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MS Excel or CPQ as a sales configurator?

You will need a lot of development hours to make Excel work like standard CPQ which has the features you need as out-of-the-box.

At Variantum we quite often see that companies have built a configurator with Excel for their own use. Excel actually might be the biggest CPQ (Configure-Price-Quote) player in the market. Everybody certainly knows Excel, and it is the first tool in our minds when we think about configuration needs. Excel is a perfect tool for calculations, and in the beginning, it seems to solve the configuration challenge.

But as time goes by and you need to make development steps with Excel as a CPQ, you will face problems in many areas pretty soon. You will need a lot of development hours to make Excel work like standard CPQ which, in fact, has the features you need as out-of-the-box.

Before making a decision to continue with Excel, you should ask yourself the following:

  • When you need to create new products with logical rules, refinements or constrains, Excel doesn’t support this – without coding visual basic. New product and product changes require a system in which you can test your new product versions as well as manage options and parameters for multiple products and their release process. Separate product Excel files do not support common definitions, but for almost all commercial CPQ’s this is a standard.
  • Secondly, Excel doesn’t give an easy-to-use web-interface. You’ll be stuck with Excel tool and its end user experience - even if you could create visual basic to create decent user-interface, it requires a huge development. CPQ’s have web-based user-interface as out-of-the-box standard feature.
  • Thirdly, you need to follow Excels’ logic to process with selection order – there is no possibility to proceed in any other order. Inference engine analyses product option dependencies and guides end users which product options are compatible and enables these selections in user interface in any order. Advanced CPQ’s support this feature.
  • You need a skilled person to create and maintain the Excel configurator. This might be an issue inside the company, as quite often there’s only one person who’s capable of maintaining or developing your product or pricing model with Excel. What if this person leaves the company or something else unfortunate happens? This possesses a huge risk for the company. Who can help you with your customized solution in the case of emergency when huge part of your company volume is tied with a single customized tool? In contrast, commercial CPQ companies will help and support your business.
  • How to resolve conflicts in Excel? It’s really annoying to try to resolve them by yourself. There is no easy way to fix conflicts by the end-user or even key-user. Advanced CPQ’s includes a tool which helps the end user when conflicts occur and guides how to resolve these.
  • Somehow you should be able to secure that people will use the latest released Excel-version. Quite often we see that offers or orders have been created with outdated Excel and with outdated product options, prices or currencies. This will generate turbulence in sales and specially in manufacturing. This could be managed with centralized CPQ which takes care of that latest product rules, options, prices, offer templates and currencies will always be up to date for every user.
  • CPQ means Configure-Price-Quote. Quoting does not mean the offer letter only, but also offer terms and conditions management. There might be several different options and rules that you need to support for your sales team in your market area. CPQ solutions can provide you functionality to support different offer terms and conditions with rules.
  • When you want to create offer letters with better tool than Excel, e.g. with MS Word, you need to develop additional functionality. This increases your customized solution complexity. Instead, you could use CPQ’s basic feature: offer letter creation. Typically, CPQ’s support MS Word or PDF-templates that are easy to map with product parameters, features and price calculation information.
  • Even if Excel has a kind of database structure with tables and indexes in it, it is not really a database. Especially when you have concurrent users who are geographically located in various countries, working with Excel as a database is problematic regarding connectivity and simultaneous updates. In the end, management is interested in offer and order book, sales and sales channel activity and these require a sophisticated database. CPQ’s always work with a database and today there’s a cloud option as well, which will secure availability and performance when needed.
  • Localization is often needed in sales organization. This means that product might have different options for different customers or market. Currency and languages need to be supported as well, which means that user interface, offer letters and currency must be offered for your sales channel. This is not easy to do with Excel, but advanced CPQ’s will support this, even with real time currency converter.

Variantum’s CPQ product VariSales supports these features as out-of-the-box, so we already have solved all of the mentioned issues for you. You only need to focus on creating and managing your product and pricing models with defined options and rules. User interface is built automatically with your defined product data. Anyhow, we will help you with your challenges in your CPQ-journey.

 

Writer Teemu Kaattari works as a Head of Products at Variantum (teemu.kaattari@variantum.com)