Searching for the optimal solution

There are always different ways of solving a problem and even though a problem has been solved, there is always room for improvement. Still, we often think of a problem as ”solved” and move on without thinking of it further, because we have other things to do.

Let me tell you a interesting example of this that has been circulating our lunch room for years. The story has been around for so long that it has been probably been ”improved” along the years but it goes something like this:

A salesman at Tacton calls a prospective customer in the med tech-industry in order to discuss our CPQ solution. As you know by now, our CPQ solution aims at reducing order error rates so our salesman wanted to know if they were interested in our solution. The discussion went something like this.

Salesman: I understand you do not have any CPQ solution in place at the moment. Do you have any issues with order errors?

Customer: No, none at all actually. We are proud to have a near zero order error rate our last year.

Salesman (curiously): Wow, that is excellent, how are you solving this difficult issue?

Customer: Well, we realized order errors was costing us a lot of money, in production and at the claims department, so the company put together a Order Quality Assurance team who solved the problem with order errors.

Salesman: Great, so how did the team solve the problem?

Customer (proudly): The Order Quality Assurance team is a group of 15 people who go through each order manually. They have a system in place to make sure each order is reviewed by two different people – this way we make sure we deliver every time without any order errors. So, I am sorry, I don’t think your solution is suitable for us as we don’t have any order error issues.

Salesman: I understand, how much does the Order Quality Assurance team cost the company each year?

Customer: I am not sure, it falls under our service budget!

There are many ways to solve a problem and I guess this particular customer had found a way worked for them. They were probably even saving money compared to delivering faulty products. Not being aware of any other solution, they were trying to perfect the solution they had in place without seeing the need  for any other solution.

As the salesman later convinced the customer, the Tacton CPQ solution does not only reduce error rates but also do this without any manual interference. Another major benefit here, outside of reducing the cost for 15 people, is that order processing could be done much faster as it did not have to go through this manual reviewing.

Companies that are used to manually review their orders are sometimes suspicious of handing this job over ”to computers” assuming there is a need for a person with know-how and experience to solve this problem. It is usually a very revolutionizing experience for them when they find out there is, in fact, a logical system in this know-how that can be translated into computerized CPQ-models if you just dig deep enough.

Another level of hi-tech

I am taking the subway to work every morning. It is a 20 minute commute and something that used to strike me is the extent to how many people were using their smart phones while commuting. When I looked around the subway cart at least 90% of the people were using their smart phone one way or another.

 

At first I was looking at this as a negative, like: ”Wouldn’t the world be a better place if we would lift our heads a bit and talk to the person next to us instead of wasting time checking Facebook-feeds or playing games?”. But who was I to believe everyone was ”wasting time”? There could be an incredible amount of cool stuff happening around me while commuting:

 

The 40-year old woman with the green hat may be taking an audio course in Italian, that stylish looking woman may be sealing a huge deal for her startup company on her smartphone, the business man by the window could be ordering a romantic gift for his wife, the guy next to me could be creating a fantastic…ah, nope, he was just playing Candy Crush. Still, I hope you understand what I mean.

 

For me, technology, like smart phones, tablets, internet etc means that I can have more freedom in my life. I do not have to be in the office to finish off an offer, I can reply to a customer while I am boarding the plane and I can review the changes my colleague sent me even when I am late to work due to delays in the subway. In fact, I often use the time on the subway to come up with and write drafts on this very blog.

 

Being able to make people creative and productive wherever they are is something I, personally, feel good about when I think about our new app we recently launched for iOS. I have heard my fair share of horrific stories of the tedious iterations and paper work some of our customers had to go through for each quotation before they started with CPQ. I was proud to know they could just go to work and solve much in a minute that took hours and hours before. Nowadays, they don’t even have to in front of their computer or even at work and I find that really cool!

 

Today, I feel the same type of curiosity when I sit in my subway cart. Maybe that 45 year old woman in the business dress is actually helping out in an important business case by making sure their customer gets a quotation in an instant, using our new app?

 

Want to know more? Read all about Tacton for iOS devices here.

Tacton opens new US headquarter in Chicago – welcome to Rob Milks, SVP

This morning our CEO, Frederic Laziou, announced the opening of the new Tacton North American head office in Chicago, and the appointment of Rob Milks as SVP of the Americas.

