A Visit to UKOUG APPS 17

It’s December and for many UK Oracle users that means one thing – the annual UK Oracle User Group (UKOUG) Conference which was held, once more, in Birmingham at the ICC.

The event draws a wide range of attendees as it covers the whole spectrum of Oracle users under the heading of Apps, Tech and JDE, and really shows off the immense breadth of the Oracle portfolio.

As ever, the event ran exceptionally smoothly due to the experienced UKOUG events team. They’re always helpful and smiling, on what is undoubtedly a busy day, and it’s a pleasure to work with them.

I had the pleasure of chairing several of the Customer Experience (CX) seminars, and for me they were the highlights of the event. Fred Wilkinson of BPI OnDemand kicked things off in style with a typically mind-bending view of the future of CX which really served to get our brains in gear.

During the day it was also great to hear the stories of TH March’s journey from traditional to digital sales, told eloquently by their Managing Director, Neil McFarlane. One of the benefits of the impartial nature of the UKOUG events is that no one is afraid to tell the audience about the challenges they faced in implementing some of the Oracle products, and it was equally pleasing to hear how those problems were overcome. It’s a more realistic and ultimately more useful set of insights based on real-life experience that you can’t get from a brochure or a sales presentation.

I also thoroughly enjoyed the story of Nuvias presented by Alex Love of Enigen. It was great to see a multi-pillar transformation, with Oracle Configure, Price, Quote (CPQ) Cloud at the heart of that.

My day was rounded off with a wonderful hands-on demonstration of CX Journey Mapping in action presented by Oracle’s Richard Spearman. It really brought to life how to get stakeholders together to consider businesses activities from their customers’ point of view, and how to develop innovative and potentially transformational solutions through Oracle technology.

The hospitality was wonderful and it was great to see old and new faces at the CX community lunch, and the APPS community drinks after the show. My only sadness was that this year I could only make it for one day of the event.

Overall the show is a timely reminder of how incredibly strong the Oracle user community is, with excellent support from partners and Oracle themselves. As the journey to Cloud continues, it is clear that the UKOUG will remain a critical link between customers, partners and vendors that will bring success to organisations for years. I am proud to be a part of it.

A Visit to UKOUG APPS17’ was written by Walpole Partnership’s Managing Director, Andy Pieroux.

Walpole Partnership welcomes Antoine Jansen as Sales Manager

We’re pleased to announce that Antoine Jansen has been appointed as Sales Manager at Walpole Partnership Ltd.

Antoine joins us from Oracle where he was the CPQ Lead for Central and Eastern Europe region working with Oracle sales teams and partners to advocate and sell CPQ (Configure, Price, Quote) Cloud.

At Walpole Partnership his role is to demonstrate the CPQ Cloud platform to our customers, and to explain the benefits of our implementation and consulting services for CPQ Cloud.

Antoine said: I am excited to join Walpole Partnership at this time, as they are currently going through a period of rapid growth. The CPQ market is buzzing and the company has got a brilliant team which delivers great results to their customers.

Andy Pieroux, Managing Director at Walpole Partnership said: We’re delighted to have someone of Antoine’s calibre and considerable experience working with us. His focus on customers will ensure our success going forward. Exciting times are here and ahead!

About Walpole Partnership:

Walpole Partnership provides expert consultancy to help your company implement a Configure, Price, Quote (CPQ) system. We ensure that the organisations we work with are able to realise the full benefits of their investment in CPQ.

The team at Walpole Partnership have worked on CPQ deployments of all sizes, from small businesses to blue-chip corporations, in many different industries and with all the major providers of CPQ solutions.

Walpole Partnership helps you gain value from your investment, by sharing best practices that will benefit your organisation. We help you avoid costly mistakes, now and in the future, because we are experts in CPQ.

‘Your ERP Needs a Makeover’ – Published by Oracle

We’re delighted that our Managing Director, Andy Pieroux, was invited to write a guest post by Oracle.

The post is entitled ‘Your ERP Needs a Makeover’, so if you think that your Enterprise Resource Planning system doesn’t offer the most user-friendly experience, make sure you check out the post by heading over to the Oracle site.

https://blogs.oracle.com/cx/your-erp-needs-a-makeover

 

Walpole Partnership’s Guest Author Series – Post No. 2

 

At Walpole Partnership we believe that implementing great Configure, Price, Quote (CPQ) systems can really help drive sales satisfaction and a salesperson’s empowerment to deliver results without the technology getting in the way.

