Episode 55 May 24, 2022

Zilliant Quick Start Changes the Game

The average time for global companies to update pricing when costs change is between six weeks and four months, which is much too slow in today’s economy. It’s a process which unfortunately results in significant margin loss. The Zilliant Quick Start program was created with this in mind, delivering industry-leading pricing and sales software deployment times of 3 to 8 weeks.

Zilliant Senior Director of Product Management Dave Kurak makes his first appearance on the show to give listeners an overview of the Quick Start program and our first package for Global and Country Price Lists. Listen to gain an edge on how you manage pricing in response to inflation.

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Dave Kurak

Dave Kurak

The customers that I talk to have a sense of urgency about being able to respond quickly with the current market conditions. Inflation's rising, all the supply and cost pressures that we have. I think the timing couldn't be better for this Quick Start program. For us it's about putting solutions in place quickly and allowing you to realize immediate value to help solve some of your challenges. So I couldn't be more excited.
- Dave Kurak, Zilliant

Episode Transcript

Dave Kurak: If you're a distributor and you're getting your products that you sell from a set of manufacturers, then you may be dealing with cost changes. You may have a unique process of dealing with that cost change. How do you absorb that cost change, put a strategy in place to push that through your various prices?

So that's a pattern that we want to solve for in the Quick Start. So in our first Global and Country List Price Quick Start, we do have a capability to set a strategy to deal with your cost changes.

Barrett Thompson: Hello everyone. My name is Barrett Thompson, and I'll be your host for today's episode of B2B Reimagined. Joining me today is Dave Kurak, the senior director of product management at Zilliant. Dave, welcome to the podcast.

Dave Kurak: Thanks Barrett for having me on the podcast and thanks everybody for tuning in. I will let you know, this is my first podcast. So bear with me.

Barrett Thompson: Oh, you're going to do great Dave. Before we get started and dive into the content we're going to discuss today, would you help our listeners get to know you a little bit more as a person outside of this role of this technology that [00:02:00] we're going to talk about? I happen to know from something you shared with me recently that you're currently rebuilding a classic car.

Would you give us an update on how that's going?

Dave Kurak: Oh man. Wow. Where to begin. Uh, well, I'll say one of my sons and I are into four wheeling. And so I have a 20 year old pickup truck that I drive every day. And I've learned to tinker with that to make it more capable on the trails. You have to figure out how to tinker with it as you break things, as you can imagine.

And so I found that I enjoy the tinkering maybe as much or more than the actual driving to some degree. And so as luck would have it, I stumbled across a 1973 Toyota Land Cruiser FJ 40 that had been sitting in a field in the New Mexico desert for 20 years. Untouched. And so if you're curious, you could Google FJ 40.

You could see a picture. You think about a Jeep Wrangler, but Toyota's version of a Jeep. Two doors. No top. [00:03:00] Truck's got the factory engine, has about a hundred horsepower in it, manual transmission. It's really loud. Most people say it rides terrible. I wake up the neighbors. I can't start until 10 am.

Sort of thing, but, so that's where I am. So how's it going? It's running. I pick my kids up from school in it, drop them at the bus stop. So I'm running it. I have no plans other than maybe learning as much as I can over the next couple of years to keep it running smooth and then I'll figure out what I'm going to do with it, but something I've always had on my list.

And I found one that was untouched, basically at a very good deal for me. And so I hope that my goal is to learn how to keep it running and keep it in good shape possibly forever. We'll see.

Barrett Thompson: I'm sure it's a head-turner. It sounds like it is, audibly. I hope it is visually as well. Then maybe your kids are getting some of that, catching some of that bug, right? How to turn the wrench and the joys thereof.

Dave Kurak: Yeah, one of them enjoys it with me. The other one just wants to [00:04:00] drive it when he's 16. So we'll see about that.

Barrett Thompson: Dave, I'm really excited for today's topic. We're going to discuss a truly powerful innovation that Zilliant has just announced last week. And that is our new Quick Start program.

So excited to get into what it is, why we're doing it and how it's going to deliver values for our customers faster than any other pricing and sales approach that's on the market. So just to kick it off, would you explain to our audience what the Zilliant Quick Start is?

Dave Kurak: Sure. It's a good question. And I think this will align well, if you see some of our material, but for us a Quick Start is an out-of-the-box configuration across our product capability set that solves or accelerates a specific use case for our customer. So we're, just as an example, we just launched our first global and country list price Quick Start. That provides the interfaces and the tools that allow you as an end user to manage your [00:05:00] global and country list prices.

