Episode 11 Jul 30, 2020

Virtual Roundtable: Oracle CPQ + Zilliant

The Configure, Price and Quote (CPQ) market has exploded in recent years, as businesses embrace smarter technology to empower their sales reps to build better offers and close more deals. Zilliant has teamed up with Oracle, a market leader in CPQ, to infuse scientific price guidance, price segmentation and dynamic, real-time price-setting capabilities into Oracle CPQ. Joining us from Oracle for this roundtable to discuss the integrated solution and the benefits customers enjoy from our partnership is Ellen Beres, senior principal product manager; Ekta Paliwal, senior product manager; and Neil McHugh, strategic ISV partner manager.

Ellen Beres

Ellen Beres

Ekta Paliwal

Ekta Paliwal

Neil McHugh

Neil McHugh

CPQ is a very transaction focused process. It is less so a decision support focused application. And this is where the partnership with Zilliant really complements CPQ so well. Zilliant provides all of that decision support - the segmentation, the price sensitivity analysis, the price list administration and management for deciding on the appropriate prices - and then releasing them into an engine, such as CPQ, to apply them on a particular transaction.
- Ellen Beres, Oracle

Episode Transcript

Lindsay Duran: Welcome to B2B Reimagined. My name is Lindsay Duran, and I'll be your [00:01:00] host for this episode. I'd like to welcome multiple guests today from our partner, Oracle. Ekta Paliwal, Senior Product Manager, Oracle who works on the CPQ product management team and has hands-on experience integrating Zilliant and Oracle CPQ.

Ellen Beres, Senior Principal Product Manager who led the development of Oracle CPQ’s deal management and pricing related features as well as the partnership with Zilliant. And Neil McHugh, Strategic ISB Partner Manager and Product Manager who works on the product management team to identify and engage with customer experience strategic partners on integration efforts and go-to-market activities, including working closely with the Zilliant teams.

Welcome everyone. Ekta, why don't you tell us a little bit more about yourself and your role at Oracle?

Ekta Paliwal: Hi everyone. I am Ekta Paliwal and I work at the CPQ product management team. I work on various projects on [00:02:00] integration of Oracle CPQ products. Zilliant is one of the products on which integration I've worked with. I joined Oracle a year ago before that I was in technical software. I come with a lot of technical background and have hands-on experience on that.

Lindsay Duran: Thank you, Ekta. Neil, can you take a moment and share more about your background and work at Oracle?

Neil McHugh: I joined Oracle in 2012 as part of an acquisition and worked on the alliances and channels team, moved into the product management team and we connect dots.

We look for good partners who know how to innovate and fit well with our culture and our solution and bring those solutions to bear. That's what I do.

Lindsay Duran: Thank you, Neil. And Ellen, last, but not least, can you tell us more about your role at Oracle and your experience working with Zilliant thus far? Sure [00:03:00] Lizzie, thank you.

Ellen Beres: Thank you, Lindsay. My name's Ellen Beres. I've been with Oracle now for 13 years. I came with an acquisition of a competitor of Zilliant with the same revenue technologies that was acquired by Oracle back then. And since then, I've worked on an internal development effort of CPQ, and then with the acquisition of Big Machines by Oracle in 2014, I moved over and joined the Oracle CPQ team, where I've been for the past six years now. And starting about a year and a quarter ago, year and a half ago, I started talking with people in Zilliant about formalizing our partnership and then have led some of the education efforts and the introduction of our work together as partners.

Lindsay Duran: Perfect. Thank you, Ellen, why don't you tell us a little bit more about Oracle CPQ cloud and how it's unique compared to other [00:04:00] CPQ solutions on the market?

Ellen Beres: Sure. I'm going to start by just describing what CPQ is from a functional standpoint, because I think really, if you understand that, you'll see what the strengths are of Oracle CPQ Cloud. CPQ stands for configure price and quote, as probably many of you hearing this podcast, know what that entails. But it essentially ties together the front and the back office of a company. And our focus is on the B2B face where you're having negotiated selling - the front office being the salespeople who are customer facing, the back office being those who are fulfilling and invoicing the customer, post sale.

The CPQ is where sales opportunities become a reality, become a real sale, and it happens to be the most customized application space of any business application. If you look at Oracle CPQ Cloud, [00:05:00] we're the market leader in this space. We have been since inception and the product was first released in the year 2000. So, it's been 20 years now and we were a cloud product from the very beginning. We were the first standalone cloud CPQ product on the market. Today, we are a market leader in market share. And in really any metric you want to look at, we have over 600 customers that process millions of transactions a year using CPQ.

