serve as a consistent front-office interface with all necessary integration to existing back-office systems.

CPQ (“configure price quote”) is more and more becoming a critical advantage in several industry verticals. Fast and accurate quotation processes is no longer something to strive for – it’s now a critical factor in the competitive landscape.

The primary benefits with Configure Price Quote software include:

  • Guided and automation sales process supporting your customers through important selection including configuration, quoting and ordering.
  • Central pricing processes for establishing, maintaining and publishing pricing for products, services and combination bundles.
  • Workflow for quoting including creation, management and negotiation of sales quotes.

Guided and automated sales process

  • Increased deal size by simplifying cross-sell, up-sell and solution bundles. Service contracts and other related services are quoted together with the product ensuring returning revenue for a longer period of time.
  • Reduced costs and increased customer satisfaction as incorrect orders are dramatically reduced.
  • Increased sales productivity when repetitive, time consuming manual work is eliminated.

Central pricing process

  • Pricing consistency and automatic pricing changes instantly available in all sales channels.
  • Defined structure for pricing to decrease the maintenance due to changing market conditions.
  • Pricing models based on customer segments with analytics feedback for continuous improvements. Built in dashboards for sales and pricing governance.

Workflow for quotations

  • Significant time savings to create, negotiate and convert quotes into orders.
  • Increased visibility and traceability in the quoting process.
  • Support for channel and partners sales for complex products.