All vendors agree the defined product rules are the core of any CPQ & configurator solution. Without this logic there is no configuration validation or accurate product designs. Where vendors differ greatly is on how those rules are programmed into their offerings. There is a troubling trend towards proprietary syntax that are marketed as user-friendly visual tools (like Visio-style charts). Betting on these rule builders is a dangerous game that can turn your configurator into an expensive pair of handcuffs.
These simplistic seeming languages fail in three main areas for manufacturers: limited functionality, feeble knowledge bases, and difficult maintenance. This post highlights those issues and reinforces why KBMax uses VB.NET, the world’s most popular programming language, to define product rules.
1 - Language limitations make it impossible to define the product validation correctly.
This is an all too common symptom of the proprietary syntax disease. You see a flashy demo where it looks easy to drag and drop your product options to define logic. Once implementation begins, you realize your products are too complex to fit into a neat little chart.
The typical next steps are bad business decisions. You either simplify what you offer customers based on what can fit into a flow chart, severely limiting what customers may want and will go somewhere else to find. Or you spend precious time trying to work around the limits of your shiny new configurator.
The KBMax rules in VB.NET can easily handle the simple and the complex. There are built-in Intellisense tools to quickly build logic without code. Then there is the full power of VB.NET to handle loops, algorithms, and data connection. Virtually any product logic can be defined and deployed in your configurator.
2 - There was hardly any online knowledge base when we need it.
What happens when your company administrator has an issue with a product rule for a proprietary language? No matter how much training the vendor gives there will be times when you need help. They can call the vendor’s support line and hope to eventually speak to a developers that understands the syntax enough to help them. Sounds like a bad system. We combine our stellar customer support with the giant VB.NET knowledge base. Your administrator can Google any problem and find the solution in seconds. The fast learning curve makes it easier to interchange administrators. Plus Microsoft robustly supports VB.NET not just your vendor, meaning you can count on it being here for a long time.
3 - Maintenance and modification were a nightmare.
Setting up product rules can look easy in visual rule builders and configuration trees. Modifying those rules as product options change is a giant problem. Those rules trees can span 100s of branches for every unique option. Tracing the option path can take hours and changing one option can break the constraint based logic making your configurator useless.
KBMax rules can be searched like any other document (e.g. Excel, Word) within our admin tool for quick modifications. Users simply update or add rules in VB.NET that will change what makes for a valid configuration. The rules can still be as complex as needed, but rule management is simple and fast.