And really our strengths – I’m finally, getting to the question you asked - are in the enterprise scale that we can support. That includes the level of the volume and the complexity of records. For example, we have some customers with millions of products. The level of performance we can provide on complex sales and the flexibility with which we can deliver: What is the most customized application? …And in [00:06:00] most companies, I'd say the other factor is that we, because we are the bridge between the front and the back office, we handle integrations. We have real expertise and real rich feature sets in supporting all types of integration in a very easy to implement fashion.

And the integration with Zilliant is an example of that.

Lindsay Duran: You mentioned that Big Machines, now Oracle CPQ Cloud, got started 20 or so years ago. But in B2B, in particular, I think we've seen tremendous growth and adoption of CPQ for B2B companies over the course of the past five years or so. What do you think is really driving the need for CPQ and the adoption in the market such that it's been a fast-growing space for the past few years?

Ellen Beres: Yeah. That's a great question. The ROI is [00:07:00] just tremendous for CPQ and it's similar to the type of ROI that you experienced with your customers at Zilliant with the pricing software. They are - both pricing software and CPQ - two of the top levers for improving, translating that opportunity, that sales opportunity, into real revenue. What our CPQ product does really well is visually present the product, support the salesperson in guided selling in a way that makes sense to the customer. Then translates that into what is required to fulfill it sometimes very complex fulfillment capability.

So, it’s seen continuous growth since the inception of the products - since the initial release of the product. It's not just in the past five years that we've seen substantial growth. In fact, ours has been continuous and has outpaced the growth of most [00:08:00] of the other business applications that Oracle offers to the marketplace.

We've been a consistent leader in our sales growth. And I believe that because of the central place that it plays in the organization.

Lindsay Duran: I think that makes a lot of sense, Ellen, and can certainly see where the ROI comes into play for CPQ. And it's such an enabler for the sales organization and getting people out of doing quotes and spreadsheets or another more cumbersome tool.

But with that in mind, where have you seen the biggest challenges to delivering ROI on a CPQ investment? What does customer struggle with the most?

Ellen Beres: That is a terrific question. And I think frankly, it's one of the challenges that we're working on. We're focusing on right now. And that is that our product is so flexible.

I have worked with many applications over the years, and I've never seen a product that you can do more with. [00:09:00] But that's almost a coin with two sides to it. You can customize CPQ to do almost anything. And it is used in many applications beyond CPQ actually. But it also can become very complex and very highly customized in a way that becomes difficult to administer.

Our challenge is not just giving our customers the tools to do what they want to do, but to help them understand - should they do something? In some cases, they should not. Now there's a second challenge that really is pertinent to our partnership with Zilliant. And that is that we are a transactionally facing, transactionally focused product.

And by that, we are focused on the quote that gets converted into the sales order. It is a transaction that has a life cycle, and it has a set of approvals, and it has guidance that gets applied - that can come from Zilliant for example - [00:10:00] and it is negotiated. CPQ is a space that is very transactionally focused.

And by that, focused on individual quotes, and their life cycle and their negotiation, and the execution of pricing rules that are appropriate to that transaction, and then negotiating that to convert it into a sales order. It is a very transaction focused process. It is less so a decision support focused application. And this is where the partnership with Zilliant really compliments and fits together in a combined solution with CPQ so well. Zilliant provides all of that decision support, the segmentation, the price sensitivity analysis, the price listed administration and management for deciding on the appropriate prices, and then releasing them into an engine, such as CPQ, to apply them on a particular transaction. [00:11:00]

They complement each other beautifully. The decision support focus for the pricing personas by Zilliant complements extremely well the transactional focus of the sales operation, and the engineering people that are focused on CPQ.

Lindsay Duran: Thanks, Ellen. And I certainly agree about the value. Thank you for making that distinction.

I think often the P in CPQ can be misconstrued to mean the price setting process or price segmentation or helping to serve the pricing persona. When in reality, it's really more about the price execution and price delivery, if you will, as opposed to the price setting up front. And in B2B companies, as pricing is extraordinarily complicated in coming up with all of the ways in which a B2B company might [00:12:00] price, whether that be some combination of list prices or matrix prices. If they're doing negotiated or simply need to serve up a customer specific agreement price, there are a lot of challenges in managing each of those and really figuring out - What is the right price for the right customer at the right time?