However a system is nothing without great leadership and without users who feel ownership of it.

In the second of our guest author posts, we’d like to introduce our readers to Antoinette Oglethorpe – a specialist in leadership development – to give her views on how leaders can help employees take ownership.

 

Six Steps to Help Your Employees Take Ownership and Responsibility

Are you being asked to achieve more and more with less and less?

Are you under pressure to meet hard to achieve goals and targets?

Do you have a queue of employees at your office door wanting you to solve their problems for them and adding to your ever-increasing to-do list?

In today’s business environment, productivity is king, stretching objectives and targets are routine and managers continually need to do more and more with less and less. At times such as these, you need all employees to take full ownership and responsibility for themselves and their actions. You need every single employee to be working towards delivering the vision for the organisation.

These six steps will help your employees take ownership and responsibility.  They will help employees become more self-reliant and productive, more energetic and enthusiastic and more willing to commit themselves to achieving personal and business objectives.

Help Your Employees Take Ownership and Responsibility

1) Don’t take the monkey 

We all experience the “monkey on our back” at work, in other words, a serious problem that won’t go away. Employees often think that, because managers and leaders are more senior (and more highly paid), it is their responsibility to solve problems and make decisions. So they arrive at your office door all ready to give you the monkeys on their backs too. For leaders, there is the strong temptation to help their employees by taking on their problems and solving them for them. But taking their monkeys is nothing more than rescuing them. Instead, invest the little extra time to help them take the initiative and tackle the issue themselves.

2) Reduce the noise

When employees come to their managers with a problem, it is often accompanied by a lot of “noise”.  A bit like a poorly tuned radio station, the actual issue is confused by a lot of interference from other issues, other people and other emotions. One of the most helpful things you can do at that point is to help your employee focus on that area that they are able and willing to influence and is likely to have the biggest impact on the situation.

3) Be solutions-focussed in your approach

There is nothing to be gained in analysing what’s wrong, why it’s wrong, who’s to blame and all the things that are going to get in the way of making things better. All that will do is demoralise and drain energy at exactly the time when the opposite is needed. A much more efficient and effective approach is to help your employee to think through what they want instead of the problem or situation as it is. What would be the small and visible signs that the problem is being addressed and that progress is being made?

4) Identify what is already working

However bad the situation might seem at the time, when your employee has really thought through how they would like things to be instead, they are likely to see that there are some things, however small, that are already working in their favour. Helping them think through all those things that they have already done to move things forward, what they already know about how to solve the problem and who else is available to help will build their confidence and encourage them to take action.

5) Express confidence in their ability

Take this opportunity to let your employee know what strengths, skills and positive qualities you see in them that will help them solve this problem for themselves. Recognising and naming these useful qualities helps to build their self-belief, as well as enhancing your relationship with them.

6) Identify small next steps

All your employee needs at this time are small next steps that will allow them to start making progress. They came to you because they were stuck. By them identifying small actions they can take now, they will become unstuck. If these actions are built on what is already working the employee will usually be very motivated to try them out and they are likely to be very effective.

If you can have these kinds of conversations with all of your direct reports, you have the key to unlocking the capacity of every individual in your team. You will help your employees take ownership and responsibility for carrying out their role and delivering the vision of the organisation.

Antoinette Oglethorpe is a Leadership Development Consultant, Coach, Speaker and Author. Her training and coaching company specialises in developing leaders and leadership teams for fast-growing organisations. www.antoinetteoglethorpe.com

 

 

 

Salesforce Customers: Oracle CPQ Has Your Back

We’ve been waiting for this! Great to see Oracle CPQ (Configure, Price and Quote) supporting their excellent Salesforce integration and reinforcing it for the modern CRM (Customer Relationship Management) experience. If you need help implementing Lightning for CPQ, we have a solution for you.

Check out this Oracle blog post for more information and don’t hesitate to get in touch with us to discuss this opportunity further.

What CPQ Can REALLY Do For You – No. 5: GUIDED SELLING

Over the last few months we’ve been taking a closer look into the real benefits of Configure, Price, Quote (CPQ) systems and have been unpicking the marketing bullet-points one-by-one to explore what CPQ can really do for you.

One of the oft touted features of CPQ is ‘guided selling’. In this article, we’ll explore what that means for your business. In essence, guided selling presents a series of easily understandable questions about a customer’s needs to the salesperson who is trying to configure a product or service.

