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How to choose the CPQ solution that is right for you

Configure, Price, Quote (CPQ) solutions are hot right now and for good reason. CPQ technologies can have a huge ROI for companies (see how one of our clients reduced quoting cycle times by 1000%). But how do you choose the right CPQ tool for you?

Currently, there are three main CPQ tools on the market. Chances are if you’re looking for a quoting tool you’ve looked at Oracle CPQ Cloud (formerly BigMachines), Apttus, or Salesforce Quote-to-Cash (formerly Steelbrick). While these technologies all serve similar functions, they each have different strong points and different use cases.

This post will take a deep dive into 4 important elements of a CPQ tool: customizability, document generation, reporting, and maintainability. What’s important to you?

 

Customizability/Ease of Implementation:

Oracle CPQ Cloud is the oldest tool; BigMachines was founded in 2000 and has seen a few owners including Vista Equity Partners and, most recently in 2013, Oracle. EDL was one of BigMachines’ original implementation partners and we have seen the technology grow leaps and bounds. It was on the cloud before anyone knew what the cloud was, and it remains the only tool that can be used on its own or through Salesforce.

Customizability is one of CPQ Cloud’s strong points. While it can take a bit longer to set up your commerce process and product catalog, it is much more flexible in both areas. There are a variety of commerce and configuration rules that are well thought out and versatile. You’ve got constraint rules, recommended items rules, recommendations rules, pricing rules, hiding rules . . . all with the ability to be table driven and/or apex enabled. You want rules? You got ‘em. Add that into a highly customizable configuration flow or commerce layout and you’re golden. And, if you need more than the out-of-the-box functionality, there’s still hope! CPQ Cloud allows access to the CSS and JavaScript that runs on the site. You can pretty much do anything you want if you’ve got a good developer.

However, this customizability comes at a cost. Implementation can take a bit longer than with the other two tools, and you must have a good map of your products and processes. You have to build your flows from the ground up: CPQ doesn’t do any of the heavy lifting for you. Creating your workflows and rules can take a while and can be tedious and at this point, CPQ Cloud has not introduced the ability to clone anything.

Apttus and Salesforce Quote-to-Cash are the newer kids on the block. They’re both packages within Salesforce (SF) rather than sitting on top of it. The functionality for both is built from Salesforce objects and processes. There are a lot of similarities between the two in this aspect, but there is one major difference. Apttus has built custom objects and SteelBrick has extended functionality on Salesforce’s standard objects. For both, you can use most standard actions on these objects, but you’re also limited by what SF can do to these objects. The fact that each tool has built-in objects and flows means you can get your sales reps selling quicker in a basic implementation.

Some businesses can make it work with these standard actions and most can make it work with custom actions that they build in SF. It’s not often that a business will need to have a super custom functionality, especially if its maintenance outweighs the gain in user experience it provides. Customizability seems to be inversely related to ease of implementation.

 

Document Generation:

Document generation has a large effect on the job of an implementation consultant. While your CPQ tool should make it easy for sales reps or users to configure and price products, the contract is what you show your customers. This is the final and most important step in closing your deal. Document generation literally has the last word.

In this area, Oracle CPQ Cloud is superior. It has a Word-esque GUI that’s pretty intuitive if you’re familiar with Microsoft products. Document generation is made simple when you have the ability to create multiple pages, tables, language snippets, and images, each with the ability to add conditions—point-and-click style or with XSL. And again, if for some reason the out-of-the-box functionality is not enough, you have access to the XSL behind the document generation.

There are issues with Apttus’ document generation functionalities. It has a similar but less refined approach to the doc editor in Cloud. Apttus has created a plug-in that allows you to use Word itself (only on a PC) and then check your document in and out of the SF repository. This is fine, but if you forget to check your document in or out you’ve just lost all your work. Also, when you try to print out a value from your quote (say, the customer’s name) you don’t get to choose from variable name, but from display name. So if you have “Address” on several objects, you sometimes just get to guess which one you want from the pick list and hope it works. Otherwise, you better check that again and pick another “Address.”

Finally, SteelBrick seems to have simple and intuitive document generation. Basically, you can import one company logo, one company name, click a few boxes regarding what you want to print, and boom: contract. There is no actual document editor, it’s all just done within SF. It’s the least flexible and least customizable of the three. However, if your contracts are simple and straightforward, the simplicity may be an advantage. Learn how to integrate Adobe Sign with SteelBrick in 3 easy steps here.

 

Reporting:

Reporting is probably very important to your company. It helps you determine where your money is coming from and where your efforts should be directed. Because Apttus and SteelBrick are both in Salesforce, you can use the native reporting functionality, which is quite strong.

Oracle CPQ on the other hand, isn’t as strong in this area. The reporting tool can be clunky and a bit difficult to learn how to use. While this can be limiting for people who do not use CPQ within Salesforce, it’s not a huge deal for people who do. When you’ve got easy integration with SF at your fingertips, you can simply create reports from within Salesforce, just as you can with the other two. All it takes is a bit of integration magic beforehand.

 

Maintainability:

Unless your company is pretty small, you’re likely to have a few consulting experts (if not more) around during the implementation phase. They’ll help you define your products, your processes, and the best workflow within your chosen CPQ tool. During this phase, there should be lots of knowledge being transferred to your company for maintenance. With the two native SF tools, this will probably be a bit easier because the object-oriented approach is consistent between SF and the CPQ tools. The look and feel of them will mirror each other and if you have a Salesforce expert, it should be easy to get them trained on either tool. The official training program for Apttus is about a week long, and the SteelBrick one is two days.

Oracle CPQ has a different look and feel than Salesforce and the learning curve is a bit steeper. While Oracle CPQ has introduced a good amount of point-and-click options for your implementation, you’ll still need someone who can delve a bit deeper than “business-person-turned-developer style programming.” You’ll need someone who has experience with script writing, JavaScript, some HTML, and a bit of architectural experience.

 

Ultimately, each of these tools has strengths and weaknesses and you will have to figure out which are most important for your business. Luckily, Simplus has the experience doing this and can help out! Get in touch with one of our CPQ experts here.
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