So that at a high level, that's what it is. We know in our history, we solve some of the same problems in different ways. And so the Quick Start for us, is the Zilliant recommended way to solve these problems for our customers, but it sits on top of our platform. So it still retains the extensibility and configuration options that we have with our solutions today.

Barrett Thompson: Let's explore for a moment. What were the motivations behind creating the Quick Start program?

Dave Kurak: Our motivations: one was time to value was kind of a core motivation. So we see, we go into projects, we see customers having the same sort of problems, right? They want better management of their prices and we can solve these problems in a variety of ways.

And our platform is built to provide those in a variety of ways, but it results in a project with a lot of hours and a lot of configuration. So we wanted to tap into our experience if you will, and apply [00:06:00] sort of our best practice, recommended way to solve these problems. And the Quick Start is just that; is focused on a core set of problems that we've seen many times across our customer base and it has a prescribed flow. It has the screens, it has the data model associated with it. So everything you need to accomplish, use cases around managing your global and country prices.

Barrett Thompson: It sounds like one of the benefits that customer would get then is speed of implementation because many of the processes or screens or workflows are built out.

Are there some other benefits that you expect you're going to get from this approach?

Dave Kurak: The other one would be certainly implementation. Speed is a key one for us. I think for the customers also just a lower implementation total cost of ownership, just from an ongoing perspective, we're going to continue to invest in these Quick Starts.

So as we roll out new use cases that we support and new capabilities around those use cases, we'll be able to drop those in and make those available for you. So [00:07:00] that will, and it'll be using the shared code base that we have deployed across the whole customer base, much like our platform. So just this investment in the development and QA and the quality of the software that's being released will be a little more shared across the customer base, which should lead to lower total cost of ownership over time. And then, like I said, it really just encapsulates some of our best practices that we've seen over the years to solve some of these specific use cases. So I think those are the core three, the implementation speed, best practices to solve specific use cases, and an overall lower total cost of ownership for the customer.

Those would be three benefits.

Barrett Thompson: Those sound really powerful. That best practice one is standing out to me because as I chat with customers, they will be able to explain clearly how they're doing something today. But often if you say, is that how you want to do it? Or why do you do it that way? The answer might be because that's the spreadsheet I received from the person who had the job before me. So it's not so much that they made an intentional choice [00:08:00] or thought about how to approach that particular pricing need from a best practice perspective, they just inherited that. And it was maybe path of least resistance has sort of gotten them where they are today.

And I don't fault them for that. I mean, they were trying to go fast and get the job done. So it sounds really great to me that we're taking our two decades of experience across hundreds of B2B customers and inserting that into the best practice that becomes visible in the Quick Start. I think that's going to get a lot of attention in the market.

Dave Kurak: Yeah, I agree. If I can just add to that Barrett, I think leading up to this first Quick Start and even the north star, if you will, for future Quick Starts that we might touch on. There was a lot of research by our user experience team, does a lot of research with hopefully many of you that are listening. And it's often the case of like, “Hey, I need to do X.”

And it's like, “Well, why do you need to do that?” And we start tapping into the why. It becomes less of recreating your existing process and really solving the root problem. And that user research has led into the best practices that we're [00:09:00] putting in here. And I think the only other thing I'll add is the question that I love to hear now that I feel like we hear more and more as time goes by is, “Zilliant what do you recommend we do?” We used to walk in and say, “Hey, tell me how you do business. And we're going to create a process that makes it a little better for you to do business in the same way.” And as you just pointed out, sometimes that might not, they may be reaching out to us because they want a better way.

So it's a great question to ask. And instead of, yes, we want to learn how you do business so that we get a great understanding of it, but, “Hey Zilliant, what do you recommend after hearing everything that you heard? Is there a better way? How should we do this?” So that's really what we're trying to do in these Quick Starts.

Barrett Thompson: That makes perfect sense, because I think about customer conversations that I'm having - most customers present to me what they believe to be, and perhaps what on the surface really does look like a unique process. If you look at all the steps, if you look at each of the individual steps where you look at the particular nuance on them, yes, those are arguably unique processes from business to business.

And so [00:10:00] we've made the leap to say, well, doesn't a unique process, need a unique solution, right? A unique tailored solution. So through that lens, how are Quick Starts even possible? If customers have unique processes and they expect unique solutions, like how can a Quick Start know that ahead of time or give us any advantage in that situation?

Dave Kurak: This is another great question. I guess I'll say first is yes. Our customers definitely have their unique processes that on the surface might require a unique solution and our platform is geared towards that. It's very extensible. It's very configurable. We can support a wide variety of use cases and requirements, but I guess what I'll bring in here is while they have unique processes, if we peel that back a little bit, we do see common patterns across those processes.

