Getting an Update from BigMachines at Dreamforce 2010

Many recent TEC articles have talked about quote-to-order (Q2O) or configure, price, quote (CPQ) solutions that facilitate business-to-consumer (B2C) and business-to-business (B2B) sales, thus helping companies sell more products and services faster. A number of thriving vendors provide on-demand product configurator, pricing and quoting, proposal generator, and B2B eCommerce (self-service portals, product catalogs, etc.) software solutions. These Web-based offerings facilitate sales across their customers' diverse channels by streamlining their sales processes, from opportunity to order.

Using Q2O/CPQ solutions, dispersed sales teams and channels can quickly configure products, generate quotes, proposals and contracts, manage complex pricing, and manage orders. Most recently, I’ve reported on Cameleon Software’s bullish posture. The company was visibly present at’s annual Dreamforce 2010 user conference expo floor, making hay out if its Apple iPhone- and iPad-enabled sales application and integration to the Salesforce Chatter cloud collaboration product. 

BigMachines: Still the Q2O Tops

Not falling behind with its presence and buzz at Dreamforce 2010 was the current market leader BigMachines. After all, BigMachines has been’s top Q2O partner for a few years due to the most joint customers (about 100) that tout their success stories. The product has over 120 five-star user reviews at the AppExchange marketplace, although average review ratings for competitive offerings by Webcom, FPX, and Cameleon are only a tad behind.

Still, BigMachines has more five-star reviews than all of its competitors combined. It has consistently been named the “Best Quoting App” on the AppExchange for the past three years based on customer reviews.

At Dreamforce 2010, Symantec, the largest producer of Internet security software, had a breakout session that talked about implementation successes for its 5,000 customer relationship management (CRM) and BigMachines CPQ users. Reportedly, the SymantecSolution Engine has been delivered to 4, 000 users (direct sales force) on-time and on-budget within a global project delivery. In less than a year, the BigMachines-based selling solution replaced a sub-par legacy system (that took four years to build) to enable the selection and quoting of over 300 security software products (and bundles) in 14 languages, 28 currencies, and 10 buying programs.

As a result, Symantec cited a 25 percent reduction in quote cycles and a 20 percent reduction in order holds, while the Q2O system supports an improved (more disciplined) discounting behavior. In the next project phase, over 10,000 channel partners are planned to be included in the sales process.

Growth Remains the Major Theme

To update my late 2009 series on BigMachines: in 2010 the privately held company grew by 80 percent in revenues over 2009. It also boasts an impressive 95 percent renewal rate, given that the industry average is at about 85 to 90 percent (some client attrition inevitably happens due to customers going out of business, being acquired, or switching to another on-demand provider). BigMachines now has over 240 employees in 7 major offices in North America, Europe, Asia, and Australia.

As said in my previous articles on BigMachines, its main modules are as follows:

  • BigMachines Sales Engine – to empower direct sales with guided selling

  • BigMachines Channel Sales Engine – to enable self-service for partners to consistently create quotes and orders

  • BigMachines eCommerce Engine – to serve customers online around the clock

These main and other optional BigMachines modules (e.g., proposal generator, rules repository, integration platform, unplugged/offline platform etc.) are backed up by extensive reporting capabilities, and they easily integrate with leading CRM and enterprise resource planning (ERP) systems, including those from, Oracle, Microsoft Dynamics, and SAP. BigMachines' rapidly growing customer base (currently around 300 companies) includes global leaders such as Kodak's GCG, Siemens, Ingersoll Rand, and NTT Communications, as well as innovative growing companies such as Acme Packet and Voltaire.

BigMachines also leads the Q2O pack in terms of its burgeoning partner ecosystem. There have been many joint customers with ATG’s renowned e-commerce platform (now part of Oracle), Microstrategy analytics, Xactly’s sales commissions, and Avalara sales tax products. And on its system integration (SI) and consulting roster, Accenture, Capgemini, Deloitte, EDL Consulting, Pramati, Echolane, Astadia, and Bluewolf are only some of the names. To expand on its Breakthrough Opportunity Analysis (BOA) approach (see my previous post on BigMachines), the vendor has recently espoused a new BigMachines Implementation Framework (BIF) methodology that aims to deliver live systems within six months' time.

New Product Development Goes On

At Dreamforce 2010 I was made privy to the upcoming new version of BigMachines’ SaaS configure, price, proposal and B2B ecommerce platform, BigMachines 11The official announcement came in early 2011

BigMachines 11 is the flagship product suite that offers guided selling, product configuration, pricing and quoting, proposal generation, partner portals, eCommerce, and many more capabilities. As has been the case in the past, most of the enhancements came directly as a result of customer feedback received by BigMachines. Key highlights:

  • iPad support provides the ability to conveniently create quotes directly on the popular device, enhancing sales team mobility.

  • User interface (UI) templates enable users to create 100 percent customized templates for their configurators to match company branding and logo standards.

  • A drag-and-drop reporting interface makes creating reports fast and easy, even for novice users.

  • Table-based configuration rules reduce the amount of time required to build and maintain rules.

  • Data Table Administration provides table maintenance using a familiar spreadsheet interface from within the BigMachines application.

  • Quick-key item entry allows users to add items to sales quotes with fewer clicks and built-in auto-suggest intelligence.

  • Performance enhancements enable faster set-up and faster configurations and quotes due to the use of the StAX (Streaming API for XML) technology.

Getting Religion

As seen from the above list of enhancements, most followed the simplification theme for both end-users and administrators. BigMachines admits that the product’s complexity (or at least the perception of it) and its "premium brand" pricing might be the only remaining competitive hurdles in some selections. Sometimes, the true multi-tenancy software as a service (SaaS) discussion can come into picture as well, given that most of BigMachines users have a unique custom setup on the UI level.

BigMachines’ QuickConfig product, which is built on the multi-tenant cloud platform (that natively includes Chatter) and which was announced at Dreamforce 2010, makes the above points moot. For US$29 per user per month, BigMachines QuickConfig offers guided selling and product configuration capabilities.

The offering is really targeted for customers who already use’s Real-Time Quotes & Opportunities tabs and want to add some product configuration, rather than just selecting simple line items. Guided selling picks the right products based on users answering a few questions, while the rules engine ensures valid product combinations. Needless to say, the product is fast to deploy and easy to administer. There is a product matrix that shows more comparison detail between BigMachines’ product editions here.

With the company achieving more than seventy percent year-over-year recurring revenue growth for three successive years, and GAAP profitability in the past two years, the patience of BigMachines’ financial backers (as discussed in my previous article) is paying off and they are reportedly strong on BigMachines. In addition, the company continues to attract interest from investors who see potential for additional growth. Thus, I would not worry too terribly about the vendor finding new suitors when and if such a need arises.

Dear readers, what are your comments, thoughts, suggestions or individual experiences with BigMachines’ Q2O and CPQ workflow-based engines? What do you think of the company’s strategy and related moves?

And generally speaking, how do you handle your sales processes? Manually? In an automated way? Somewhere in between?
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