Quote to Cash Empowers Business

Dan Morris, Senior Director of Architecture & Engineering, RentPath
Dan Morris, Senior Director of Architecture & Engineering, RentPath

Dan Morris, Senior Director of Architecture & Engineering, RentPath

Quote to Cash is on fire! Digital transformation. 360-degree customer views. No programming. Automatic upgrades. Subscriptions. Micro-payments. Electronic signatures. SaaS. PaaS. Innovative startups. Large acquisitions. So how do you keep up with this exponential growth? CrunchBase has devoted a tag to Q2C (Quote to Cash) where you can follow the money. There is an excellent McDonald’s analogy that describes Q2C. Navigating the space is difficult, and as a result, the industry has given rise to a new set of consulting firms specifically tailored to Q2C.

My work is in the real estate advertising space. We connect renters with landlords to help people find their next great home. Our landlord customers are investment trusts that have full-suite technology solutions, and they are individuals that need full-service systems. Our challenge is to deliver products that satisfy both ends of the spectrum. We need to provide simple, wizard-like user interfaces. Simultaneously, we have to provide performant, adaptable interfaces that integrate with external systems to drive real-time updates. It probably sounds like your business.

  We also provided employees the opportunity to move from consulting environments to traditional business environments and vice versa  

Q2C is understanding more about your customer so that you can do more for them. It is driving the Digital Transformation - using technology to solve traditional problems. My company embarked on that journey nearly a decade ago with a commitment to SaaS systems. We implemented Salesforce.com and Zuora billing and EchoSign. We were early on the curve, and we discovered the differences between product marketing and operational reality. We repeatedly found that human transformation and technological transformation happen on independent timelines. Our path crossed the housing market crisis and the rise of “the cloud.” Some of our initiatives were immediate successes while others stalled or just died.

The promise of a universal Q2C solution was our salvation. We looked across our company and saw independent business units built on acquisitions, and we saw multiple business models and overlapping technologies. Our first step was to identify the issues that kept us from meeting our customers’ needs and prioritize the areas where we could drive the most improvement. We developed an aggressive roadmap toward an ecosystem where each business unit would be able to improve customer engagement. Our IT team began a shift from product builders to solution enablers. We invested fully in Salesforce.com as a development platform. Leveraging the capabilities of the platform, we can provide a seamless user experience across the purchased products and those that we developed. This approach produced significant increases in our feature delivery. Our solutions span e-commerce platforms, sales enablement and product delivery. We created a framework for contracting and provisioning that added audit capability to a digital platform. We planned our development projects with the belief that a vendor solution would emerge soon. We chose a “plug-in” architecture on top of existing technology, and we broke that rule only when we were sure that we could derive competitive business value by being different. The DevOps community has a similar sacrificial model for managing servers referred to as Pets vs. Cattle.

The speed of change in the Q2C ecosystem has given rise to a new set of consulting firms. These firms rely on the pattern of integration, and they are training teams of admins and developers in this new software paradigm. We searched for products to meet the gaps within the Q2C space, and we realized that finding and developing relationships with consultants made us much better. In the search for “best practices” you need to have broad experience. While our company is forward thinking and generally change positive, we simply don’t have the breadth to build an experience base that produces this knowledge. A true best practice lies somewhere between the project only (consultant) engagement view and the day-to-day operational experience rooted in every business. Best practices rarely surface in the first implementation. Over time, we developed these cross-company relationships where we shared knowledge openly. We also provided employees the opportunity to move from consulting environments to traditional business environments and vice versa. Cross-pollination benefits people and business tremendously. I have been extremely fortunate to build deep professional relationships and lasting friendships through this exchange.

Q2C (SaaS) promises automatic upgrades. No coding, just configuration. Using this paradigm, your implementation will meet 80 percent of your requirements with minimal modification. Our experience is that the remaining 20 percent happens to be your business differentiators. So how do you choose a provider? Carefully. You develop a checklist of the standard 80 percent and then focus your evaluation on the level of effort required to stitch in your secret sauce. You eliminate the common use cases from the RFP and ensure that the sales engineers identify solutions for the hard parts. “I need a contract that covers my entire franchise customer but allows me to track the monthly changes by location so that I can tax appropriately.” “My provisioning system has to retrieve data from my media optimizer DSP daily so that I can open my sales opportunities across multiple customers.” Then make sure that the resources within your organization can handle the additional work to meet those requirements.

Quote to Cash systems are hot commodities. More and more startups are entering the marketplace and acquisitions fill the industry news. It is the perfect time for both vendors and customers. Amazon has revolutionized computing environments while Salesforce, Microsoft, and Google are rushing to make it even better. Salesforce has created a marketplace even more lucrative than Microsoft did with Windows. We now can leverage Big Data analysis at every stage of business growth. Companies like Conga, DocuSign, Apttus, FinancialForce, and BMC have simplified the path to enterprise-level computing for all businesses.

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