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"Access Commerce is an international provider of Multichannel Commerce & Configurator Software
that simplify the sale of complex and configurable products and services. "
Source : Access Commerce
Business Agility for Communication Services Providers: A Few Simple Steps are a Great Way to Start
Configuration Solutions also known as :
Solution Configuration dialog box,
Configuration Solutions software,
connected to Configuration.
Supply chain configuration,
Leverage Next Generation of Customer Experience and Configuration Solutions
for Real Competitive Advantage
- Executive Summary
- Customer Expectations are on the Rise
- Next Generation Sales Configuration Solutions Can Help
- Meet the Customer Demand Challenge
- Benefits of Next Generation Sales Configuration Solutions.
- A New Generation of Sales Configuration Solutions Emerges
- Industry Focus: Communications Service Providers .
- Advanced Configuration Capabilities: A Competitive
- Differentiator for CSPs
- Agility Can Be Achieved
- The Author
- Notes and References
- Access Commerce: At the Forefront of the Configuration Revolution .
In today's business
environment, customers have no patience for companies that let their size and
complex product lines slow them down. And why should they A company's
customers can usually choose from a number of competitors who can meet their
needs today rather than tomorrow.
There was a time when the size of an
enterprise mattered a lot more. Customers would tolerate less responsiveness
in order to have the comfort level of doing business with a large company.
But while size is still important and a competitive differentiator, it's no
longer enough. In today's environment the new tenet is "Agility Matters."
The challenge for Communication Services Providers (CSPs) and other companies
is to leverage their size and complex service offerings in ways that keep
pace with the business velocity of their competitors. This can't be done
without wringing out of your business process every inefficiency that exists.
In addition, products and services must be more tailored to each customer's
requirements which also puts a strain on all facets of the organization
(i.e., pricing, promotion, supplier management, etc).
For a large enterprise
with complex product lines and service offerings, finding a simple approach
to managing complexity invariably involves an advanced sales and/or product
configuration solution. This is an important component to effectively capture
the order, build customer loyalty and meet customer demand every time.
this whitepaper, we discuss the drivers forcing CSPs to make a concerted
effort to become more agile and how improved business agility can help level
the playing field for large enterprises competing with more nimble
competitors. Agility is the competitive advantage that can improve customer
satisfaction and margins, and drive success across all sales channels.
Customer Expectations are on the Rise
Customer expectations in the
Communications Services industry are rising with greater speed, with no end
in sight. To make an informed purchase decision, your customers are demanding
more detailed information about your products and services from your company,
channel partners, Web site or fellow customers. To avoid costly customer
churn, you have no choice but to deliver precisely what your customers want -
when, where and how they want it.
The top customer demands requiring CSPs to
become more agile include:
Customers want tailored solutions that fit their
Increasingly customers are demanding that the services you offer
align perfectly with the services they want. They don't want to pay for
services they view as unnecessary or accept a service lacking in something
they view as important. CSPs, therefore, need to deliver solutions based on
the exact demands of individual customers. These expectations present a major
challenge for CSPs that lack the capability to engage in a dialog with
customers to learn precisely what they want. It's also a problem for
companies that cannot cost-effectively personalize their offerings to meet
individual customer requirements.
Customers want the latest and greatest.
Fast time-to-market for new products and services is critical. For CSPs, this
means reacting faster to nuances in demand as well as to moves by your
competitors. It requires being more proactive and innovative in developing new
products and services so you can stay ahead of the curve on your customers'
expectations and your competitors' strategy. At a minimum, improving time-to
provides you with the ability to respond quickly to new promotions of
Customers want their order right the first time.
orders right the first time requires efficient and accurate communications
within your sales staff and orchestration across your enterprise at large. A
key part of meeting this demand involves making it easy for your distributed
teams to get information on your products and services. The more tailored and
customized your products and services, the harder it becomes to ensure
information accuracy and sharing across business functions throughout the
organization. When your employees or business partners base their decisions
and communications with customers on inaccurate, incomplete or outdated data,
they run the risk of missing up-sell and cross-sell opportunities or worse -
failing to deliver on customer wants and needs.
Customers want a
consistent experience across every touch point.
Customers should be able
to obtain the same products, prices and services from your company regardless
of the sales channel selected. CSPs can avoid unintentional variability in
the customer experience across channels by ensuring that all sales channels,
both internal and external, as well as all distribution partners have ready
access to the same timely and accurate information, wherever and whenever
they need it. It's important for them, and for your customers, to feel
confident that the same information they access on yourwebsite at 3:00 a.m.
is the same information they will get from a customer service rep on the
phone at 3:00 p.m. This kind of real-time, accurate information flow is at
the very core of an agile, integrated marketing strategy. .
