Walpole Partnership Announces Walpole Fixed Scope Implementation Packages, an Oracle Accelerate solution for all industries.

Walpole Partnership today announced Walpole Fixed Scope Implementation Packages, an Oracle Accelerate solution for all industries. Walpole Partnership is an Oracle Accelerate solution provider and a Gold level member in Oracle PartnerNetwork (OPN).

This fixed scope Oracle Accelerate solution enables a rapid implementation process and fast time-to-value. It facilitates controlled scope, reducing project risk in a quick and inexpensive way. Available in EMEA, this solution can be rolled out globally, as the majority of development work is managed remotely.

“Our Fixed Scope Implementations give our customers certainty and take the guesswork out of Oracle CPQ Cloud projects. The result is that our clients are more competitive because they can get accurate quotes to their customers faster and, once they’ve sold more, they can process their orders more efficiently.” says Andy Pieroux (Managing Director, Walpole Partnership). “By partnering with Oracle on the Accelerate program we can give midsize companies the confidence they need to get the benefits of Oracle CPQ Cloud faster and without risk. It’s an amazing program that shows just how well Oracle understands the needs of these customers.”

Click here for full press release.

The Top Seven Mistakes when trying to improve sales quotes and orders

We’ve been talking to many sales managers and business leaders lately and we realised there’s a consistent set of mistakes that are made when people are trying to improve their sales quoting process. We’ve condensed our findings into an easy to read summary. Click here to learn what we discovered, and our tips for how to avoid making the same mistakes.

Walpole Partnership Presented with ISO 27001 Information Security Certificate

Walpole Partnership today announced that it has been awarded its ISO27001 Information Security Certificate, in conjunction with QSL, ISO Quality Services Ltd. In so doing, Walpole Partnership is demonstrating their continued pursuit of excellence and commitment to establish themselves as a credible, reputable and ISO compliant organisation.

Andy Pieroux, founder of Walpole Partnership says “We are excited about starting down this path of standardisation. It can only serve to strengthen our existing bonds within industry, and enable us to stand shoulder-to-shoulder with other quality organisations around the world. We are committed to achieving continuous improvement.”

About Walpole Partnership

Walpole Partnership provide expert consultancy to help you implement your Configure, Price, Quote solution. The company prides itself on its ability to help clients realise the benefits from their investment.

The team at the Walpole Partnership have worked on CPQ deployments of all sizes – from blue-chip corporations to small businesses. You choose only the elements of the service you need to complement your in-house team. Walpole Partnership has worked in many industries and works with all the major providers of CPQ solutions.

Walpole Partnership help you gain value from your investment, by sharing best practices that will benefit you. They help you avoid
costly mistakes, now and in the 
future because they know CPQ well.

Click here to read our Security Policy.

About ISO Quality Services Ltd

ISO Quality Services Ltd is an independent organisation that specialises in the implementation, certification and continued auditing of ISO and BS EN Management Standards. We also offer ISO / BS consultancy, training and internal auditing as individual services.

We are one of the UK’s leading ‘total solutions’ provider and have adopted a simple, cost effective and no nonsense route to BS EN ISO certification and have been established since May 2000. We work with a variety of clients including small one man bands up to large international multimillion turnover companies.

By running a strict ISO 9001:2008 Quality Management Standard itself, the company is subject to on-going auditing via an external body and is therefore always looking to achieve continuous improvement.

Designing CPQ Systems – Part 3 of 3

In parts One and Two of this 3-part series we posed the question of how CPQ design affects people in different business functions in different ways and we took a deeper look at some of the key communities who we must consider. Now let’s take a look at the most valuable people, and then we’ll conclude with some thoughts on how to plan for UX success.

Customers – the most important community in so many ways. If you’re using a CPQ to provide your customers with a portal or guided selling screens you MUST realise the importance of their experience. They are not your salespeople. They are not your technical specialists. They are definitely not your back-office! The flows, the screens, the questions you must present to them may be the most different of all. Prototyping and testing response to UX is the single most critical activity you can undertake, and you must talk to customers before you commit a design to build. Even the early engagement and the exposure of your thought process is a brand touchpoint, so plan it, choose your audience wisely and take the time to get it right.

Mistakes in customer UX can be costly. We recommend stabilising an internal system first so the foundations are well built and then following up with the delivery of the customer portal. Allow some time for draft portal design at the same time as you design the internal system. This will ensure you don’t end up just bolting a portal onto an unsuitable platform.

