You want the best CPQ & product configurator solution at the best price, but the evaluation process can be overwhelming and slow. Most vendors show you flashy demos and promise all the functionality you need (and plenty you don’t need.) How can you differentiate based on checking all those boxes in your scorecard? We have learned some valuable DO's and DON'Ts from our clients and especially potential customers we lost during their selection process. No two configurator projects are ever the same, but hopefully these tips can guide you towards making an informed and efficient choice.
1. DO: Get the right team involved early in the selection process.
Configurator projects can automate engineering, sales, IT functions and more. Many times the evaluation teams have people from only one or even none of these areas. The result can be a narrow focus on particular features instead of the overall solution. By having a complete team involved early on, you ensure attention is paid to optimizing the entire workflow.
We also really recommend the customer has someone with IT and system architecture knowledge involved. So many of projects involve integration with CRMs, ERPs, PDMs and more. Having someone with that expertise can really improve the evaluation of software features.
2. DON'T: Put too much stock in the demo functionality.
It is natural to expect the software to be robust technically and look great in a demo. Those are important factors for sure, but it's critical to look for software that has the flexibility to meet your unique situation and is easy to use. Turning the demo phase into a commodity contest of features can be a dangerous mistake. Configurator projects are like snowflakes in that no two are ever the same.
You must ensure that the software can adapt to your IT and workflow requirements during a significant knowledge transfer. This deep dive can't be done in an hour long demo or with an internal RFQ document. The vendor typically needs to spend 1-2 days with project stakeholders to really understand the requirements and adapt a workflow that matches your exact needs.
3. DO: Check vendor references early and often.
So many evaluators wait until after they have selected a vendor to call their references. Instead of a tool to differentiate, it becomes a mere formality. Contacting vendors early in the evaluation can really help you understand how they treat their customers and help build trust. Ask questions like: Did they deliver on time and on budget? Have the metrics been as promised? How has the support and training been?
Remember you are not just selecting a software but a business partner. The best way to test their values is by talking to fellow customers. You can really change or strengthen your opinion of a vendor based on what you hear.
4. DON’T: Fall for a vendor promising exact prices and timelines before they really understand the requirements.
It's natural for you to want to know precise costs and schedules for your configurator as soon as possible. Most vendors should be able to give you ballpark ranges based on initial conversations. However, it is essential that the vendor do a deep enough dive to write up an accurate proposal that covers all service & software costs and timelines. The document should be a contract that serves as a statement of work that ensures you get what you want, when you want it, for how much you agreed to. Remember cheap is always good, but good is not always cheap.
For more information on improving CPQ & product configurator selection, please contact firstname.lastname@example.org.