Dreamforce 2017 – CPQ Impressions
Dreamforce is big and I mean really big! There are lots of people everywhere and I had to run quite a bit between the Moscone Center and the different Hotels where I had most of my meetings. The area around the Moscone Center reminded me personally of a Theme Park, like Disneyland, just for people interested in Sales Technology. When I entered the area it looked like a miniature version of an Arch in Arches National Park, Utah. Then there were the Trailhead Characters (Astro, Cody and Friends) running around and bumping fists. Hilarious! I think I did that two or three times.
On the green between Moscone Center South and North there were bands playing at times and the weather cooperated so it was great to relax a moment outside.
In any case at Dreamforce there is a lot of information and there are ample learning and networking opportunities. I met with eleven CPQ Solution Providers (Apttus, CallidusCloud, CloudSense, Encoway, KBMax , Model N, Oracle CPQ Cloud, PROS, Salesforce CPQ, Tacton and Vendavo) to see CPQ Product Demos and to record a 4-minute summary for the question “What (exciting) Product Updates and News are you sharing with your customers at Dreamforce 2017”? You can listen to the CPQ Podcast SPECIAL here .
The focus for CPQ Solutions Providers is clearly on their customers and not on Consultants/Analysts hence the Product Demos and Briefings were considerably shorter and higher level than usual. Nevertheless thanks to PROS, KBMax, Apttus and CloudSense for providing a Demo to me at Dreamforce! Note that I have regular Demos and Briefings with many different CPQ Solution Providers and these typically go from 1 – 4 hours. That format provides more time for in-depth questions and follow up which was not possible at Dreamforce.
Based on all the Demos and Discussions I have seen lately plus what I have seen at Dreamforce these are the current trends I see:
1. Artificial Intelligence (AI) / Machine Learning (ML) / Natural Language Processing (NLP) and similar offerings increase
Target: Mostly Large & Mid-Size Companies; Example: PROS/Monet, CallidusCloud
2. Visualization and Virtualization offerings increase
Target: Mostly Large & Mid-Size Companies; Example: PROS, CallidusCloud
3. More Solutions work on Performance Improvements for large quotes
Target: Mostly Large & Mid-Size Companies; Example: Apttus, Model N. Oracle CPQ Cloud
4. Omni Channel offerings increase (meaning: maintain one CPQ solution for Sales, Channel Partner & eCommerce)
Example: KBMax, CloudSense
5. Price Optimization offerings increase
Example: Vendavo (integration of Vendavo’s Price Optimization capabilities into the “former” Endeavor CPQ)
6. There is on-going interest of Financial investors in CPQ
Example: CloudSense received $77M Funding and Tacton received $12M Funding (Check our Industry News for more details)
7. Lack of knowledgeable CPQ Resources for CPQ Solution Providers and Customers!
Example: Numerous people mentioned to me that they had difficulties to find CPQ knowledgeable resources for Sales, Marketing, Consulting etc.
There are obviously more trends as well as features and capabilities that CPQ Solution Providers work on and you just need to listen to our CPQ Podcast SPECIAL from Dreamforce to recognize that but these are the trends I could clearly identify at this point in time.
While almost all of these trends are not new they confirm previous predictions and expectations that I made and that you can find from other Business Analysts as well. The CPQ Market stays interesting and I expect that CPQ Solution Providers need to keep innovating at a rapid pace to have differentiating capabilities that customers understand, appreciate and are willing to pay for.
I further expect that it will become more challenging for customers to find the best solution because today’s CPQ Solutions have many similar features and capabilities so that a customer needs to dig fairly deep to see differences between them.
Last but not least I see a high potential for considerable changes to the Sales Rep Role (CPQ User) especially through the introduction of AI. On the extreme this could go two ways:
- Sales Reps happily accept all the guidance they receive from Virtual Assistants (AI/ML/NLP etc.) and use the technology to reach and exceed their Sales Goals OR
- Sales Reps balk at using Virtual Assistants because all the guidance could also be used against them . For example in performance reviews (e.g. A Virtual Assistant provided guidance to Sales Rep John Doe but John decided to not use this guidance. If at the end of the Sales Cycle John did not achieve his Sales Goals the discarded guidance can be reviewed and provides potentially proof against him).
In this case I think it will be up to CPQ Customers and CPQ Solution Providers to find a balance that ensures that the exciting opportunities that AI/ML/NLP etc. provide can be fully leveraged.