By answering these questions, the CPQ system will present relevant choices to the salesperson – sometimes just one clear recommendation of what to sell is made by the system.

Contrast this with a typical configurator where all options are presented to the salesperson – perhaps well organised, with good UX and rules to prevent mistakes – but ultimately, they are able to choose anything for their customer. In this case, the freedom to choose may be a benefit, or it may be overwhelming.

Guided selling is often best used where the range of products and services is large, and where there is a clear logic that can be defined linking the customer’s requirements to the choice of products.

To give an example, consider the experience as a consumer if you try and hire a car. You are not just given a full list of every possible car the company has to hire in its whole fleet. Most car hire websites will ask you to define your requirements before presenting you with any options. For example, you may be asked when you want the car and where you want to collect it from. Then you may be given a selection like ‘Economy Vehicles’, ‘Luxury Cars’, ’Dream Collection’ so by making your choices in terms that mean something to you, you are able to narrow down the choices available. This makes the final selection a lot more practical, and it saves you sifting through irrelevant options.

Guided selling doesn’t have to be a completely restrictive process though. Many organisations use guided selling to simplify the choices of perhaps just the models that are available for selection and within those models there are many detailed choices available which may not be limited at all. The skill in a good implementation of guided selling is getting the balance right between simplifying the salesperson’s choices while not being overly restrictive.

In some industries, the limitations can have further benefits. Consider the insurance industry which (in the UK at least) is heavily regulated, and the selling of insurance plans has had a chequered history. In situations such as this where regulation and control is critical, guided selling can become the key to ensuring your salespeople follow due process, ask all the relevant questions, and only present valid options to the customer. Using a CPQ system to control the sales process can ensure that there is a clearly auditable record of why a customer was sold a specific product or service, and can remove the possibility of mis-selling.

A further benefit of guided selling is found in environments where the salesperson turnover is high, especially if the product or service is complex or the range of choices is exceptionally high. This is often the case for Inside Sales or call centre based sales teams. When the selection of products is based on a series of customer centric questions rather than deep knowledge of the product, the time for a new salesperson to become effective can be dramatically reduced, and potentially the cost of product training can diminish too. The reduced chance of mistakes in product selection will make salespeople more effective and prevents the wrong product being proposed, or worse, sold.

We’ve seen great examples of guided selling setups where product information and explanatory material is embedded in the process all the way through. Fact sheets, selling guides, benefits guides, text and video explainers, competitive information and much more can be made available to the salesperson, right when they need it. For an Inside Sales team this provides information that is useful while on a call, or for field salespeople it can be a great asset when preparing for a meeting, or when following up afterwards so that they have the detail that is needed. It’s all part of the process of guiding the sale.

Finally, one potential hidden benefit of guided selling is the impact on sales product awareness, and the retention of knowledge from training. If there is clear alignment between the materials used in sales product training and the information provided in the guided selling process, then it is clear that the knowledge ‘sinks in’ more from repeated viewing. Seeing the training material in context helps it to be memorised and used naturally. Our advice to anyone implementing guided selling is to consider working with their training teams and to see the content in the CPQ system as an extension of the training approach. It’s a great way for salespeople to learn, and might even liberate some budget!

Overall, we like guided selling if used in the right situations. It’s not for everyone, but where it’s used wisely it can reduce mistakes, reduce sales training and preparation time and can increase effectiveness.

The series ‘What CPQ Can REALLY Do For You’ is written by Walpole Partnership’s MD, Andy Pieroux. Don’t miss out on further parts in this series which can be found on the news section of Walpole Partnership’s website.

Slay Your Sales Demons This Halloween with CPQ

Once upon a time in a land not too far away lived a man called Sam. For the past eight years, Sam had earned his living as a salesman and was successful by most people’s standards. He had won his company’s ‘President’s Club’ for two years running and made his sales quota every year for the last six years. His car was an executive saloon, he wore a Rolex watch and was about to buy a bigger house. He’d just accepted a job offer from the leading company in his industry on double the salary. The future was bright for Sam.

Our story begins as Sam starts his new job. The first few months in the company were wonderful. It really felt like a real step up for him in terms of status. The product training was excellent and everyone seemed super busy, especially at the end of the month when there was a real buzz about the place and the office was full. He figured that business must be good as everyone spent so long in the office getting all their deals processed. His boss seemed a bit intense as he got up close to him, stared into his eyes and told him that as long as he hit his target, he’d survive in the job. Sam thought it was a bit early to be talking about survival but such is the life of a salesperson. This happened a few times in those first few months, and although Sam was focused on achieving much more than mere survival, he just nodded and told his boss that he understood and would do his very best.

