UKOUG Journey to Cloud

Are you interested in moving your business to the cloud? Are you keen to explore cloud-based technology and all that it has to offer before taking those initial steps?

If the answer is ‘yes’, then it sounds like you would benefit from attending the UKOUG Applications’ Journey to Cloud 2017 event on 8 March 2017 at Holiday Inn, London-Kensington.

At the event you will hear from experts about why you might want to use the cloud, the practicalities of making the move, and about the different technologies used in the cloud journey including Digital CX (CRM, CPQ, Service and Marketing Clouds), ERP and HCM.

Walpole Partnership is delighted to announce that their MD, Andy Pieroux, will be presenting one of the sessions at the event. This session will focus exclusively on the Oracle CPQ (Configure, Price, Quote) Cloud. Andy is looking forward to sharing his specialist CPQ customer experiences and best practices.

Registration for this event is open now.

Leading Trends That Will Influence CPQ Growth in 2017 and Beyond

The real growth in the Configure, Price, Quote (CPQ) market is in cloud-based solutions, and Oracle predicts that there will be three trends expected to influence the CPQ market in 2017. These key trends are likely to be heightened customer expectations, digital commerce disruption and mobile growth.

As this article from Oracle notes, technology evolves as a result of what businesses and clients require from it. Even if the predicted trends that influence the CPQ market turn out to be different over 2017, one thing that we can all agree on is, as the article states, ‘if you don’t see CPQ as a track for differentiation and success you may risk falling behind the competition’.

New Year’s Resolutions

Now that the last of the turkey has been eaten, it’s time to turn our attention to what 2017 holds. Walpole Partnership had a really successful 2016 and we’ve made some resolutions for the coming year (which will definitely last longer than our healthy eating regimes.)

  • We will ensure our complete focus remains on CPQ. We will help more companies realise the benefits of faster quoting, accurate orders and high quality proposals which will enable them to serve their customers better.
  • We will take our solutions into mid-size organisations that might previously have felt that an enterprise-class CPQ system was beyond them. We have started to have great success with our faster, leaner approach to CPQ implementation already, so we want to continue this by creating packaged solutions, simplifying processes and getting additional companies engaged and onto the platform in a cost-effective way.
  • We will launch our new website with an elegant design, which will modernise our web presence and allow us to engage with present and future clients in new and exciting ways. We will offer more ideas and resources on our website and will make them easy to find and use.
  • We will continue to increase our global reach. We already work with clients across Europe and the Middle East and we have exciting plans and partnerships to deliver in the US, the Far East and the other parts of Europe.
  • We will continue to grow our team, with firm plans to increase our client facing account managers, skilled business analysts and our onshore and offshore technical experts. If you have experience of CPQ or Enterprise IT sales and you are interested in working with us, please contact us – we would love to hear from you.
  • We will increase our work and support for charities, giving to great causes and sharing our success with those in need.

As we achieve each of our resolutions, we will be letting you know through our website news and social media, so please follow us to make sure we can connect with you.

We wish you all the best for 2017 – what are your New Year’s resolutions?

2016 at Walpole Partnership

As 2016 draws to a close, it’s a great time to look back and reflect on the last twelve months. We’ve had a really positive year at Walpole Partnership, despite the political uncertainty that we’ve seen around the world.

The year started with a personal achievement for our MD Andy Pieroux. He came third out of 60 in the “Key Person of Influence” Pitch-fest competition, judged by Dale Murray CBE, leading negotiator Clive Rich, Julia Francis of KPMG and Julia Langkrehr who is the founder of Retail Profile Europe. A tough panel for sure.

Later on in the year, we were proud to renew our ISO 27001 accreditation this year, which is a critical marker of our ongoing commitment to our clients’ data security.

Equally inspiring was being nominated for the UKOUG Partner of the Year awards in two categories – Overall CX Partner of the Year, and Training Partner of the Year. We were truly honoured to receive the Silver award for the Overall CX Partner and consider it a great achievement to be recognised by Oracle’s UK customers. Thank you to those of you who voted for us.

Over the year our team has grown, with the appointment of Lisa Zevi as Operations Director. She is responsible for the internal workings of the company as well as keeping our customers happy. We also boosted our technical team with the arrival of Pradeep and Juliet who have both delivered great results for our clients. Behind the scenes Ania and Alex also joined us to boost our marketing and social media presence as well as keeping us organised and capable of delivering more. And if all that change wasn’t enough, we’ve also moved into new offices near London Bridge!