There may be many other people to consider too – partners, product managers, pricing analysts and many others too – every organisation is different. To consider all users may seem like a complex approach, but remember – even if business processes evolve and change (sometimes within the duration of a large project), human nature is a constant. The broad needs of each community rarely change over time, so design time invested on UX will always hold its value throughout a project.

We always recommend our clients plan for UX design and we prefer that it’s identified clearly and scheduled early and throughout a project. If you expect to ‘tidy things up at the end’ then that time can easily turn into project contingency to fix other problems. Also, plan for enhancements post go-live because User Acceptance Testing rarely has the chance to cover UX testing. Engage your users early and often; perhaps launch a Beta site for key users to test. This is easier in agile projects, but use wireframes and mockups if not, and listen to what users tell you. Understand the day-to-day lives of users and spend time with them, but be aware that when you describe a system to a user, the picture in their mind will differ greatly from yours.

Design is not making beauty, beauty emerges from selection, affinities, integration, love.” Louis Kahn

Finally, we do understand that budgets and time mean that sometimes sacrifices and compromises must be made. At this point we urge you to think why you’re investing in this system in the first place. The best projects we see normally limit scope before they limit UX – which is not always easy to justify to stakeholders. Our belief is that it is far better to have a system with solid core functionality that works well for users. This kind of system will give benefits to users straight away and will be actively used and liked. Users will ask for more because they like it, rather than ask for fixes to get back to their expectations.

Which kind of system gets further investment? One that works and is loved, or a project that has overrun, under-delivered and is liked by no-one?

A designer knows he has achieved perfection not when there is nothing left to add, but when there is nothing left to take away.” Antoine de Saint-Exupery

Click to read parts One and Two.

Designing CPQ Systems – Part 2 of 3

Design must reflect the practical and aesthetic in business but above all… good design must primarily serve people.” Thomas J. Watson

In Part 1 of this series we left you with the above thought, and we started to look at how CPQ design affects people from different business functions in different ways. Now let’s look at this in some more detail.

Consider these communities:-

Salespeople: need an unobtrusive system that enhances their chances with a prospect. They need a quick answer to the questions “What have I got to sell?” and “How much can I sell it for?” Salespeople are an expensive resource so fewer hours spent on data entry equals more productivity – i.e. time to sell.

A CPQ system should ask a salesperson to enter data only when they are the sole source of this information, or the best-placed to capture it, e.g. information about clients’ exact needs, specific product features or service levels that have been discussed with the customer. Other detail e.g. exact customer addresses, current contracts or detailed service descriptions may be provided more cost-effectively elsewhere – better still if it can be integrated and automated. Alternatively, perhaps the information has to be provided by sales, but maybe not at the same time that a speculative quote is being generated.

Speed is of the essence. Quick answers, efficient approvals and automatic generation of professional documentation are required – reducing valuable selling time being spent in front of a complex screen.

Technical advisory teams: here the detail can be critical, and in many cases it’s where a deal can turn from profit to loss, or from achievable to impossible. If your CPQ system involves experts’ contributions to a deal then you need to clearly think through the timing of their provision of information. What do they need to know before they can enhance the detail of a deal? Which of their choices will make an impact on the financials of the deal? Which affect the deliverability and which are just about dotting ‘i’s and crossing ’t’s? How do you balance the need for early information entry to help the deal along with the chance of something changing? For these teams the drivers are different, and often the personality types involved too. A good CPQ design provides a workflow and UX that takes this into account.

Approvers: again a need for detail is obvious, but we also need to ask “What information is truly needed to make a decision?“.

Some data points are absolutely necessary e.g. margin for an FD, and some are contextual information like customer sectors or price levels of existing contracts. We don’t need to give every piece of information to every approver: these people are often in senior positions and are deluged daily with data. Instead, present the optimum amount of data, structured with clarity to make their touchpoint with your system a pleasure. Failure to do so can have dire consequences – we have seen systems grind to a halt because approvers delay making their decisions and quotes are left in limbo.

Think through the logic of approval chains. Should these be serial or parallel? In too many organisations we see a stand-off where no approver will invest time analysing a deal if all other approvals are not in place. The valid fear is of wasted time if they scrutinise first, but then another department rejects the quote.

Take the time before implementation to talk to the approvers, and the stakeholders whose day-to-day operations will be affected by your choices. Customers need quick answers. Cumbersome approval logic that tries to please all the approvers, all the time, can be a recipe for disaster.

Back-Office / Order Entry teams: these background teams keep an organisation working and make the business happen, so we need to build systems that are efficient for them too. This is true whether you have integration to downstream ERP / back-office systems or in organisations where everything is manual.

