03 Feb Simplus Product Series #11 — Install base, AI, and the future of products
by Erich Rusch
In the final part of this series, we will look at some of the most important points to consider when selling your products: how your product catalog integrates to your install base, the role of AI, and the future of product catalogs in the front office!
Once you’ve set up your catalog, built some configurations, and integrated everything into your quoting system, the final frontier is the install base. The install base is the final landing place of all of your converted quotes, orders, and configurations. We’ve done an extensive series on how important this piece of functionality is to your organization. It’s the repository of everything your customers have purchased, all the updates made to those purchases, and a historical record of your relationship with them over time. In an enterprise scenario, this could be thousands or even hundreds of thousands of products.
No one person or system can keep track of this, so it’s incredibly important to structure this properly in your organization and, furthermore, ensure it’s properly integrated from the front office to the back office with all the necessary boundary systems tied to order management, provisioning, and fulfillment.
In addition, it’s important to consider how these systems might change over time to reduce potential rework in the future. Salesforce Quote-to-Cash contains an amazing amount of functionality designed to support enhancements to your install base over time. As you upgrade, end-of-life, and replace SKUs, it’s crucial to ensure continuity between one generation and another, so there is always a viable, non-destructive path towards upgrades. You can always restructure your products, but it’s essential to consider the time and effort necessary to complete this exercise, especially if a data conversion is required to migrate from one product structure to another during an upgrade. This is a challenge we’ve helped many clients solve, especially as they move from legacy, on-premise, perpetual licensing and maintenance structures to new, modern subscription and recurring revenue products.
In the future, product selection, upgrades, renewals, and amendments will require less work and be more automated than ever. Thanks to AI. One of the upcoming pieces of functionality to hit many Quote-to-Cash systems is intelligent product selection based on configuration and quote context. As Salesforce Einstein begins to consume and operate on larger sets of data, this will become commonplace. Less effort will be required by the sales representative to make deals happen.
Our fundamental belief at Simplus is that the sales representatives’ primary focus should be on managing the customer relationship, not managing the Quote-to-Cash system. To that end, every practice in our organization, from Advisory to Data and Integration to Salesforce, is structured around this goal. So many of these decisions require intelligence and the ability to harness it. As Einstein becomes more and more mature, we expect the level of effort around these systems to go down.
The future of products
The final point I will make in this series is that the future of products is less product-focused. You will always have to have some way of tracking what you’ve sold your customers and what they’re entitled to from a support perspective, but our most successful customers often have the fewest SKUs. Since the height of the business information revolution, customers have been trying to do more with fewer SKUs. Because the future of quoting is relationship-focused.
The truth is our most cutting edge customers don’t necessarily care what products or SKUs are being sold in a single transaction—they care more about the arc of the relationship! They ask questions like “How is our revenue relationship changing over time?” and “Why are we giving away this single product?” They are thinking more strategically than ever, and to compete in the modern business environment, your organization must head this way as well.
Erich Rusch is Director of CPQ Presales Solutions at Simplus. Co-founder and CSO of CirrusOne until joining Simplus, Erich has years of experience in the CPQ space and has unparalleled expertise in cloud solutions.