Generation Sales Configuration Solutions Can Help Meet the Customer Demand
High customer expectations don't have to be a threat to your
business success. In fact, with today's advanced configuration technology,
there are myriad ways for CSP enterprises to turn high customer expectations
into opportunities to outperform competitors. With a next-generation system
in place, even the largest company with the most complex offerings can
operate with the speed and agility usually found only in small companies.
Of course, it's key to offer the right products at the right price. But it's
equally critical to offer customers efficiency, responsiveness and ease of
doing business in the selection and purchasing process. Making a favorable
impression on an existing customer or prospect during the sales process
increases your chances of making the sale this time and in the future. And,
that's where next-generation configuration solutions can help.
next-generation configuration solutions differ from traditional client/server
and distributed computing solutions in that they leverage the power of SOA
(Service Oriented Architecture), a Web-enabled infrastructure that allows
different business process applications to interoperate and exchange data
easily and seamlessly. SOA configuration solutions can help CSPs better
address customer expectations and become more agile by optimizing their
product development, sales and order processes. (See sidebar on page 7 for a
technical overview of a next-generation configuration solution.)
leveraging the latest in configuration solutions, CSPs of all sizes can engage
their customers in a meaningful dialog to personalize the sales process and gain
better insights into what service offerings are right for them. This dialog can
help companies raise the sophistication of their sales process from selling
products with standard features and options to selling solutions that are
based on each customer's specific needs.
Benefits of Next Generation
Sales Configuration Solutions
Some of the distinct business benefits that
accrue from improving sales configuration include:
Adding or improving your sales configuration capabilities will
provide you with a more complete and accurate view of individual customer
requests, which, in turn will enable you to gain greater insight into
aggregate selections of customers and allow your company to tailor more
effective marketing messages targeted to various customer subsets. Typically,
this level of 'personalized' selling leads to higher rates of order accuracy,
more responsive customer service and higher customer satisfaction.
efficient sales and order processes.
Creating a single sales configuration
platform for your organization will improve the efficiency of your overall
sales and order process, and increase the speed with which you respond to
customer opportunities. As a result, you will be able to support a greater
number of customers and customer requirements. Gartner Research aptly
summarizes this benefit in its "MarketScope for Sales Configuration, 3Q07:
Sales configurators reduce complexity and improve productivity by helping
salespeople or customers in a self-service environment match customer needs
to unique products and service offerings."1
Shorter time to market.
businesses still use manual processes, spreadsheets or antiquated legacy
systems to manage their product development and launch process. Such systems
usually require significant IT resources or highly skilled experts to create
service/pricing models. These hand-offs and intermediaries typically create
significant delays and bottlenecks. Additional delays can result from the
need to educate and train sales reps and other channel partners on the new
products. Next-generation sales configuration solutions can help companies avoid
these problems by providing training tools and templates such as sales scripts,
technical data sheets, FAQs and the like. Having customizable templates for a
variety of service components also enables re-use of these components as
building blocks for future product launches.
Leveraging information from the sales process to guide the
development of new products and services is a critical goal of any
customer-driven enterprise. Advanced sales configuration solutions can
facilitate this process by sharing customer demand information with a
company's product lifecycle management (PLM) solution. With the sales process
and product development process directly linked, it becomes much easier to
adapt your existing product or service offerings with new capabilities and
then launch new products or re-launch existing products with enhanced
capabilities. For example, a wireless service provider leveraging sales
configuration in their PLM process will be better able to ascertain emerging
customer demands and follow up with a quick deployment of a new offering.
Having a next-generation sales configuration solution in place, can also help
the CSP improve the quality of its current offerings and determine how and
when to increase the number of product offerings to keep pace with
More successful product launches.
next-generation configuration solution can help CSPs gain better visibility
into when a product can be available to the market. It can also ensure that
the new product is truly aligned with customer demand, thus improving the
effectiveness of marketing campaigns, the success of the product launch and
subsequent return on the marketing spend. And, with all sales channels using
the same script in their dialog with customers, organizations can be sure
that the new product's features and options are properly presented.
channel flexibility and control.
Because they are Web-enabled,
next-generation sales configuration solutions provide CSPs with greater
control over which products and services are sold through each channel and
greater flexibility in monitoring and coordinating channel activities to
ensure that branding and product information look-and-feel are being properly
maintained by all partners. In addition, since all marketing materials can be
quickly and easily updated and disseminated instantaneously across channels,
CSPs can gain greater control over keeping pricing and content absolutely
Improved overall business results.
The bottom line is that
leveraging the latest in sales configuration solutions can lead to higher
revenue, increased quote-to-order win rates, lower costs, higher margins,
better customer satisfaction and a reputation as a company that is both
highly innovative and easy to do business with.