Perhaps there is more tolerance within these teams of the functional over the aesthetic, but often this is due to a legacy of 20th Century systems where capabilities were limited. We like to challenge this norm. Back-office UX can be the hardest to get right, so we must allow sufficient time and resource to plan for this.

Thousands of transactions can flow through a CPQ system daily and back-office teams need to be able to get to the information they need to keep transactions flowing. They must be able to populate deal details easily when they have access to that information. Remember that teams in the back-office need to be enabled by a system, not to be fighting against it.

So, in this, the second part of our three-part Design series, we’ve looked through the eyes of some key different users.

Let me know in the comments if there are other communities that you’ve had to design for. Part 3 will conclude by focusing on the most important stakeholder – the customer. We will look at their point of view and conclude with some thoughts on how to plan for success in UX design.

Designing CPQ Systems – Part 1 of 3

IT projects always include a ‘design’ phase of a project. Why is it then that so many enterprise applications look like they were ‘designed’ by someone intent on making their users’ lives as awkward as possible?

In technical terms the design phase refers to the creation of a logical structure for the system, however to the layperson ‘design’ is often associated with look and feel. The choice of terminology should create a common vision between the technical teams and the end-point user experience – but it rarely does.

“What is design? It’s where you stand with a foot in two worlds – the world of technology and the world of people and human purposes – and you try to bring the two together.”
Mitchell Kapor, Designer of Lotus 1-2-3 and Mozilla

There is no doubt that a well-designed technical architecture will enable a great system but it needs to look and function beautifully for everyone who works and lives with it.

One of the things that we love to focus on at the Walpole Partnership is the question of user experience (UX). A challenge with CPQ systems, often overlooked, is how to make a system a pleasure for users. We often say that CPQ sits at the heart of a systems landscape and company processes. By its very nature, CPQ systems are a touchpoint for a wide variety of different business functions.

In the second part of this three-part series we’ll look in some detail at a variety of users affected by the implementation of a CPQ system and we’ll see how the world looks through their eyes.

“Design must reflect the practical and aesthetic in business but above all… good design must primarily serve people.”
Thomas J. Watson, Chairman and CEO of IBM.

Walpole Partnership Becomes Oracle PartnerNetwork Gold Level Partner

Walpole Partnership today announced that it has achieved Gold Partner status in Oracle PartnerNetwork (OPN). By attaining Gold Level, Oracle has recognised Walpole Partnership for its commitment to establish Oracle related knowledge in delivering affordable, scalable software products and enterprise-class solutions, and for uniquely addressing the challenges of joint customers.

Andy Pieroux, founder of Walpole Partnership says “We’re really pleased to achieve Gold Partner Status with Oracle – this is the catalyst that will allow us to deliver even more solutions for Oracle customers around the world. We’re looking forward to producing some amazing packages for clients that will help them get the best from their CPQ Cloud investment.”

With its Gold status, Walpole Partnership receives the benefit of being able to start developing specializations that will allow them to grow their business, increase their expertise, reach higher levels of customer retention, and create differentiation in the marketplace. Gold members also become eligible to resell all Oracle Technology products and can apply to resell Oracle Applications and Industry Solutions. In addition, they receive access to Oracle account representatives and My Oracle Support updates for all products, discounts on training, limited free assessment/exam vouchers, reduced rates on the purchase of Oracle licenses for internal use, discounts on advances customer services and more. For more information about the benefits of becoming an OPN Gold level partner, please click here.

About Walpole Partnership

Walpole Partnership provide expert consultancy to help you implement your Configure, Price, Quote solution. The company prides itself on its ability to help clients realise the benefits from their investment.

The team at the Walpole Partnership have worked on CPQ deployments of all sizes – from blue-chip corporations to small businesses. You choose only the elements of the service you need to complement your in-house team. Walpole Partnership has worked in many industries and works with all the major providers of CPQ solutions.

Walpole Partnership help you gain value from your investment, by sharing best practices that will benefit you. They help you avoid
 costly mistakes, now and in the 
future because they know CPQ well.

About Oracle PartnerNetwork

Oracle PartnerNetwork (OPN) Specialized is the latest version of Oracle’s partner program that provides partners with tools to better develop, sell and implement Oracle solutions. OPN Specialized offers resources to train and support specialized knowledge of Oracle products and solutions and has evolved to recognize Oracle’s growing product portfolio, partner base and business opportunity. Key to the latest enhancements to OPN is the ability for partners to differentiate through Specializations. Specializations are achieved through competency development, business results, expertise and proven success. To find out more click here.