And I'll try to share an example to just make this more concrete. If you're a distributor and you're getting your products that you sell from a set of manufacturers, then you may be dealing with cost changes from [00:11:00] those manufacturers, probably now as much or more than any time in the last several years. So if you want to, you may have a unique process of dealing with that cost change.

How do you push, how do you absorb that cost change and put a strategy in place to push that cost change through your various prices? So that's a pattern that we want to solve for in the Quick Start. And so in our first global and country list price Quick Start, we do have a capability to set a strategy to deal with your cost changes.

So as cost changes are coming in, you can set up strategies that specify how much, if any, costs that you want to pass through to the various prices or whether you want to maintain margin, for example. And then you set that up and you forget it and it flows through the system or you can manage it as you get those vendor cost changes over time.

So that's a pattern that we see and yes, people solve that in different ways, but we've established through the Quick Start, here's the way that we recommend that you drive cost changes [00:12:00] through price, and we're doing it in the global country. We believe this stands on its own, but there are also some nuances that you will be configuring.

What's the granularity of the costs that you're managing? At what point are you pushing that cost through in the waterfall? Are you at the country level? Are you at this global list level, et cetera? So we're building, making sure our Quick Start can support the basic constructs, but then has the ability to be plugged in at the right place for you.

Barrett Thompson: Dave, if I'm using a Quick Start, am I sort of locked in to do just what the Quick Start says in the way it says it?

Or do I have some freedom to build out those things that are special or different for myself?

Dave Kurak: Yeah, good question. This, if I go back to the original definition of the Quick Start, it is an out of the box standard product configuration that solves or accelerates the solution to a major use case. And so that, “or accelerates” is a massive piece for us, especially as we get going with this.

We [00:13:00] recognize that the customers have their unique requirements. And we want to make sure that we can, we don't want to box you in so to speak. We want to put our best foot forward and then allow the extension and customization that you need. And so I’m speaking from a product perspective, but I do want to say this has been, the Quick Start program if you will, has really spanned all aspects of the Zilliant organization, from the sales process down through the support process and a big part of this is the delivery as a solution side. And so we're working with them, for example, to identify the common extensions that you might apply to a Quick Start.

And once we identify those, we can create, we're creating recipes. Okay. Well, you want to add an element to the price of waterfall beyond global and country. We can add that. Here's how you do it. Here's what it'll look like. Here's the steps that you can follow, or you're managing data at a different level of granularity than what you see here out of the box.

Great. No problem. We can, we have a recipe for that. And on our side, we're putting [00:14:00] hours next to it. We're putting the recipe and all the steps so that we solve that in a consistent way from customer to customer, but doing it in a prescribed way that has kind of general agreement. And so we're going to – these extensions or recipes as a living breathing document that we're going to grow over time. And then from the product side, I'll be harvesting that, Hey, what are we doing? What is painful and time-consuming? Can we build product capabilities around it, or what's just a natural extension? Do we have an easy ability to configure that in your solution?

Barrett Thompson: That's great. Sounds like through this planned extensibility is sort of designed in extension points. I can get the best of both, right? I can get all of the structure and benefit of the Quick Start, but I can also go and extend as, and where I need to make it fit uniquenesses that I have in my business.

Dave Kurak: Exactly. I like to think that if I compare the early stages of a product to now with the Quick Start, and I think that any pre Quick Start, we have a lot of requirements, design meetings, requirements meetings, leads to solution design. We go [00:15:00] through some iterations and we start delivering some software to the customer that they use.

And then that further facilitates additional change and additional requirements as you iterate. And I think the Quick Start is really just an accelerator. We want to lay down the Quick Start, let's get this thing up and running as fast as possible. It covers the core use case. And let's use that as a very concrete example for change.

Okay. You don't like this here or you want to split this out? Great. Let's talk about that. We can zero in and it really, I think starts to clarify some of the requirements and change discussions rather than being a little more theoretical. So we don't start with that Quick Start and get that rolled out and stood up immediately.

It was a first step, frankly, to get people familiar with Zilliant, with the software and the general way that we operate. And then we can extend that.

Barrett Thompson: That fits so much with my experience of how end-users and others involved with software are actually [00:16:00] more effective at uncovering what their true requirements are, is to look at something and then say, I need to add or take away versus saying, just let's sit down with a blank sheet of paper, sort of draw what it is that you want.

So I think that's a great process for getting people to really figure out what the most important things are quickly and effectively.

Dave Kurak: Couldn't agree more.

Barrett Thompson: Dave, who's a good candidate for a Quick Start?