Finally, Sam was ready to hit his patch, fully trained up and ready to go. Those first few weeks were a dream come true – he was building great rapport with his new clients and the product benefits seemed to be practically selling themselves. When Sam’s first deal started to come together he was over the moon. When a client finally said “send me your final proposal,” Sam headed back into the office feeling on top of the world. He logged onto the company’s CRM system and looked for the button to generate his quote and proposal. He asked several of his colleagues but they thought he was making a joke, so they laughed and walked away from him. Finally he found someone who explained that everyone worked from spreadsheets and just copied and pasted from old proposals. She said she would send him a few examples to work from. Sam shrugged and thanked her. It wasn’t so bad, he was OK with spreadsheets, and could understand the logic of not re-inventing the wheel each time. Although it sounded more complicated than at his old company, he reassured himself that selling wasn’t about the tools anyway. He didn’t mind working a few extra hours to get the proposal done.

Sam cancelled his dinner plans and got to work, but as the evening wore on, he found himself getting more and more confused. The spreadsheets he’d been given all seemed different, and the proposal templates were very patchy. Finally he had to admit defeat and email the client to buy himself some time. The next morning Sam pleaded with a few of his colleagues to help him out, and several hours later he had a proposal to send to his customer. The other salespeople in the office didn’t seem too happy about having to help him, as they all had so much work to do on their own deals, but their boss was prowling around looking menacing so the job got done.

Sam found out that the customer accepted the proposed deal and signed the contract just before the order deadline for that month. He considered himself lucky, as the expectation was a minimum of one deal per month. “High standards mean high performance,” he thought to himself. Once more he cancelled his evening plans and settled down to get his order ready for processing. He’d found all the forms he needed to fill in, but they were so confusing and he couldn’t get it done on his own. Again, he ended up late to bed feeling confused and annoyed.

The next day in the office he tried to ask his colleagues for help, but they told him they needed to sort their own deals out first. Frustrated, he checked with the Order Processing Team to see if they could help, but the manic look on their faces told him that now wasn’t the best time. No one could help him until the following week.

As the day drew to a close, he faced the music and explained to his boss that he couldn’t get the deal in on time. The furious response was almost demonic in its intensity and after receiving a roasting about time management he left the office sheepishly, but still not really knowing what he could have done better or different.

The first two days of the following month were spent with a calmer, but exhausted member of the Order Processing Team who helped him get his order onto the system. It still seemed like a dark art to Sam with product codes being cross-referenced with multiple price lists and multiple sources of information. He was frustrated that he’d lost two valuable days of selling time but at least the order was booked and would be delivered over the next two months as planned and he’d get the revenue straightaway. His boss was just about talking to him again although there was an odd glint in his eye that made Sam feel uncomfortable, a little like he’d become prey. “It must just be the killer instinct in him,” Sam reasoned to himself. “That’s what makes a great salesman.” When two of Sam’s team left abruptly in the middle of the month, his boss joked that ‘fresh meat’ would be joining soon.

Sam got a small deal in the next month, nice and early, and with some help he got it processed before the month end rush. At least he had numbers on the board, and it seemed to keep his boss at bay, although he could tell that he was getting impatient and frustrated, as he would leap up and start pacing the room like a caged animal in the middle of their one-to-ones.

Sam had a much bigger deal planned for the following month which would make his target for the quarter. When he told his boss, he surprised Sam by snarling and telling him that it had better come in on time, or there’d be blood on the carpet. Sam knew then that he had to bring a big deal in.

He pulled out all the stops and got his deal ready for his customer, nice and early. The pricing was agreed in principle with the customer, lease finance had been scoped out, delivery schedules were complex, but planned to perfection and Sam felt confident. He knew he had to get approvals for pricing, lease finance and expedited delivery, so he gave himself an extra week to make sure everything was sorted out. Back at the office he put together the three approval requests and sent them all off, feeling rather pleased with himself for being so organised.

Two days passed and he’d heard nothing, so he chased all three. After a few hours of playing ‘voicemail tag’, he caught the Pricing Manager on his way out of the office. “Have you had the leasing approved yet?” was the first question. “Not yet” Sam replied. “Call me back when you have” was the response. “I can’t take the time to look at it until they’ve agreed it.” Sam tried calling the Leasing Manager. “She’s out until Friday.” The clock was ticking. He called the Logistics Team to get approval for the delivery schedule and they said they were working on it – complex schedules took a few days.

