Apttus Using Machine Learning in Price-Quoting Management

Dynamic CPQ gives both business and IT decision-makers more tools at the point of decision making.

SAN FRANCISCO—Apttus, the Salesforce.com-based provider of automated "quote-to-cash" business services, is bringing machine-learning analytics into the cloud-service business process realm.

At its annual Accelerate conference here at the Palace Hotel April 8, the San Mateo, Calif.-based company unveiled what it calls Dynamic CPQ: a booster application that can be added to a company's existing Configure-Price-Quote (CPQ) system to put it on IT steroids.

A bit of background, in case you're not familiar with these business processes:

"Quote-to-Cash" signifies the handling of a business process from start to finish: from having a buyer interested in a company's product to the realization of money in the bank as a result of the transaction. In enterprise B2B transactions, there are a lot of steps along the way that need to be processed, stored, accessed with efficiency and modified as needed in an application of record, and that's the automation Apttus provides.

Apttus, the name of which is a combination of two Latin terms meaning "deep capabilities" and "speed," is a B2B cloud service running on the Salesforce Wave platform. It provides a slew of features as needed to fit the customer's needs, including Configure-Price-Quote (CPQ), Renewals, Contract Management and Revenue Management.

Just as Amazon recommends products based on who has purchased them before, machine-learning with Apttus Dynamic CPQ can recommend bundles, pricing, configuration and more based on historic data. Examples of key factors might include recommendations based on your organization's top salespeople, purchases based on region, vertical, discounts, prior history and others.

Dynamic CPQ gives both business and IT decision-makers more tools at the point of decision making. It provides pre-set configurations, looks at attachment rates to the base package, and offers first, second and third options. Installing Dynamic CPQ bundles will create extra information choices for users, such as savings, overall additions and customizable options.

This system also gives resellers an opportunity to create a package or products or services up-front that they can, in turn, offer to potential customers. The entire process also gives more power to the marketing team, Apttus said, to help build sales packages, emphasize particular types of deals, or customize offers to time-of-year or location. Dynamic CPQ also can automatically highlight the most popular sales deals or incentivize/discount unpopular ones.

All this is important because pricing is always in flux due to all the aforementioned factors. Managers can adjust pricing afterward, as necessary: discounting low-selling packages, increasing the price of popular deals across a customer base, adjusting for seasonal sales spikes. They also can streamline purchasing processes across a catalog, automatically and all at once.

Once the cloud service is deployed, the system remains vigilant over all the pricing models until the policies are changed.

Apttus develops a model specifically for each customer and trains the model on their data. Thus, the system can adapt itself based on new information, making pricing and packaging recommendations based on history in a pro-consumer format.

Dynamic CPQ still requires a manager—the most proven success model is a smart model plus a smart manager—but it's designed to be usable by savvy line-of-business staff with no specialized training required.

An early user is Motorola Solutions, which is working with Apttus and Salesforce Wave to see every step of its contracting process and better understand how to reduce risks to their business. Motorola managers are able to see specific details, such as the role an individual plays in approving an agreement with a risky supplier, or major trends, such as which groups or regions consistently create the best deals for Motorola.

Salesforce itself, which hosts Apttus, is using the cloud service for its own business processes. Salesforce's Global Strategic Sourcing team is working with Apttus and Wave to improve the business impact they derive on the agreements they make with vendors.

Salesforce GSS is able to improve its understanding of spending commitments by purchasing category and the return captured by discounts, rebates and changes in terms that are more favorable to Salesforce. For Salesforce GSS, more insight and more control means more value captured, Apttus said.

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Chris Preimesberger

Chris J. Preimesberger

Chris J. Preimesberger is Editor-in-Chief of eWEEK and responsible for all the publication's coverage. In his 13 years and more than 4,000 articles at eWEEK, he has distinguished himself in reporting...