CPQ — that is, configure, price, quote — is one of the most transitional apps, because it spans front and back offices, and because its very existence has changed these functions. Another app in this category is sales compensation management. Both of their stories are about front-office processes needing back-office data. Once the data is made available, the process evolves to be far more useful to the business.
In each case, the original, fundamental application need was record keeping in the back office. Sales compensation was a back-office problem that typically surfaced at the end of a quarter when companies needed to pay sales reps.
A typical accounting department had to go through business won, products, discounts, various commission rates, splits and more. Getting it all right was a challenge, and there were various channels for appeals that could draw out the process for weeks.
Compensation largely operated with one spreadsheet for record keeping and another for calculations. The business had an official spreadsheet, the sales manager had one, and every rep had one too. They often coincided but rarely agreed.
When bespoke applications became available for compensation, in addition to all of the benefits of quick and accurate calculation, the compensation system also became a de facto planning tool. Now, reps and their managers could play out what-if scenarios to determine which effort would bring in the greatest rewards — very important at the end of a quarter.
CPQ went through a similar metamorphosis. When CPQ was nothing but a bunch of spreadsheets for catalog, price lists and quotations, reps had to do a lot of manual lookups to formulate quotes. It wasn’t just a question of how many items to include — special conditions had to be met, like including training or accessories and acceptable discounts for different items. All this had to be done by hand and checked by a manager.
When CPQ became a system supported by a database — and ideally a platform — it could draw on the customer master file to access past history and the customer profile, as well as draw on other platform services from collaboration to analytics.
That opened up…