For B2B companies that sell complex products, CPQ should be the cornerstone of their digital transformation goals. Simplification and streamlining of the sales and manufacturing process, the elimination of errors and engineering bottlenecks, rapid onboarding of new hires, increased productivity, margins, and profits, and enhanced customer experience can all be yours by investing in CPQ.
That’s the sales pitch, now here’s the reality:
You can spend a fortune on the world’s most flashy CPQ, but without careful implementation, it won’t improve your bottom line. In fact, it could end up having a detrimental impact on your business – sowing seeds of confusion and discontent throughout a workforce resistant to change.
CPQ implementation isn’t straightforward. Nor should it be. The goal here is a complete business transformation, and for that to happen, every person, product, process, and system throughout your entire organization will be affected.
Stage 1. Build Out the Right Team
A cohesive, cross-functional team, made up of both technical and non-technical members, lies at the heart of every successful CPQ implementation. The executive sponsor is the lynchpin, responsible for championing the project, securing cross-departmental support, and providing business context to the project manager and team. The executive sponsor serves as the primary source of contact for all internal and external stakeholders, and they’re on the line for the project’s success. Their level of engagement can make or break CPQ implementation.
On the operations side, the team should include experts drawn from all core business functions, but most importantly, from sales which, with their daily customer interactions, are most au fait with customer customization needs. Customer support staff are also invaluable from an implementation standpoint, thanks to their deep understanding of common customer issues, complaints, and their respective resolutions.
On the technical side, you should include project-based implementors, who are responsible for implementing the configurators and supporting them post-implementation. Also, support engineers, who own technical support tickets from operations, maintain help files and support materials, and provide internal training. And, of course, manufacturing leads, with their technical knowledge of product specifications, tooling, manufacturing processes, and timelines.
Stage 2. Determine Readiness and Identify Business Drivers
Are you ready for CPQ implementation? Because it takes time, resources, change, and much organizational alignment to get it right. If you can answer the following questions clearly and succinctly, then you’re on the right track:
- Can you identify and document your organizational goals and roadmap?
- Can you break down your organizational roadmap into processes?
- Can you map your processes in their current state?
- Can you identify existing bottlenecks, backlogs, and inefficiencies?
- Can you describe your customer in detail? (Remember the 80/20 rule – identify low-hanging fruit and never design for edge cases.)
- Can you design agile processes for implementation, change management, and maintenance?
Next, and this is perhaps THE most important question to ask:
- What are your key business drivers?
Why are you implementing CPQ? What are you trying to achieve? Do you want to reduce time-to-quote, increase deal sizes, improve order accuracy, grow customer retention, or all of the above? Whatever your key business drivers, they should ground your implementation decision-making – design for outcomes, not features.
Stage 3. Get Buy-In as Early as Possible
You’re 100% sold on the idea of CPQ – that’s great – but your employees have to see value in the project too for smooth implementation. Together, you should identify the gaps and friction points that CPQ will solve, educate team members on timelines, and discuss how CPQ will affect specific roles and statuses within the organization. Getting employees invested early in CPQ and the subsequent transformation creates a shared vision, turning passive users into CPQ ambassadors.
Buy-in from leadership is just as important (buy-in and budget go hand-in-hand), and to achieve it, you must showcase how CPQ will impact your company’s bottom line. It should be made abundantly clear to senior management what constitutes success and failure, as well as the time, finances, and personnel required to achieve your CPQ goals. Leadership has to be encouraged to trade a service mentality for an investment mindset, where money spent today means more money made tomorrow.
Stage 4. Execute Your CPQ Project
So you’ve assembled your team, identified your business drivers, and got buy-in at all levels, the only thing left to do is to implement your CPQ. But, where to begin? Like any good project, the process starts by preparing your documentation. Gather your team and have them review your data for accuracy, cleaning when and where required.
Start with your product catalog (this serves as your foundation) then layer on the logic needed for product configurators (how do your products relate to each other?), and pricing data and rules. If this all sounds a little complex, remember, a good CPQ provider will guide you carefully through this process.
The next step in the execution process is to set up your environment, connecting it to your other business systems (like Salesforce) through APIs and provisioning access (with varying permissions) to technical members of the implementation team. These members can then begin working on the back-end, writing the logic that will make the configurators work, and the front-end, establishing what sales reps and customers will actually see when interacting with the software.
Finally, the team needs to work on the outputs. Decide how quote documents and custom proposals will look when sent to customers, and create Word and Excel templates with the correct output fields and rules. If you’re setting up a visual CPQ, you’ll also need to prepare CAD templates with all parts, assemblies, and drawings.
Stage 5. Engineer Your CPQ Success
Thinking that the challenges of CPQ implementation lie solely in software and applications would be a mistake. As is so often the case with any organizational change, the most significant barriers lie in company culture. Seventy percent of complicated, large-scale change programs don’t reach their stated goals. Why? Because employees are resistant to changing deeply ingrained practices, and leadership teams fail to embrace the idea of holistic change fully.
Adoption is key. And, getting buy-in early on in the implementation process reaps dividends to this end. Still, it doesn’t stop there. Practical, role-specific training, broken down into digestible chunks, gives employees the confidence they need (both in their own abilities and the proficiency of the software) to stick with the process as they come up against challenges. Meanwhile, executive buy-in can be maintained through regular meetings with the executive sponsor, who reports back to the C-suite, way beyond the end of the implementation timeline.
Finally, you need to measure and optimize, adopting an iterative approach as you study post-implementation results. Canvas opinion across the implementation team, document potential improvements and make the necessary optimizations based on the feedback you receive.