Friday afternoon came and the Leasing Manager called him, “I think we’re OK” she said, “I can sign it off.” Relieved that at least one approval was in the bag, Sam headed in to his weekend worried, but cautiously optimistic.

On Monday things got worse. His boss summoned him into his office. Sam was sure he could see steam coming out of his ears! His first customer had been on the phone, in a rage. The second phase of the delivery had arrived and the parts were all wrong, several key components were missing. Sam needed to get down there fast to appease him while the new parts were delivered on a costly rush delivery. His boss’s eyes looked like they were blazing with fury. For the next three days Sam stayed onsite, ensuring all the new parts arrived and making sure the installation crew got everything done correctly. If only he hadn’t made a mistake on the order. When he finally got back to the office, he told his boss that everything was sorted. “It had better be,” growled his boss drumming his exceptionally long fingernails on his desk menacingly, “and this month’s deal had better be in on time too.

Sam practically sprinted back to his desk. He’d forgotten all about the approvals on his next deal while he was busy putting his last order right. He tried to remember where he was up to. “Finance – check, Pricing…damn.” He called the Pricing Manager with the news that the finance was OK. “You took so long to call, I assumed you’d lost the deal. Let me take a look at it.”

 Meanwhile he picked up a message from the customer who was getting impatient with the time it was taking. “I need the quote in two days or I’m going elsewhere.

The phone rang again. The Pricing Manager called back. “I’ve approved the deal” she said. “Thank you” said Sam breathing a short-lived sigh of relief. “But it needs the Finance Director’s approval too – it’s below my sign-off level.” “OK please can you escalate it.” “Sure, just send me over the escalation form.” Sam almost cried with frustration – another form. “You can’t fight the system” he thought, “but I wish there was a better system.

He found and filled out the form and sent it off. It was late now. As he walked past his boss’s door he thought he heard a strange sound – a bit like a dog eating food, but he was too tired to worry. He’d have to get the logistics approval tomorrow so he didn’t want to face his boss anyway.

The next day he called the Logistics Team. “We can do it,” they said, “But you haven’t added the premium for expedited delivery.” “Nobody told me about that,” wailed Sam. “I’m telling you now. You can either add it to the price, or you can take it off your sale.” “Okay, okay” replied Sam, “but I don’t know which.” The Logistics Manager helpfully replied “I can’t sign it off then. Go and make your mind up and come back when you’re sure.”

Sam called the customer to tell them about the extra price. “Not a chance. We agreed a price” was the reply. “I need you to confirm it all to me tomorrow remember.

Sam spent the whole of the next day running around in circles. The Finance Director had agreed the discount, but when Sam explained the logistics issue, the Pricing Manager told him that he would have to get the deal re-approved. When he asked her to reapprove it she told him to resubmit it. When he’d resubmitted it, she asked him if he had leasing approval. “Yes” Sam shouted. “You knew that.” “Not at the new price” came the curt reply. Sam wondered what he’d done to deserve this dystopian nightmare.

He did everything he could and as the day carried on he managed to get the Logistics Manager, and then the Leasing Manager to sign the deal off. Finally, the Pricing Manager answered “I can sign it off, but the FD’s gone home. He’ll sign it first thing.” “Too late!” cried Sam.

Sam got in really early the next day, and caught the FD as he was walking into the office. Finally his deal was approved and he got in his car with the proposal and paperwork, and rushed over to the customer’s site. He didn’t have an appointment, so he asked the receptionist to help. As he signed in, he saw the name of his biggest competitor in the visitor’s book.

He waited for his appointment. Eventually his client came out, shaking hands with a broadly smiling salesman who Sam thought he recognised. His customer didn’t even invite him in, and just said “You were too late Sam. I warned you, and I signed with your competitor this morning. They got their proposal to me on time just like they said they would. How could I trust your firm to deliver if you can’t even do that right?

Crushed, Sam returned to the office. He knocked on the door of his boss’s office and walked in, dreading his reaction. There was a strange smell coming from the cupboard but that was the least of Sam’s worries. His boss’s eyes really did look like they were burning. “Well” rasped his boss. “Where’s the deal.” “Well… I d-don’t h-have it.” stammered Sam. His boss stood up slowly and menacingly, and the room suddenly felt freezing cold. Behind him Sam heard a click that sounded ominously like a door locking itself. He whirled round and tried the handle, but it wouldn’t budge.