 

Those of you who follow this blog are probably already aware that 2017 is off to a flying start here at Tacton. And following the recent product launches and partnership announcements, this week is no different.

 

Rob is a real CPQ industry veteran and joins Tacton from his position as VP Sales, North America at Changepoint. He has previously headed up the sales organization at CPQ vendor, Selectica and helped guide them to one of the most successful IPOs in NASDAQ history. So getting him on board is very exciting news for all of us.

 

Having been at the center of the CPQ industry for the past two decades, Rob was already fully aware of Tacton’s position as a leading innovator in CPQ and Design Automation for manufacturers. He’s excited about the opportunity to grow the company’s American business, and didn’t need much persuading to join the team. It’s clear to both me and my colleagues that he’s the right man to take us forward.

 

You’ll hear more from Rob on the Tacton blog in the near future, but for now, please join us in celebrating the exciting news and welcome Rob and his incoming Chicago team to the Tacton family!

 

If you want to read the full press release related to this, you can find it here including contact information for Rob and the Chicago office.

Meet the People at Tacton: Dunja Sparre Kvarda

If you ever visit the Tacton office in Stockholm it is likely the first smile you will see is the one from Dunja Sparre Kvarda, greeting you from behind her desk at the reception. If you are lucky she may greet you in your native tongue as she speaks several different languages!

You have been working here for two years. What do you do at Tacton?

My base at Tacton is behind the desk in the reception but a lot of my work is around the office. I take care of the practical things that makes the office a great place, and a nice social environment to spend your work days at.

My work, for example, includes everything from helping out in the planning of Christmas parties to make sure someone’s birthday, last day at work, or the likes of it, is not going unnoticed.

What do you like about your job?

To be honest, when I started at Tacton I thought this would just be one of those boring software companies but I have been quite surprised by how fun it is to work here and how nice and social everyone is!

I believe I am fortunate to have a job with almost exclusively positive work tasks. I mean, if you are a boss, a sales person etc some portion of your work tasks will always involve complicated trade-offs, handling difficult issues, stressful deadlines etc. I am not saying my work is uncomplicated but most of my tasks revolve around making the work place better so I get a lot of positive feedback all the time.

The feeling I have while getting ready for work in the morning is not that I am ”going to work” – I feel like I am going to a place to have fun and that is a obviously a really good feeling!

As a Croatian, you are a part of Tacton’s large international employee base. What is the major difference between working in Croatia and in Sweden?

The company organization in Croatia is generally more authoritative. In Swedish companies, like Tacton, the organization is flatter. The managers are more down to earth and you can have a casual chat with them in a manner that would be very uncommon in Croatia.

I like working in Sweden because I have more flexibility to control my work and take my own decisions. At Tacton I am informed on what to do and which problems to solve but I decide myself how to solve them.

Is there any cultural difference that you have found interesting with working in Sweden?

I find it funny that you have so many ”official pastry days”, like Kanelbullens dag (”cinnamon bun day”), Fettisdagen (”semla”) but also Lussebulle on Lucia day. I need to keep track of them in order to make sure they are served during ”Fika” (i.e. afternoon coffee break) those days.

At Tacton I am informed on what to do and which problems to solve but I decide myself how to solve them.

Lastly, do you know the names of all 200 people working at the Tacton office?

Haha, I think I know almost everyone’s name at least, perhaps not some of the most recently employed.

 

Dunja Sparre Kvarda

Office Manager | Master of Business Administration | Stockholm | 2 years at Tacton

Passionate about: hospitality, languages and books

Tacton Extension for Salesforce CPQ – it’s available on Salesforce AppExchange!

Today marks an important event here at Tacton. Tacton Extension for Salesforce CPQ is now officially available for download on Salesforce AppExchange – the world’s biggest business app store.

Tacton Extension is built and hosted on the Salesforce App Cloud, and extends Salesforce with some very powerful capabilities that will be a game-changer for manufacturing companies. The launch means that manufacturers will be able to easily tackle even the most complex sales and product configuration challenges – all from within the Salesforce Lightning environment.