We talk a lot about helping companies execute better pricing decisions faster. And I think when you join a price optimization or price management solution with CPQ, that's really where you get that decision support, as you talked about, with the ability to execute on those quickly and systematically so that your salespeople are equipped with the right prices to make the best possible decisions.

So, thank you for that explanation. I think that was helpful for our listeners.

Neil McHugh: I would totally agree with that. The reality is silos of data are going away. Centralization is the future. Oracle CPQ [00:13:00] works to increase those operational efficiencies, profit margins, sales SKUs by centralizing those business rules.

And with pricing, we've seen an increased need with B2B customers, especially, for a robust pricing solution. And pricing is the key to really offer the tools and that extensibility that the clients need to execute those pricing policies today and looking forward. I think Ellen was bang on.

Lindsay Duran: Absolutely. Neil, have you found that pricing personas within B2B organizations are maybe a bit skeptical of CPQ? And if so, how do you see the Zilliant Oracle partnership really elevating the pricing role within those organizations?

Neil McHugh: Regarding pricing personas, I think people who have been doing it for a while get it.

I think smart pricing managers get it. But there's still some of this ‘proof is in the pudding’ kind of concept. Once they [00:14:00] see how it can impact margins and growth. It's an easier sell. Because really what pricing managers are looking for - they want price guidance to improve speed and effectiveness for their pricing decisions and quoting. They want to think about predictive pricing, what-if scenarios, be able to visualize the impact of price changes, and align with their goals. What prices are you seeking? What alignments do you need with your overall pricing strategies and all revenue versus merging them? How does that tie into promotions and campaigns?

If you're talking with people who actually understand pricing, I think they actually get it. And in the last five years, you've seen that with the growth of CPQ.

Lindsay Duran: Absolutely. Ekta, let's turn to you for a moment. Can you talk more about how the integration between Zilliant’s pricing solutions and Oracle CPQ Cloud work?

Ekta Paliwal: I think that the Zilliant REST API - it's the [00:15:00] integration between the CPQ and Zilliant is very practical. You can make changes. You can make pricing changes in your Zilliant system, and you just need to call those REST APIs inside any action into your transaction. You just need to call that API into those action and once you have that action, or maybe you just load the transactionally advanced modifiers, you can have those prices from Zilliant into your line item quick. And the integration that I've worked for, what we used – I’m just giving you a quick example - we have used floor price, target price, and the stock price for a product.

And those are the few items that are coming from the Zilliant REST API are flexible, the one I’m using with the Zilliant REST API, you can actually vote with the Zilliant and [00:16:00] the REST API responses are so flexible that you can, based on your needs and how you want to present that in the transaction, you can change those and really help the integration outside.

Again I said the integration is flexible. It means you can choose the different actions to do on the CPQ side, the output that is coming from the REST API. That’s my experience with the integration with Zilliant.

Lindsay Duran: I think you've touched on something really key there, and that flexibility and what it enables companies to do is be much more dynamic with their pricing. So, if you change your price in Price Manager or in Price IQ Zilliant solution, it can automatically appear for sales reps in Oracle CPQ without delay, and really make sure that, as [00:17:00] market conditions change - which I think we're all living through fairly volatile market conditions this year in 2020 where market conditions are constantly changing - you can respond quickly with different pricing strategies and make sure that the pricing guidance that shows up in that decision support process and Oracle CPQ Cloud is really relevant and salespeople are making good market aligned pricing decisions as a result of that.

Ellen, any additional benefits that you'd like to expand upon for companies that are using Zilliant pricing solutions and Oracle CPQ together?

Ellen Beres: When we looked at the different options that were available, it really is, any of the Zilliant products or services that are being used, can be integrated in to CPQ and utilize right away. So that could be either via [00:18:00] alive API call, as Ekta was describing, or it could be that you load all your list prices in, via pretty simple bulk load, that can be either pushed or pulled from Zilliant and to CPQ, so that you can have that integration either for tabular data, whether that be matrix prices, list prices, or even guide rails, price corridors, or you can do it on a dynamic real-time basis via REST API. The flexibility is there on both mechanism, as well as the content, and any of the attributes that are defined and managed within the Zilliant products can be integrated in or can be fed by CPQ to Zilliant.