He started to panic and as he turned around and caught sight of his boss he wanted to scream but no sound came out. His boss’s eyes were still burning but he no longer looked human. He had transformed into a creature unlike anything Sam had ever seen before. Fire in the eyes, and razor-like teeth which extended out of his mouth and those hideously long-finger nails which had turned into razor sharp claws. Sam was terrified. “What the hell is happening” he yelled backing up against the wall. “I told you, if you fail me you don’t survive” rasped the boss-monster as he lunged towards Sam.

Sam dodged his boss and put the desk between them. “But it’s not my fault.” yelped Sam as a slashing claw just missed his neck. “It’s all your fault” growled the boss-monster, “you can’t sell and I need you gone to make room for someone who can.” He lunged towards Sam once more, and again, Sam just managed to avoid him.

I can sell“, Sam yelled. “It’s your stupid systems that screw things up.” The boss-monster was coming towards him and as he stumbled backwards he tripped and fell to the floor. The boss-monster towered over him, sneering and licking its lips. “What are you gonna do about it?” it growled. Sam’s life flashed before his eyes. He was certain he was going to be killed.

Then in a bizarre moment of clear thought Sam said calmly “You just need to implement a configure, price and quote system. No hassle with orders, no problems with approvals and no delays.

The boss-monster hesitated for a second. Sam rolled out of the way and stared. Strange marks were forming on the body of the boss-monster, like branding on cattle. It screamed in pain as Sam scrambled towards the window. The boss-monster had fallen to its knees and seemed to be dying. Leaving nothing to chance, Sam opened the window and prepared to jump from the first floor. He took one last look as the monster let out a blood-curdling final wheeze, and collapsed on to its back. Just before he jumped to freedom he could see clearly emblazoned on its chest were three letters.

C.P.Q.

Slay your demons with a configure, price and quote system. Happy Halloween! 

Walpole Partnership’s Guest Author Series – Post No. 1

At Walpole Partnership we are committed to providing our followers and contacts with engaging and informative content. Until now this has largely been about CPQ (Configure, Price, Quote) and directly related topics, but now we want to throw open the gates and cover some slightly different topics with extra opinions that we hope you find interesting and relevant.

As our business has grown we have made friends with many who don’t work in the business of CPQ, but with people who can offer valuable insights into other areas of industry and from a different perspective.

We’ve been reading their posts and wanted to share some of them with you, so thought we’d launch a series from guest authors which we hope you enjoy. Neil How from Limelight Solutions is kicking us off and taking centre stage for the first post…

Innovation Vs. Transformation: The Difference In A Digital World

Innovation and transformation are often used synonymously, but they are different in the digital world. In some instances, transformation can lead to innovation. In others, innovation can lead to transformation, but this mutually causal relationship is often overlooked since they are thought to mean the same thing. While indeed related, it is crucial for modern business leaders to know the difference between the two terms.

Know The Difference

One of the major differentiating factors between transformation and innovation is speed—or lack thereof.  Transformations take time—moving from one state to another is a process. Innovation, on the other hand, usually refers to a sudden spark or creativity, and the incipient actions that lead to implementing that spark into a company’s strategy.

Innovation requires encouragement, collaboration, and communication, but it typically implies clear steps that must be taken—it’s the start of something great. What happens after is transformation—the implementation process following that first spark of innovation. It also suggests an eventual end once the transformation has been completed.

Digital transformation is a clear example of the difference between innovation and transformation. Essentially, digital transformation describes the process by which a company forms a strategy to implement technology to improve business and meet the ever changing demands of the consumer. The goals of a digital transformation can include broadening the company’s reach, improving operational efficiency, transmuting the company’s culture and image, or all the above. Traditional business practices are consistently put to the test in the face of evolving technology, and it’s important for modern companies to recognize technology’s potential and accept when the time for change has come.

Challenge Norms Through Innovation

Innovations drive changes and make them a reality. For example, the dawn of social media disrupted the marketing realm forever. People can now communicate regardless of physical location, and information changes hands faster than ever. As new technology like smartphones and internet-connected devices emerged, society underwent transformations to accommodate those innovations.

Innovation is the rethinking or reimagining of a business process that already exists. Essentially, once a transformation is realized and the new reality is established, innovation describes when those norms are again challenged. For example, after social media reshaped social communication dynamics, various other accepted norms such as news, entertainment, recreation, content, and business had to change. Now, social media is being reimagined for countless purposes, including business.