The release marks many months of hard work and close collaboration between Tacton and the team at Salesforce. But more importantly, it presents an exciting opportunity for manufactures who are currently on Salesforce, but who are yet to discover the power of Tacton’s configuration engine.

If you have a few minutes, why not check out this presentation from Dreamforce 2016 (scroll down the page to get to the presentation). Here Sicco Saft of poultry processing equipment manufacturer, Meyn speaks about their Tacton/Salesforce project. Abel Godard, SVP at Salesforce introduces the presentation.

For those of you who want to know more about Tacton Extension for Salesforce CPQ, please don’t hesitate to contact us here.

If you want to read the press release related to this, you can find it here.

Happy New Year 2017!

We hope you’ve all had a wonderful time during the holidays, and we wish you all the best for the new year! We’re very excited about 2017, but before we get to business we want to take time to reflect on the past year and what 2016 brought. Here are some highlights:

Announcing new leadership

In May, we announced a change in management and Fréderic Laziou was appointed new Chief Executive Officer for Tacton Systems. Former CEO Christer Wallberg joined Tacton’s Board of Directors as Executive Vice Chairman.

Read the press release here. Have a look at the management team here and board of directors here.

Tacton Extension for Salesforce CPQ

In October, we announced a partnership with Salesforce and launched Tacton Extension for Salesforce CPQ. With Tacton’s app, users can access all CPQ features within Salesforce Lightning, and from there experience a whole new level of connectivity. This will enable manufacturers to engage with customers, partners and employees in completely new ways, and provide an important competitive advantage.
Read the press release here and read all about the solution here.

 

Expanding our visualization capabilities

In November, we announced the acquisition of Lumo Graphics, a leader in the field of visualization. With joined forces, Tacton will be able to enhance its visualization capabilities within CPQ, along with expanding Lumo’s current product offerings. Looking forward, we are very excited about having added value to the Tacton team. The future looks bright (and great, thanks to Lumo Graphics’ great team)!

Read the press release here and have a look at Lumo Graphics here.

 

Availability on iOS devices

In December, we were happy to present two new Tacton CPQ apps, available on all iOS devices. This addition offers all things CPQ at the user’s fingertips. Using the Tacton configurator, Tacton CPQ for iOS devices is the perfect addition to the product family, adding an extra level of speed, ease and connectivity.

Read about the new Tacton CPQ apps here.

 

Great blog posts

During 2016, we published a lot of posts on the Tacton blog, and we’ve collected the five most read ones below. If you haven’t read them already, have a look and make sure you didn’t miss out on great reading!

  1. The Einstein Riddle – Solve this logic puzzle and prove you’re a genius
  2. Engineers vs. Sales People – Enable your teams to go from foes to friends
  3. Unexpected Benefits of Implementing a CPQ Solution
  4. The Holy Grail of Standardization
  5. The New Industry Standards

 

That’s it. Thank you 2016, welcome 2017. We look forward to the new year and everything it may bring. We hope you’ll join us.

Meet the People at Tacton: Roseline Olomina

Today we introduce you to Roseline Olomina, an ambitious, high performing woman who is a successful triple jump champion with both an engineering degree and an Executive MBA. She is now pursuing a career within the Sales organization at Tacton.

You have an amazing background, how did you end up at Tacton?

I had a great career as a Triple Jump athlete and set my first Swedish record when I was 15 years old (13.43 m). My current best at 13.46 m still stands as the Top 5 best in Sweden, even though my career as an athlete pretty much ended in my late teens due to injuries. While I was injured and under rehab training I decided to study Mechanical Engineering at Chalmers. I worked for 12 years both in Sweden and Germany as a Stress Engineer performing strength analysis calculations in various industries but I felt I was missing out to only focus on technical problems. I therefore applied and received a scholarship for an Executive MBA at Stockholm School of Economics. This way I envisioned working with technical solutions but with a business value aspect. When I heard about Tacton and their need for someone with German language skills who could understand both technical and business aspects it seemed like a perfect match for me.

 

“I love the challenge of figuring out how integration to technology can make business processes more profitable.”

 

Is there anything you have learned from being a high performing athlete you bring to your work? 