So, for example: One of the choices we had to make when we built the demo, the proof of concept on the integration with Zilliant, was where customer segmentation data would reside - the [00:19:00] customer segmentation data on say, for example, the industry of a customer, or the size of a customer, and really you can manage it however you wish. The implementation is pretty, I don’t want to say turnkey, but it's almost that easy. The one other thing I'll add is that I worked with one of our customers who is also a Zilliant customer, a joint customer, where they anticipated a whole project that they would have to do a whole big project to integrate Zilliant with CPQ. And when we all came together and discussed it, it literally was going to be just a couple of days of work to implement.

Really there's more effort in defining what a customer wants than there is in implementing it. That's how simple it can be.

Lindsay Duran: Absolutely. I think the integration piece between our two systems is the easy part. I think, from our perspective on the pricing side of things, we can stand up a pricing solution in as little as two to four months, assuming that, the data is [00:20:00] is readily available. What's the range of implementation time do you typically see for Oracle CPQ, Ellen?

Ellen Beres: That's another great question. We've had customers go live in three months. That's probably on the short end of the implementation for a small set of users. That's definitely a viable option we have. When we ship our product, obviously we don't physically ship it, but when you get provisioned with your subscription to Oracle CPQ Cloud, you receive an out-of-the-box implementation that will work to do quoting immediately

All you have to do is add a part, or your products. That's the only requirement. It can be as simple or as complex as you want. But typically, most of our implementations involve hundreds, if not thousands of users. And I would say the more typical timeframe is maybe six months; six months for the larger ones, maybe nine months, [00:21:00] with quite a bit of different integrations included in that implementation time period.

That's when we would be building and adding in the Zilliant integration among others. We are almost always integrated with the CRM. We have out of the box connectors that make that work pretty much out of the box. But then, most customers have a number of unique attributes that they want to implement.

Lindsay Duran: I would imagine that the change management and adoption efforts are also a pretty key part of that implementation. Can you talk a little bit about some of the best practices that you've seen when it comes to getting sales reps to adopt CPQ?

Ellen Beres: Surprisingly, we don't have a lot of issues with adoption.

In the vast majority of cases, the CPQ solution is so much better than what the customer has been using in the past, that there's very ready adoption of our [00:22:00] product. We don't typically have a lot of difficulty with that or challenges with that. The only place I'd say we have some challenges are where there is extensive financial analysis that is being done on long sales cycles, where, for example, they might be using CPQ to negotiate multi-year sales agreements with the hundreds and hundreds of products, and they want athe really extensive financial analysis on that. So sometimes we have easy export and import capabilities where you can export a lot of the content on the lines on the pricing, for example in Excel, and then you can manipulate it, and import it back into CPQ.

There are some things like that entail a little bit of extra work.

Lindsay Duran: Excellent. Thanks for clarifying that for us. This podcast is called B2B Reimagined. Let's spend our last few minutes here getting [00:23:00] everyone's take on the future of CPQ and the importance of pricing for B2B organizations. Neil, why don’t you start us off?

Neil McHugh: This may sound a little cliche when we talk about the future. I think it's really all about innovation. Consumers, sales folks, pricing personas - what they're really looking for is a more natural customer experience. And that really comes down to integration like AI pricing and things like visualizations. When we see how you help with omni-channel solutions and delivering real-time seamless delivery into CPQ or further e-commerce ERP CRM, and that's done dynamically. I think that's really where we're headed. For me, it's all about making the customer experience easier. And again, that comes down to innovation like AI pricing.

Lindsay Duran: Absolutely. Ellen?

Ellen Beres: I think that many of the forward-thinking companies have already leveraged the capabilities of [00:24:00] solutions like Zilliant in combination with CPQ. But surprisingly, there is a lot more market penetration that is open and an opportunity for us both, and really an opportunity for those customers to get best-in-class solutions on both the pricing side and the CPQ side.

With the advancement of cloud as the predominant method for operating as a business, I think both of our solutions are well positioned to partner into the future and supply complete solution for all of those customers.

Lindsay Duran: Very well said. I'd like to thank our guests today from Oracle for participating in our chat about the Zilliant Oracle partnership on CPQ and pricing. I hope you'll join us for the next episode of B2B Reimagined and visit us on our website at zilliant.com. [00:25:00]

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