A “Quote-to-Cash” Extension for Engineer/Build-to-Order Organizations
You may have heard about this expression “Quote to Cash.” Admittedly, it can sound a bit flippant. If only it were that easy. But, what if you could create significant efficiencies in the proposal process and drive cash in a shorter period of time?
Well, that’s the idea behind one of our newest lab projects… the Proposal Management Module. The goal is to help sales capture requirements, repurpose those into a proposal, pass the information on directly to planning and engineering, and do this without loss of “data fidelity”. If this process can be accelerated, then it stands to reason that the potential for delivery and invoicing are shortened as well.
Organizations involved in offering engineer/build-to-order solutions must capture requirements at the earliest stages of an opportunity. Capturing is done, of course, but based on what we are seeing, it often happens with spreadsheets, Word documents and email. After a sale, this data works its way downstream. This unorganized data loses significant fidelity as it cascades from planning to manufacturing and ultimately to installation. In situations like this, the delivery and customer support teams bear a heavy burden. And, of course, there is a financial cost. Cost of goods as represented by scrap, rework, labor and staff morale and brand image.
Putting PLM into the Sales Process
So why not start the product lifecycle activities during the sales process?
This is not a sales force automation activity. This is a requirements capture and proposal automation process. It augments and accelerates what sales individuals do on a daily basis.
The key task is to capture requirements at its earliest stages of the proposal process. The data captured during this sales process are repurposed into two principal deliverables.
- a comprehensive proposal that reflects all the requirements and the desired outcomes communicated by the prospect
- a complete delineation of the requirements and tasks for planning, engineering and manufacturing
To break it down a bit, let’s start with requirements capture. As the sales or account managers are engaging with an opportunity, scripted requirements are gathered to ensure all needed aspects for an engineer/build-to-order solution are satisfied. The capturing process can occur over multiple conversations/meetings with the prospect. Rather than try to reflect these in word documents or spreadsheets and emails, the proposal automation components would reuse all the captured data and automate the production of a proposal.
Of course, other disciplines can participate in this process as well, including planning to identify scheduling, engineering to design custom components and purchasing to support long lead item planning.
Once the proposal is accepted, the proposed project is activated, and all the requirements are now immediately available for downstream disciplines.
Aside from the benefits previously mentioned, the organization has also established repeatability for the proposal process.
Driving repeatability is a cornerstone of product lifecycle management. Moreover, it allows everyone to work to the same processes, removing the potential challenges of tribal knowledge, cultural conditioning, and other discretionary decisions that go with just being human.
Building on what we have
The exciting aspect of this is that we will be leveraging Aras application modules, including Requirements Management, Project Management, BOM, and most importantly, Technical Publications.
Let’s pause on Technical Publications. In conversations about the Technical Publications module, we’ve often found many users are confused. The traditional term Technical Publications or TechPubs seems to have conjured up the idea of a discipline that is concerned with researching, writing, and illustrating technical documentation for products.
As an example, Adobe’s Framemaker has had a historical role as a proven solution. In our context, however, TechPubs is all about the automated creation of content based on the reuse of technical data. This content can be marketing brochures, website content, CPG packaging, or even a sales proposal.
If you have ideas about what a proposal management module may offer, please let us know. We would love to get your input to incorporate while this effort is in the pre-release stage.