As a result of our growth, we’ve been able to bring on significant new global clients in France, Israel and the UK with many more engagements planned for 2017. We’ve also delivered training in the UK, Spain, Germany, Belgium, the UAE and the US. Ingmar especially has delivered some fantastic courses in several different languages. Our results for training have been nothing short of remarkable in this area, and we’ve given both technical training for Oracle University as well as sales skills training for our clients.

This year has seen us reaffirm our commitment to the industry. We took an active part in the Oracle CPQ Partner Workshop, attended the UKOUG Apps conference, and Andy sits on the UKOUG CX Committee. We also renewed our Oracle Gold Partnership for another year as we look to cement our relationship and position as a reliable and innovative CPQ implementation partner.

To end as we started with a personal achievement for our MD Andy. He was very proud to see his two children, Luc and Leon, accepted into the prestigious ‘Children of London’ charity photographic project, with the proceeds going to support Great Ormond Street Hospital – a fantastic cause and a wonderful way to finish the year.

We hope you’ve had a 2016 that was just as exciting. We wish you all well over the festive period and hope you have time to relax with loved ones before looking forward to the challenges of 2017.

The image is of Luc Pieroux taken for the Children of London Project 2016. Copyright Richard Bradbury. http://childrenoflondon.co.uk

Death by Spreadsheet – Part 2

In part one of this article we considered a little bit of the history of spreadsheets, some of the positives of using them, but also some of the challenges of using them for enterprise deal construction.

Now, we will look at the role of spreadsheets for deals in the wider organisation, and our experience shows us that the problems are amplified. When considering the “C” and “Q” of CPQ we see further limitations:

  • Products are hard to define in a spreadsheet if there’s any level of complexity. Conditional rules are really hard to set up, and the user experience of a spreadsheet is rarely sophisticated enough for B2B sales.
  • Approvals are hard to manage too. We often see spreadsheets which need printing out with signature boxes for offline approval. In the age of e-signature and online approvals it’s hardly a cutting edge or robust solution.
  • Integration with related systems can be a big challenge. Sourcing data from spreadsheets and trying to meaningfully share it with CRM, customer service management, stock control, contracts and other supporting systems is often a real issue. Without integration, your users will need to re-key data and manually check for accuracy. The human factor adds the risk of errors and wastes time.
  • Sharing spreadsheets is easy enough by email, or on shared file systems, however true collaboration with real-time updates can cause problems of concurrent access. In this collaborative age you need tools that let your users work together on a deal.
  • From a sales perspective, spreadsheets don’t provide an effective way to promote cross-sell and up-sell opportunities to users.
  • High quality data driven documents simply can’t be generated easily from the data in a spreadsheet. This reduces the speed of response to the customer and misses the opportunity of providing well-designed, professional and relevant responses to customer’s enquiries for quotes and proposals.

Don’t get me wrong – spreadsheets are an amazing tool. We love them and use them in our business. We know many organisations that have an awesome blend of a professional CPQ system as the backbone of their deal construction process, using spreadsheets to deep-dive and perform iterative analysis when necessary.

Overall this is just about using the right tool for the job, and making a conscious, informed and mindful decision about what tools you employ. As your deal spreadsheets grow in scale and complexity, and as they reach out of the finance and pricing team and start to touch sales, just make sure you consider whether you are giving all your team the professional tools they need.

In many cases our experience says it’s time to get your deal data out of Excel and into the CPQ cloud…

Click to read part one of this article.

Death by Spreadsheet – Part 1

Nearly everyone I know loves Excel. For anyone involved in a pricing or finance team, spreadsheets are the de facto tool of choice. Since the launch of VisiCalc in 1979, the grid of rows and columns, formulas and their results have been the killer application for a generation of personal computer users in business.

On a personal level, I built a lot of my early success in a corporate environment by being the go-to guy when people needed help with their spreadsheets. I became an expert in Excel early on, just before PCs spread widely into the everyday business environment. Simply by being helpful and showing people how to get the best out of their XLS files, my skills got me access to, and kudos from managers in all functions of the business in which I worked.

The reasons for the rise of spreadsheets are clear and well known. There are very low barriers to adoption as when the software is included on nearly every desktop and laptop produced and the layout is intuitive, taking inspiration from notepads and calculators that are familiar to all. As a result, spreadsheets are ubiquitous in business and are used in many functions.