A New Generation of Sales Configuration Solutions Emerges
technology-driven wave of modernization has made possible a new generation of
configuration solutions that make it much faster and easier to create and
manage service offerings. These solutions leverage service-oriented architecture
(SOA) and rich Internet application concepts to help companies increase their
business agility and more efficiently manage their ongoing operations.
Next generation configuration solutions are superior to earlier solutions in
the following ways:
Web based platform supports enhanced communications
Rich Internet applications have ushered in a different type
of conversation between companies and their customers. Next-generation
configuration solutions use a web development technique known as AJAX
experience so more personalized products and services can be offered. AJAX
eliminates the need to refresh the entire web page for every click, providing
greater speed, functionality and interactivity for the user. Web-based
solutions can better support multiple languages, multiple currencies, and
multiple brands to make it easier for companies to internationalize their
Easier to integrate with other enterprise systems.
all companies have existing application and technology architectures into
which any solution must integrate. Next-generation configuration solutions
are built using a service-oriented architecture that simplifies interconnection
to existing IT assets, promotes re-use, and helps businesses respond more
quickly and cost-effectively to changing market conditions.
greater performance and scalability.
While the first configurators were
primarily back-office tools used by engineering and order entry clerks,
next-generation configuration solutions need to offer significantly greater
levels of performance and scalability to drive revenues and support
sustainable growth. Corresponding to the rise of CRM and advanced Internet
technology, configurators have evolved today to become front-office tools
used by sales channels to create configured quotes and proposals, and support
personalized selling and ordering processes for larger user populations and
higher transaction volumes. Configuration solutions are also used by
organizations to foster B2B and B2C collaboration to speed up and streamline
business process workflow to better meet customer expectations.
Technology Evolution is the Cornerstone Enabling New Customer
Centric Sales Configuration Applications
Sales configuration modeling
tools have evolved significantly in the past decade. Early configurators
required programmers or developers to create models by writing code and
rules that could be interpreted by the configuration engine. IT
involvement was imperative, which reduced a company's agility and
increased costs by moving processes further away from the customer.
Companies believed the development costs and loss of agility would be
acceptable tradeoffs once the configurator was put into production. This
was not always the case, however, and the delays frequently had a negative
impact on customer responsiveness and service.
In the late 90s, Access
Commerce was one of the first companies to introduce object-oriented
modeling, using a GUI interface that aimed to move modeling from IT to
business users to reduce costs and improve agility. While this was an
important innovation, modeling remained primarily a back-office activity
revolving around a toolset used by a few product experts in the company.
Shortly thereafter, application architecture shifted from GUI clients to
browser-based interfaces accessible over the Web. This provided users with
a new way to access modeling tools, but was really nothing more than a
new UI on top of the same back-office modeling technology
Next-generation configuration solutions make it
possible to reduce spending on IT resources and maintenance, freeing up funds
for strategic investments that can drive revenue and margins. Most companies
spend too much maintaining legacy systems and not enough on innovative
technology that can help them differentiate and grow the business. In fact,
Gartner estimates that companies spend 80% of budgets on maintenance and only
20% on innovation. As part of an IT modernization strategy, sales
configuration solutions can replace multiple sales catalogs with a single
repository that can be integrated into the existing infrastructure and
updated simply and quickly, as required. Savings realized by dramatically
reducing IT support costs can instead be used to increase investments in
innovation to drive growth.
Industry Focus: Communications Service Providers
Improved sales and service configuration capabilities can play an important role
in helping communications service providers address the disruptive changes
underway in their industry. Telecommunications companies, cable providers and
satellite companies have been on the front lines of transformational change for
more than a decade. And all indications are that these companies will continue
to face enormous challenges as the industry continues the rapid transformation
brought about by the following major business, technology and regulatory trends:
Convergence is really happening.
Convergence as a major industry trend first
emerged in the 1990s, but at the time it was more a statement about the
future than the present. But today convergence is really happening thanks, in
large part, to steady advances in technology and evolving consumer and
business expectations. The boundaries between fixed line, wireless, cable and
satellite are being blurred with companies competing across segments to serve
the comprehensive needs of customers. Individual companies are increasingly
offering double and triple plays of voice, video and data to serve the
telephony, TV and Internet access needs of consumers and businesses. The
environment is one of constant change as companies cope with a short shelf
life for their latest bundle of services.
New technologies continue to emerge
and disrupt the marketplace.
Unified communications of Internet, voice,
data and communication facilities continue to evolve at lightning speed. As a
result, the big players in the CSP marketplace such as Verizon, AT&T, Comcast
and others around the globe are under pressure to deliver solutions built
with groundbreaking technology
New competitors continue to emerge,
causing even more disruption.