Once social media became part of everyday life, it became easier for brands to connect with their audiences and customers. For years, a typical customer’s interaction with a brand usually only included the point of sale and occasional exposure to marketing materials.

Social media platforms allow brands to constantly provide audiences with valuable content and have a more meaningful relationship with them. Many customers like to feel connected to the brands they like and relish the opportunity to make a difference. Social media was the innovation, and it led to a transformation in how businesses reach their customers.

Innovate To Improve

Apple probably comes to mind for most people when they think of innovative companies. Every announcement from Apple is awaited with bated breath from countless users who enjoy their products. From the iMac to the iPhone, every Apple product has been repeatedly improved for better customer satisfaction. New iterations of Apple devices encapsulate the idea of product innovation: assessing the success of an established product and challenging its capabilities to deliver something even better.

When a new product enters the market or a new service generates a great deal of sudden demand, an entire industry can shift seemingly overnight as competitors race to create something on par or better. Third-party developers scramble to provide the best content and services possible to accompany the newcomer. Consumers benefit the most, because this disruption generates competition, which in turn leads to better products and services for the end customer.

Evolve A Market Through Transformation

Transformation describes those ongoing processes that happen in the world after innovation enters the scene. Google is a great example of a transformative company. Today, the search engine is highly recognizable and easy to use, but since its inception, Google has undergone constant revision, optimization, and reconfiguration to deliver more accurate and relevant search results for users. Google has allowed users to reliably search for what they need, and, in doing so, has provided businesses with the tools needed to reach their audiences. Surely Google is often used as an example along with Apple and Amazon. However, other global leaders like Microsoft, Cisco, IBM, Oracle, Dell, HP and non-technology companies like Procter and Gamble, Nike, BMW are all great examples of companies that are constantly transforming to meet changing market demands.

Having said that, I believe it’s wise for business leaders to encourage their teams to constantly look for ways to innovate. I give talks around the world about how the rules of modern business change on a seemingly daily basis, and to remain competitive, you need to remain relevant. Make sure your organization stays current on new tech, new trends, and new concepts. Empower your employees to collaborate and encourage innovation – that creative energy will drive transformation in countless ways.

Neil How is the CEO and Founder of Limelight Solutions. Limelight Solutions is a strategic SAP partner working with ambitious organisations who want to reach further than they ever thought possible. http://www.limelightsolutions.co.uk

Walpole Partnership Wins Big at the UK Oracle User Group Partner of the Year Awards

On Thursday night we donned our glad rags with masks in hand and boarded a boat at Bankside Pier which took us along the Thames to the Hurlingham Club. It was a beautiful evening and we enjoyed seeing the sites of London from the boat with a glass of fizz in hand as the sun went down.

At the Hurlingham Club we were greeted outside by amazing fire jugglers and more fizz before being shown to our seats in a wonderfully decorated room. Dinner was three courses of deliciousness, after which we were treated to light entertainment before getting down to the serious business of the evening – the UKOUG Partner of the Year Awards.

We were in the running for CX Partner of the Year Award 2017-18 and were delighted to take home the Silver Award in this category for the second year running. Huge congratulations to Boxfusion Consulting for winning the Bronze Award and for BPI On Demand for being given the prestigious Gold Award. The icing on the cake for us was winning the ‘Best Photo Tweet’ of the evening, which featured our MD, Andy Pieroux, in his son’s Darth Vader mask with the caption ‘Dinner with Darth’. It was the end to a brilliant evening! Here’s a link to the winning tweet.

Thanks to the UKOUG team for all their hard work in organising such a great event. We are looking forward to next year’s Partner of the Year Awards already…

 

What CPQ Can REALLY Do For You – No. 4: ERROR-FREE ORDERS

We’ve been taking a deeper dive into the real benefits of Configure, Price, Quote (CPQ) solutions and what lies beneath the headlines for a few months now.

In this article we’ll change the focus to a benefit that is felt further down the ‘quote-to-order’ process. CPQ marketing materials often state that it can provide ‘Error-Free Orders’, but what does that really mean, and why should we care?

 

Firstly let’s look at where CPQ typically sits in the quote to order process:

 

 

There can be quite a few variations on this, but fundamentally one of the key jobs of a CPQ system is to deliver information to a ‘down-stream’ system that will handle the order, process it and turn it into reality – whether that’s delivery of goods, provisioning of a service or any other ‘deliverable’ in return for the customer’s order.