For a pricing team they are invaluable. A well-constructed spreadsheet allows a user to analyse the data whilst brokering a deal by rapidly calculating margins and discounts, and changing the financial components of transaction with ease. With their excellent ‘What-If’ capability, a spreadsheet exemplifies an agile approach to business modelling.

Inevitably when we visit organisations looking to implement Configuration, Pricing and Quoting (CPQ) systems we get introduced to the people involved in pricing, and the spreadsheet based models they have created or that they use.

We normally find that the users of the spreadsheet based models encounter the following challenges:

  • Complexity – what was once a simple spreadsheet has now become a monster. This in turn leads to problems in…
  • Maintainability – very often it’s just one person who created all the logic, who knows how it all interrelates and who therefore ‘owns’ that spreadsheet. This makes it hard to change as the business evolves. This can be even more dangerous with a single point of failure for the system. More importantly, what happens if the person who created and manages that spreadsheet leaves the business?
  • Data problems – it’s very rare for anyone to document or actively manage the data model for spreadsheets. This results in inconsistency, redundancy of information and has big potential for costly errors.
  • Version control – what’s the latest version? What are the consequences if the wrong one is used? How are they communicated, distributed and eventually retired?
  • Security – while password protection is possible, it’s a basic form of IT security. Given the commercially sensitive cost and deal information that these spreadsheets contain, a stronger approach to keeping data safe is really needed.
  • Scalability – My good friend Frank Sohn makes a great point that spreadsheets can be an excellent short-term solution for CPQ (http://www.novuscpq.com/excel-can-be-a-cpq-solution/) however he too concludes that scalability is one of the major limitations for a growth or large enterprise.

So, we can see that for a pricing team, spreadsheets can be a great tool, but one that has some serious limitations for enterprise deal construction.

Look out for part two of this article where we will consider how the sole use of spreadsheet based models will bring even more challenges with them when considering more specifically the “configure” and “quote” part of CPQ.

Walpole Partnership named as the Silver winner of the UKOUG Digital CX Partner of the Year Award

Walpole Partnership has been named as the Silver winner of the UKOUG Digital CX Partner of the Year Award at the ninth annual UK Oracle User Group Partner of the Year Awards. The awards provide recognition to UKOUG Partners for the contribution that they make by offering their services to Oracle users.

The awards were held at the Cafe de Paris, London on October 13, 2016 and received nearly 5000 votes from more than 2800 Oracle end-users around the world. Walpole Partnership was named as a winner of the UKOUG Digital CX Partner of the Year Award.

Linda Barker, President of UKOUG commented: “UKOUG are delighted once again to be hosting the Partner of the Year Awards. These awards recognise the very best of the Oracle partner community, as voted exclusively by Oracle customers. Winning a Partner of the Year Award is an unequalled achievement and a true, independent reflection of exceptional quality within the partner community. Walpole Partnership thoroughly deserved their award win, which represents their outstanding success within the UKOUG Digital CX Partner of the Year category.”

Andy Pieroux, Managing Director at Walpole Partnership said, “We are honoured to receive the UKOUG Digital CX Partner of the Year Award amongst such a strong group of finalists. Walpole Partnership is delighted to be recognised as one of the leading partners within the UK Oracle User Group community. Winning a Silver award in the UKOUG Digital CX Partner of the Year category and knowing that nearly 5000 votes were cast from Oracle customers is a real testament to the support and service Walpole Partnership has provided to the Oracle community throughout the past 12 months. We are a fast growing company and it is great to have our hard work formally recognised by UKOUG who are such a prestigious organisation whose focus is solely on those that matter – the Oracle users.”

What size CPQ system is right for me? – Part 2 of 2

If you’ve not already read part one of this article, we considered a good definition of ‘enterprise software’, and shared with you one of the most common questions that we get asked – ‘what benefits does my company get if we go for the higher end and more complex solutions?’ We believe that the benefits can be grouped into three main areas – Performance (which we looked at in part one), and Adaptability and Maintenance, which we will now go onto to explore.