The pace of mergers and acquisitions among
CSPs has been strong for many years and that pace is likely to continue. In
addition to changes in formal corporate structure, the competitive landscape
for communications companies is impacted by constantly changing and less
formal content and service partnerships. And, of course, new companies with
new offerings or technologies emerge on a regular basis to further throw the
established companies off balance.
Shifting regulatory environment.
with the competitive landscape, the regulatory landscape is undergoing
constant change. Governments are being pressured to mandate Net Neutrality to
establish broadband networks that can accommodate all kinds of equipment, all
modes of communications, and all types of content, sites and platforms. In
addition, the debate over the regulatory approach to competitive access to
the last mile of fixed line service continues.
These trends add up to a tough
environment for communications services providers. In response, they must
find ways to stand out from the competition with more innovative and
differentiated products and services that are first-to market. The ability to
excel in multi-channel sales also can make the difference between success and
Advanced Configuration Capabilities: A Competitive Differentiator
Advanced sales and services configuration solutions can help CSPs
increase revenue despite the turbulent competitive, technology and regulatory
environment. Even though most communications service providers have an
impressive line-up of technologies at their disposal, the real key to their
long-term success is finding faster, more cost-effective and creative ways to
transform these technologies into viable offerings. Next-generation
configuration capabilities can help CSPs meet these challenges in several key
Get to market faster.
Next-generation sales and service
configuration capabilities will help simplify and expedite go-to-market
processes so you can respond to the competition faster with new offerings.
For example, when the first bundle of fixed line, wireless and Internet
services appeared in the market place, a wide array of plans with similar
features were introduced by competitors at an accelerated pace. Leveraging
sales configuration information to enhance product lifecycle management
processes can improve the quality and level of detail of product and service
information so it's easier to define and build new offerings.
effectiveness of multi channel sales.
A next-generation configuration
solution will help optimize customer interactions across all touch points,
including field sales, retail, the Web and call center to eliminate invalid
orders and drive accurate information through to billing and provisioning.
Tools help establish a single instance of product and pricing information for
all sales channels, and enable companies to leverage configuration
capabilities to define products from the perspective of customers and how they
order products. Sales configuration also enforces business rules and constraints
for more guided selling.
Increase the numbers and types of promotions.
Sales configuration can play a key role in enhancing the quality of a CSP's
marketing programs, and can make the marketing spend more predictable in the
acquisition of new customers as well as the renewal of existing customers.
And, corporate board members, executive leaders and other stakeholders can
monitor the acquisition and retention of customers as a key indicator in
managing the business. By improving insight into how customers and prospects
are responding to your products and services, you can develop and offer more
effective up-sell and cross-sell offers. Analytical capabilities can be used
to continually improve the quality of offers and the responsiveness of
products and services to customers needs. Configuration capabilities also
improve your ability to leverage alliances with other companies for more
effective joint marketing.
Agility Can Be Achieved
The business challenges
facing Communication Services Providers make it imperative for them to
maximize their business agility to overcome the obstacles inherent in having
a complex line of product and services, and demanding customer set. To meet
these challenges, CSPs must enhance their understanding of customer wants and
needs, communicate their capabilities to customers, and deliver the exact
products that customers want, when they want them. A next-generation
configuration solution provides the tools needed to meet and exceed demanding
This whitepaper has been developed by
the experts at Access Commerce, an international provider of Multichannel
Commerce and Configurator Software that has been helping companies simplify
the sale of complex and configurable products and services for more than 20
years. The company's solutions are designed to help companies in
product-based industries and service-based industries like Communications
Services to simplify and improve their selling processes.
Notes and References
1. Alvarez, Gene, "MarketScope for Sales Configuration, 3Q07,"
Gartner Research, Inc., October 29, 2007, page 3.
Access Commerce: At the Forefront of the Configuration Revolution
Commerce believes that we are just beginning the next wave of configurator
adoption. As a pioneer in configuration technology, we envision
advances that will blaze a path to a far broader, multi-channel adoption
in which configuration will be a pervasive enabling technology for a broad
range of service business processes and applications. To achieve this
goal, we saw the need to expand modeling from a back office tool used by a
limited number of experts to a broader based application that can be
used by casual business users throughout the enterprise and, indeed,
throughout the business network or ecosystem, to achieve greater levels of
Introducing Cameleon edge
With our Cameleonedge, we are
proud to introduce an innovation we call process-based modeling, designed
to help companies improve the development, deployment and management of
service offerings throughout their business. Process-based modeling
incorporates predefined best practices workflow processes that can be used
by everyone that touches services and management processes, both within
the company and externally with partners in the business network
more information about Cameleonedge for Communication Services
Providers, please call
1-847-583-7610 or visit www.access-commerce.com