Sometimes these ‘down-stream’ systems are highly structured and automated like an Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) system. Sometimes they are simpler (and often older) order management or provisioning IT systems. Sometimes they are manual or paper based processes or a collection of disparate systems. Believe us when we say that we’ve seen all kinds, but for simplicity we’ll refer to them now as ‘the ordering system’, whatever form that system takes.

The ordering system requires inputs. Normally these are all the data elements required to make that order happen. They can be product detail, customer information, billing factors, service levels and many more. Every organisation (and every system) is different.

So how does CPQ help provide ‘Error-Free Orders’? Let’s pull apart the initials to see. Firstly ‘C’ – Configure. An integral part of a CPQ system is the configuration engine. One of the main roles the configurator fulfils is to ensure that the salesperson or user can only generate a valid configuration, list of parts, or a valid service description. Configuration rules limit the choices that can be made, so that, for example, if you are selecting components of a car you can’t select rear electric windows on a 3-door car! In short, the configurator ensures that only a valid combination of parts or services are generated as part of the order.

Secondly ‘P’ – Price. The pricing element of CPQ typically refers to the commercial and contractual aspects of a deal. Again, rules are enforced at this stage of the process to ensure that all critical information is captured, regardless of the deal type. All customer information can be mandated, or even integrated with a Content Relationship Management (CRM) system, and billing terms can be specified and prices established. A good CPQ system will allow for every element of your workflow to be defined and all critical information specified.

One of the most important elements of the commercial terms is the approval of pricing levels and any other non-standard elements of the deal. Discounts can be tracked and approved according to business rules, and elements like expedited delivery or customer specific terms can be checked and approved, before the quote is finalised with the customer.

Finally ‘Q’ – Quote. In most CPQ systems this refers to the ability to take the information that’s been captured and to present it in the most appropriate way. This usually means customer-facing documents like proposals, quotes and contracts are accurate and well designed. Equally though, it can refer to the presentation of all the deal information in a structured way such that downstream systems can interpret it easily – either via direct integration, or at the very least making manual re-entry as simple as possible.

So why should we care? When we think about the consequences of an order being generated with inaccuracies, after customer sign-off, we’ll see that there are two main potential problems:-

1) Failed orders – at the simplest level, the order may ‘fail’ at the point an attempt is made to push it into the ordering system. Most ordering systems have controls over what can be entered, and systems that are not designed with each other in mind may simply refuse to play nicely together.

2) Incorrect fulfilment – some inaccurate orders may pass through validation in the ordering system and parts may actually be delivered before anyone realises that they simply don’t work together. If you’ve ever planned a meal, created a shopping list and visited the store to buy everything you need, but then got home to find you didn’t buy a key ingredient, you’ll understand this. Individually all the items make sense, but together they don’t give the desired end result (and you end up ordering a takeaway instead…)

When we look at what either of these scenarios can mean, the cost to the organisation quickly mounts up. Orders that stop at the administration stage will often be delayed. This can mean missed shipment dates and in some cases can impact on service level agreements (SLAs). Admin time to put things right costs money, and inevitably the sales person will need to provide input too. If this means going back to the customer to explain the error, it reflects badly on the salesperson, and in some cases can cost you the deal.

Sadly, this isn’t the worst-case. When inaccurate orders aren’t trapped before delivery or provision, the customer will receive the wrong thing, or a product or service that just doesn’t work. This can range from a mild annoyance to severe dissatisfaction – especially if the purchase was something the customer was relying on for a mission critical process. The knock-on effects can be enormous.

The cost of non-conformance of inaccurate orders can be huge – from the time taken to understand and rectify the mistake, through to the cost of re-providing the right thing, potentially collecting and handling returns, writing off the failed delivery, and in extreme cases providing compensation or goodwill gestures to a customer to appease them. Couple this with the loss of credibility and perhaps the loss of business, it is clear why inaccurate orders are a grim thing indeed.

With a well-designed CPQ system that implements well-defined business rules, all these problems can be avoided. Of all the benefits CPQ can provide, ‘Error-Free Orders’ is one of the most important, and with potentially the biggest impact to the bottom line.

The series ‘What CPQ Can REALLY Do For You’ is written by Walpole Partnership’s MD, Andy Pieroux. Don’t miss out on further parts in this series which can be found on the news section of Walpole Partnership’s website.