Oracle and Java are registered trademarks of Oracle and/or its affiliates.

Where do I start when choosing a new CPQ solution?

There are many vendors offering CPQ solutions and it can be hard to determine which will be the right fit for your organisation.

A good place to start is with some initial research on sites like Trustradius.com or G2Crowd.com who provide aggregate user reviews of enterprise software.

It’s also worth looking at the ‘grids’ on G2Crowd.com here https://www.g2crowd.com/categories/configurator-and-quotation

This gives an at-a-glance view of the most reviewed CPQ solutions. Don’t forget to check out the Products tab too, to find further vendors who have fewer reviews on the site.

At the Walpole Partnership we also advocate considering some key questions to help you narrow down your choice:-

CRM Integration

What CRM (if any) do you use? Many CPQ vendors offer products that are native to Salesforce.com or other CRM systems. Some integrate with many CRMs, but most have their specialties and integration approaches that are proven and well developed.

For example, in our opinion CallidusCloud works best with Salesforce.com although they do offer integration to other platforms such as Oracle CRM On-Demand, Microsoft Dynamics and NetSuite.

BigMachines (now Oracle CPQ Cloud) traditionally offered a strong integration with Salesforce.com however since their purchase by Oracle we’ve seen much tighter integration with Oracle Sales Cloud and CX offerings. The links to Salesforce.com appear to be remaining strong too which is great news for the existing user base.

Cincom Acquire has an exceptionally strong native integration with Microsoft Dynamics CRM. Like some other vendors, Cincom can offer bespoke integration to a much wider range of vendors too.

Many other vendors – especially several smaller ones – are Salesforce.com native. This can give great benefits to existing Salesforce.com admins and developers who can use their existing skills and knowledge to get more out of their CPQ systems and often leads to faster implementation times, however this must be weighed up against the dedicated functionality and performance of the standalone solutions.

In the US market there are many players in the native Salesforce.com space.
For European users and companies with a global presence it’s really worth checking on the internationalisation capabilities of each vendor. How easy is it to work in multiple currencies and languages? Can you define different workflows for different geographies? What support hours are available – you need to know you have a solution which understands the European market.

Smaller, and US-led vendors often put less focus on this type of functionality, however forward thinking vendors like Steelbrick are clearly developing their product with a worldwide market in mind, and have invested in a European services programme too.

Oracle CPQ Cloud for Midmarket (previously BigMachines Express) remains as a Salesforce.com native product too, so will only work with that platform, but it’s continued presence is a good sign that Oracle value the links to Salesforce.com customers from a CPQ perspective. It has strong functionality that has clearly been built on the experience of its enterprise level sibling.

In future posts we’ll take a look at some other aspects of CPQ choice. We’ll consider how the product fits in with a wider range of systems than CRM, and we’ll look at some specific functionality that might make or break your CPQ decision.

Before then if you have any questions please post them in the comments below or reach out to us directly – to andy@walpolepartnership.com – and we can help you out.

We’d love to hear from vendors too – there are many more solutions than we can touch on here so feel free to add your own views.

Walpole Partnership Becomes Oracle PartnerNetwork Silver Level Partner

Walpole Partnership has announced it has become a Silver level member of Oracle PartnerNetwork (OPN). As one of Oracle’s specialised partners, Walpole Partnership can offer affordable, scalable software products and enterprise-class solutions. Being an OPN member will provide Walpole Partnership with the resources and knowledge to implement Oracle technology within its customer base more effectively and efficiently.

Andy Pieroux, founder of Walpole Partnership says “Becoming a Silver level member of Oracle PartnerNetwork is a fabulous achievement for my organisation and more importantly for our clients“.

About Walpole Partnership

Walpole Partnership provide expert consultancy to help you implement your Configure, Price, Quote solution. The company prides itself on its ability to help clients realise the benefits from their investment.

The team at Walpole Partnership has worked on CPQ deployments of all sizes – from blue-chip corporations to small businesses. You choose only the elements of the service you need to complement your in-house team. Walpole Partnership has worked in many industries and works with all the major providers of CPQ solutions.

Walpole Partnership help you gain value from your investment, by sharing best practices that will benefit you. They help you avoid
costly mistakes, now and in the
future because they know CPQ well.

About Oracle PartnerNetwork

Through PartnerNetwork, Oracle offers accredited members such as Walpole Partnership, access to specialised training, resources, go-to-market tools, and support. These valuable benefits enable partners to provide the highest level of support and expertise to their clients.