Dave Kurak: Well, I'll just start our first Quick Start that we're really seeing that we just released as the global and country list price management Quick Start.

So they're a good candidate for that is a customer that focuses on use cases around managing their global and country lists. Right? So do you have a central global set of list prices that you manage and update over time? For example, do you have currency exchange rates that you manage that allows you to share your country list prices more in their localized country form?

And then do you have country managers where a lot of our customers in Europe have a decentralized pricing where you have country [00:17:00] managers that are managing their own products that they sell in those countries and they have their own set of discounts and rules that they apply. And so at least for our first one, we're targeting that kind of that global list down to the country.

And over time, we're going to be expanding that price waterfall, if you will, further downstream into national/regional, customer matrix and eventually kind of that agreement customer product level to really span the gamut. Top of the waterfall or top of the pyramid where you're seeing one global list price and go all the way down to the customer specific pricing.

Barrett Thompson: Dave, as you're mentioning those building out across the waterfall, it sounds like we'll have a portfolio of Quick Starts out of the box. Do you have a sense of how many Quick Starts or what timeframe we're talking about to make those?

Dave Kurak: Great question. We just released our first one and we have plans to release a few more Quick Starts by the end of the year.

And then we're going to [00:18:00] continue building out our Quick Starts through 2023 and hopefully beyond frankly. And so the next set of Quick Starts around price management will focus on moving further down the waterfall, that national/regional prices. And eventually getting us into the customer matrix and customer agreement pricing.

And then we also have an ongoing effort. The timing is still TBD to, to use our have a Quick Start for our deal management, which allows sales reps and end-users to manage agreement pricing for their customers in our force.com. We're going to build a Quick Start kind of a pre-packaged out of the box package for that that really represents the very end of the waterfall. And then we're going to meet those in the middle. If you will, over time via the roadmap.

Barrett Thompson: That's a good plan. So Dave we've started on this journey and we're committed to growing the number of Quick Starts that we offer. It sounds like for some period of time, our customers could expect to have combinations of Quick Start enabled and sort of a traditional, uh, configured [00:19:00] solutions as a part of what they do.

Dave Kurak: Yes, that's absolutely correct for the Quick Start specifically, if we're solving problems for you and we have a Quick Start for that, we will use the Quick Start, right, as a natural way to accelerate the process and just to get the overall benefits that we've been discussing. But we're not going to cover, our global country is not going to cover all of the use cases that we solve for you today.

You might be doing Price IQ, for example, or even other data-related activities too that manages some other aspect of your pricing. And so we certainly wouldn't preclude you from doing that work. We could do it the same way that we do it historically, which is embark on a project and we can use the platform capabilities that we have to help solve that problem.

So they're not if the use cases. If we have a Quick Start for the use case, we will opt to use the Quick Start just by default, but we can still solve the wide variety of problems or use cases that we saw today with our customer base.

Barrett Thompson: These are all great points [00:20:00] that you've shared with us. Do you have any parting thoughts that you want to leave with the audience?

Dave Kurak: Sure Barrett, I guess I'll just note, I'm just extremely excited about the new program that we have in place. And I look forward to really just participating and help drive it, going forward all out, but just with the sense of urgency, the customers that I talked to, sense of urgency they have about just being able to respond quickly with the current market conditions.

The inflation's rising, all the supply and cost pressures that we have. I think the timing couldn't be better for this Quick Start program. So for us, it's again, it's about putting solutions in place quickly and allowing you to realize immediate value to help solve some of your challenges. So I couldn't be more excited about this.

I think it's been just a massive team effort across all of Zilliant - everybody's played at every group and the organizations played a key role in preparing their material and their teams to get them ready for this launch. And I look forward to this launch and the future launches that we have of this program.

[00:21:00] So I couldn't be more excited. I look forward to getting it most importantly, out in the field, in the customer base so we can get feedback, learn and improve it as we go. So, yeah, I guess that's it. Thanks again for having me and thanks everybody for tuning in and maybe get to do another one of these some day.

Barrett Thompson: Dave, you certainly will. You've done a great job today. Really want to thank you both for your thought leadership inside of Zilliant to bring this program to bear and for taking the time to cover it with us in conversation today, it is a paradigm shift and I have no doubt that it's going to make the difference in the market that you just described.

Dave Kurak: Awesome. Thanks again, Barrett.

Barrett Thompson: I want to thank each of our podcast listeners for being with us today. Be sure to check out the links in the show notes for more Quick Start resources and stay tuned for further learning opportunities. At Zilliant we're committed to your success. If you need any assistance, please reach out to us.

Would you do me a favor and please rate and review the show as it helps us to continue to put out great free content? Until next time, have a great day.

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