Digitalization Guide

How to handle complexity in product configuration development

Developing a product configurator can be challenging due to the many design decisions along the way. Two of the most critical aspects that impact implementation time and skill requirements are:

  • Implementation strategy for the rules in the configurator
  • Skill level of the intended user

That is why we have put together some examples to help you determine the complexity level based on the approach you take to the configuration, and hopefully guide you in the way you tackle your development project.

Project plan Template – CPQ implementation

When creating your first product configurator that should help sales, distributors and even customers to configure products and request quotes there are many ways how to tackle the implementation project.

We have therefore created a generic project plan to be used as a template (see below) targeted towards manufacturing companies. To avoid ending up with a long and costly IT project that isn’t used by anyone we have divided the project into a series of steps to maximize the chances of success and to get value of the implementation as soon as possible (start to use the implementation already after step 2).

Read our general guidelines on project planning and then fill out your own product specific deliverables and delimitations under each step in the Word (.docx) file that you can download below. This will help you to get an overview and to create time estimates of each step.

If you use a modern CPQ solution together with a parametric CAD-visualization tool like DynaMaker our experience is that each project step (1 – 7) will usually require around 40 hours of work for an expert with experience with CPQ implementing a product of average compexlity. And step 8 and 9 can be added multiple times depending on how many product configurators you are planning to implement.

Steps to implement CPQ

  1. Pilot project – Always start with a pilot to investigate, analyze, prototype and find the best way forward
  2. Internal product configurator – So that sales can start configuring, driving sales and giving feedback
  3. Product visualization with configurator – So that sales can see whats beeing configured
  4. Automatic generation of technical documents – To save time for sales and to clarify for the client
  5. Public product configurator for homepage – Enabling distributors and customers to also configure and quote
  6. Auto generation of Quote document – To save time for sales
  7. Enable external administration of quotations – To save time for sales and engage distributors / clients
  8. Add next product configurator (step 2 – 4) – To increase sales
  9. Add more details to existing product configurator (step 2 – 3) – To increase sales

Download template below for goals, generic deliverables and delimitations for each step

Guidelines when developing your first customer self service app for CPQ

Customer self service applications come in many shapes and sizes. But they all enable the customer to do more of the sales work themselves which leads to increased customer engagement and should free up considerable time and resources for the internal sales team.

Taking the step from internal sales applications to public ones can however be challenging since it requires a new perspective (the customers) on pretty much everything in an app compared to what previous solutions have been optimized for (the experts). There are lots to be learned along the way when releasing the first customer self service application.

To minimize the risk of a huge development project that costs a fortune, takes forever to complete and is used by nobody afterwards, we have collected some general principles below that can help smooth the ride when developing your first customer self service application. Use the principles below together with our project plan template for implementing a CPQ.

Separating configuration rules from inputs

When working with complex configuration its usually hard to separate visible input fields and variables from hidden rules and formulas. A product expert usually relies on experience when configuring a product, instead of strict rules and formulas. But when anyone should be able to use a product configurator the complexity needs to be greatly reduced, resulting in the requirement of a limited set of easy to understand input fields and a extensive set of hidden formulas that captures all the rules.

IT Map for Manufacturing Companies

We often get asked about the IT structure and systems needed to make product configuration and process automation happen. How are different parts connected to each other? Which departments in the company uses which systems? And how do they relate to the flow of products from purchase to delivery? Have a look at this IT map for manufacturing companies – this what we can expect to find when we look at the IT structure of a manufacturing company.

In this map we have laid out the flow from order to manufactured product as well as what’s usually needed to take the customer’s data and manufacture their ordered product.

IT map for manufacturing companies.

Use this map as a guide when you’re looking at transforming or digitizing your manufacturing company. Of course very company is different and has slightly different needs. If you have any questions about the map or if you want advice, please contact us!

Customer journey – Questionnaire for B2B products with quotations

When working with changes in the sales process its essential to have a clear view of the customer journey. Therefore we have created a short questionnaire for some of the basic questions that the sales team should discuss and try to answer.

This can result in a list with the typical steps to a closed deal that can be used when discussing changes.

Leverage your manufacturing company with modern online tools

Do you want to grow your manufacturing company while maintaining flexibility and efficiency? Is hiring new employees costly and time-consuming?  

With modern online tools in the cloud you can automate your sales and back-office operations so you can focus on growing your business. You can increase your sales while keeping costs low. In this article we address some of the common growing pains of manufacturing companies, and what you can do to grow smarter and more efficiently. 

Common User Stories for B2B CPQ

When developing new products and solutions for others its always good to have some kind of description on what the intended users might want to do with the solution. A good way to handle this is to create a list of numbered User Stories that can be referenced and used for discussion throughout the project.

We have collected a few common user stories here that apply for online configurable products where the users should be able to customize and request quotation themselves without prior knowledge of the product.