CPQ implementation may seem daunting, and it will present challenges along the way. But follow these five steps, and your path to CPQ implementation will be as streamlined as possible and an enriching experience for the implementation team and organization as a whole.
Step 1. Build a Strong Cross-Functional Implementation Team
CPQ implementation can only be achieved by a carefully weighted team made up of both operational and technical members with various skills and perspectives. All core business functions have to be represented because all of them will be affected.
A strong cross-functional team requires sales experts with a deep understanding of customer needs and wants; customer support leads who deal with complaints and resolutions; technical support engineers who handle support tickets from operations and carry out internal training; manufacturing leads with their in-depth understanding of product, tooling, and timelines; and implementers – those responsible for implementing the new software throughout the organization.
Assembling a capable CPQ implementation team is an art unto itself. And there are as many “models” to aid you in this endeavor as there are potential team configurations. One such model that has proved useful is PIKES, devised by Marco Mancesti, which stands for Purpose, Integration, Knowledge, Ecosystem, and Self. Let’s break each one of these down in turn.
Team members have to be profoundly motivated to make CPQ implementation a success. If not, teams tend to disintegrate at the first sign of trouble. Each member’s motivating force should be personal, and the prospect of adding another bullet point to their CV won’t be sufficient alone.
A strong team is cohesive and well integrated. Members should have a shared vision of success and understand the norms, behaviors, and rules that will get them there. Respect, accountability, and reliability are crucial. Values have to be consistent from top to bottom and ingrained into new members who join the group.
Knowledge refers to the skills that successful CPQ implementation teams have in their wheelhouse, both core technical skills and soft skills such as building morale and maintaining relationships. Knowledge means coming up with new ideas and nurturing an environment where team members feel comfortable airing their views and working in concert to tackle challenges with imagination and creativity.
Ecosystem refers to the team’s place within the broader corporate environment. This is where an Executive Sponsor comes to the fore, tapping into company resources and obtaining buy-in from the board.
CPQ implementation is stressful, and each team member has to protect their mental wellbeing when things get tough. Teams should build wellness into the core of their operations, or a CPQ implementation project can quickly run off the rails.
Step 2. Pinpoint Your Business Drivers and Develop a Project Brief
The ability to identify all the critical business drivers fuelling CPQ implementation is essential. Do you want to streamline the configuration process for your sales reps? Shorten sales cycles? Increase deal size? Improve customer retention? Enhance the customer experience? Or something else?
Whatever your key drivers, they should be designed for outcomes, not features. Because the fewer features required to achieve your chosen results, the faster and less expensive your implementation will be.
Your key drivers then inform your Project Brief: a document that provides a structured view of what CPQ implementation is designed to achieve and the steps that will need to be taken along the way. The Project Brief forms the basis of the implementation team’s agreement with senior management (and with each other) and typically includes the following:
- Scope (what CPQ implementation will do, and what it won’t do)
- Business Benefits
- Areas of Business Affected
- Major Dependencies
- Stakeholders Resources
- Estimates of timeline and costs
Step 3. Develop a Strong Business Case to Secure Buy-In as Early as Possible
CPQ implementation requires full buy-in from regular employees and senior management combined. To get employees on board, you need to come together and work collaboratively to identify pain points and value-enhancing opportunities. Break down timelines, and have a frank discussion about how job roles will be affected positively and negatively.
Getting buy-in from leadership is crucial if you want to secure the necessary CPQ implementation budget. But you’re not going to achieve it with utopian visions alone. Senior management is going to want to hear a strong business case. This business case has to demonstrate that the proposed CPQ solution is better than other appropriate options (including the ‘Do Nothing’ approach) and meets the following criteria:
- Is well-suited to business needs
- Is affordable and likely to achieve value for money
- Is feasible and achievable in the allotted timeframe
- Has clearly defined outcomes
- Is consistent with high-level strategy
- Has clearly outlined funding requirements
Step 4. Carry Out Your CPQ Project
You’ve been given the go-ahead. Now it’s time to execute and put your plans into action. The execution phase will look different for every business, but it can be broken down into three necessary elements. These might sound complicated, but remember the right CPQ provider will be there to guide the implementation team every step of the way.
- Gather all relevant documentation, audit it for accuracy, clean it where necessary, and format it to be readable by the CPQ software. Your product catalog serves as the data foundation with product and pricing logic layered on top. (Be warned, this can be a monumental drag, but there is satisfaction to be gained from getting your house in order.)
- Set up your environment. Connect your CPQ to your other business systems and provide access to your implementation team’s technical members, who can start working on the CPQ’s front- and back-end.
- Design the outputs, such as quotes, proposals, drawings, and CAD templates.
Step 5. Tackle Company Culture to Overcome Resistance to Change
CPQ implementation can be a technical challenge, but the most prominent barriers to success lie in company culture. Why? Because people hate change – it can be hard to swallow, so avoid change for change’s sake (if it ain’t broke…). In her fantastic 2012 article, Rosabeth Moss Kanter identifies ten reasons for such resistance:
- We fear a loss of control.
- We dislike excess uncertainty – “Better the devil you know…”
- We hate surprises and resist ideas imposed on us too suddenly.
- We’re creatures of habit and reject things that seem different.
- We fear losing face if closely associated with outdated strategies.
- We have concerns about competence – can we adapt?
- It feelds like more work!
- Change affects people further down the line who push back – the ripple effect.
- Change stirs up past resentments.
- Jobs can be lost; prices can be cut, etc. Sometimes the threat is real.
If this list seems like a lot to contend with, that’s because it is. Seventy percent of complicated, large-scale change programs don’t reach their stated goals because employees are resistant to change. But these challenges are not insurmountable, and there are tactics you can use to promote widespread, rapid adoption and cultivate a positive mindset.
As we covered in Stage 3, getting buy-in early-on is vital – consulting with employees, giving everyone a say, taking views on board, and being as transparent as possible. Once execution is underway, it’s essential to maintain these lines of communication, providing timelines and milestones to foster momentum and positivity.
However, the key to successful implementation is over-investing in training, education, mentoring, and support. That way, everyone sees value in the new software and feels supported, valued, and, above all, capable of overcoming the inevitable challenges that come their way.