Adaptability

While performance is the dominant factor, you’ll also need to consider how you can mould a solution to your organisation’s needs. Firstly, we should state that we always advocate using a CPQ implementation as an amazing opportunity to simplify processes and to redesign your organisation in a leaner, meaner way. Not simplifying processes first is one of the mistakes we consider in our brochure Seven Mistakes Managers and Business Owners make when Buying and Implementing a CPQ System. Once that’s done, you need a solution that takes into consideration your real needs, and integrates well with your whole system landscape. As a general rule, as you go up the range of CPQ offerings you find systems that operate more as a platform for your development than as a boxed-in application. These will give you:

more flexibility over how your product catalogue is represented
more ability to define processes and workflows that represent your way of working
more powerful calculations to represent the information you need to analyse a deal, and document composition engines that let you produce quotes that better reflect your brand and your customers’ needs

It’s often hard to anticipate what you’ll need in the future. However it is harder still to replace a system when you’ve outgrown it. A successful CPQ implementation will have your users asking for more and more functionality, so plan for success and ensure your system will grow with you.

Maintenance

Sometimes the flip side of customisation is that you need a stronger support team to sustain your CPQ system. Beware of any vendor who promises that this is simple – true enterprise software rarely is quick and easy to maintain. Your business does have complexity embedded in it, and a CPQ solution can magnify this. When you bring together the disparate disciplines of sales, product marketing, branding, pricing and finance as well as strong audibility, it is hard enough at a business level, let alone as a technological solution. It’s why CPQ is so powerful when executed well, and so challenging when it’s not.

If you want to realise the benefits a CPQ system will provide, you need to embrace this complexity, tame it and make it work for you. A great enterprise-level CPQ offering will help you with this task, not prevent you from seeing any challenges at all. An enterprise vendor will ensure you have support, training, application help desks, and consulting or strong partners to guide you through your transformation.

If you have administrators for supporting systems (most commonly CRM or ERP systems), don’t be fooled into thinking that they can handle CPQ on the side of their current job. CPQ needs focus and skills that you won’t always find elsewhere. There’s nothing worse that seeing a great CRM admin turned into a frustrated and stressed employee by being asked to do too much and pulled apart by conflicting demands. Bring the right people in, develop and resource your support team well and make sure you select a system from a supportive vendor.

So, don’t be put off by the apparent complexity of some CPQ systems. Take a good look at your real business needs first and understand where the real value to your system will lie (hint: it’s rarely in the automation of existing legacy processes!). If your business value lies at the point where sales, marketing and finance collide, then select a system that embraces that and delivers the performance you need, now and in the future.

If you need any help choosing a CPQ solution, or defining your real requirements please get in touch for a no-commitment consultation and a chance to talk through your choices.

Click to read part one of this article.

What size CPQ system is right for me? – Part 1 of 2

If you’re considering investing in a CPQ system for your company, you’ll find a wider variety of vendors and solutions than ever before. It’s great to have a big choice, but as a result, the selection process can be overwhelming.

There are several guides available to help you choose the right system for your business, G2 Crowd and TrustRadius etc, and of course you’ll need to define your requirements and judge the various offerings against your specific needs. But before you get to that point, let’s consider a more fundamental question, how ‘enterprise’ level does your CPQ system need to be?

A good definition of ‘enterprise software’ comes from Wikipedia – “Although there is no single, widely accepted list of enterprise software characteristics, they generally include performance, scalability, and robustness. Furthermore, enterprise software typically has interfaces to other enterprise software.” When we look across the wide range of CPQ offerings on the market, there are some that meet this definition better than others. Although let’s be clear – ALL the systems on the market have value to their customers and there is room in the CPQ landscape for a wide range of vendors. It’s simply a case of working out what level is right for your organisation. What we’re often asked at Walpole Partnership is, ‘what benefits does my company get if we go for the higher end and more complex solutions?’

Our experience tells us that the benefits can be grouped into three main areas – Performance, Adaptability and Maintenance.

Performance

Probably the single biggest factor in differentiating between CPQ systems is the way in which performance is handled. (Note that this correlates well with the earlier enterprise definition of performance, scalability and robustness!) Especially for the cloud-based solutions on the market, you need to look at how your CPQ system needs will translate into real-world performance.

Key questions to ask when considering performance include:

Can the solution we need handle multiple interactive calculations effectively?
How efficient is the rules engine for product configuration?
Does the current platform we’re working with have any limits or restrictions on the number of calls to it?
How will performance be impacted as our quotes grow in size?
Will the solution remain robust as we scale up our business or bring more departments or products onto the system?

Working through these questions with CPQ vendors will give you a much better idea of the capability of their solution.

We will be focusing on the final two benefits of getting the right sized CPQ system for your organisation in part two of this article, so do look out for it – it will be published soon!