As a triple jumper, hitting the springboard consistently has a large impact on your final result. It is a matter of improving every detail and every aspect of your performance. Also, you have to stay focused and leverage on others in order to outperform the competition. I believe this is something I have brought with me into the business world as well: I work hard, leverage on our collective knowledge and influence others to stay focused on our end goal.

What do you like about your job as Technical Sales? 

I like the demands I have in terms of understanding the full business process of new customers in new industries. I like to work in an environment where you meet C-level managers with high demands and help them improve their business processes.

Why should future talents apply to a career at Tacton?

If you want to be part of an expanding international team that enables industries to take the stress out selling customized products and services, you should apply! For me, I appreciate that Tacton is a company that is truly multi-cultural and has an international atmosphere. I also enjoy the positive competition at work. For example, we have something called Tacton Awards for which you are encouraged to nominate your colleagues for good work. This is a good example of the atmosphere here which can be boiled down to: if you do something good, you will hear about it!

 

 

 

Roseline Olomina

Technical Sales | Mechanical Engineer | MBA | Stockholm | 1.5 years at Tacton

Passionate about: Digital transformation, continuous learning and leadership

Don’t turn your engineers into assembly line workers

 

Meet Rasheed – a design engineer working at a company manufacturing conveyor belts. Rasheed is a highly skilled mechanical engineer with over 10 years of experience, a good paycheck, and he is also a very appreciated employee at his company. Rasheed is currently, however, very bored of his work and he is considering to work somewhere else. Every week Rasheed is designing the same type of conveyor belt over and over again. The orders of conveyor belts he receives are always similar, but never exactly the same as any previous product. The design process cannot be standardized or automated in the current process, so he always needs to re-design everything based on a standard conveyor belt. It is time consuming, and boring, work.

 

With the skill and knowledge Rasheed possess he could potentially be doing much more qualified work. However, the tedious process of creating every product from scratch consumes all that time and other resources. Rasheed feels like he is working at a modern day assembly line, with the exception that he actually has a degree! Even if we ignore what Rasheed thinks of his current work situation, it is an obvious waste of resources such as time, money and brain power.

 

Design Automation is the solution to these kind of problems. It standardizes and automates the tiresome parts of the design process and moves the design engineer higher up the creativity ladder. As such, it acts as a design engineer itself – so instead of Rasheed having to update the dimensions of yet another conveyor belt he could be spending his time working on the next generation of products or perhaps fixing that motor that has been left under dimensioned for far too long! The latter is the type of work that would increase sales and profits and reduce costs for the company on a long-term basis. This is work that would directly affect the growth of the business and the bottom line profit. Design Automation will reduce cost for your business because it helps reducing common costly mistakes and errors. The automated process assures an even quality of the work performed, no matter how skilled, experienced, or attentive the engineer is, so it will reduce the claims costs as well.

 

For Rasheed personally, this would also mean a positive challenge in his everyday work. With a more challenging job he will increase his learning, get more efficient, and be happier with his work. In fact, the work an automated design process frees up for the engineers are most likely going to be the work the engineers, like Rasheed, hate spending the most – the repetitive and least challenging parts. Just like machines revolutionized the manufacturing industry by automating manual labor, design automation will revolutionize your design process by freeing up time for your design engineers and make them reach their full potential. Your business will be more cost efficient, more innovative and you will be able to keep appreciated employees like Rasheed in your company.

How an app can bring you closer to your customer….and closer to closing the deal

We’re all looking for better ways to engage with our customers. Many companies already complement traditional sales and marketing activities with social media strategies to encourage customers to engage with their products and services.

This is all well and good, and has the potential to increase awareness. But if you’re selling complex, customer-specific products, perhaps with hefty price tags, there comes a time in every sales cycle when you need to establish that crucial relationship with your customer.

This is where your sales people play such an important role. Often more so than the products they are selling.

Why building rapport with customers is key

Some sales reps simply have “it”. These are the rock stars of your sales team – they always make quota and are the ones giving speeches at the annual awards dinner. Unfortunately these reps are the exception rather than the rule.

We can learn from them however…what they often have in common, is this ability to build rapport and trust with their customer.

All too often sales reps fall into the trap of selling “at” the customer, rather than being the assertive facilitator that most buyers are looking for. As a result, they never reach the point of common understanding where a meaningful dialogue and exchange of information and ideas is taking place.

This causes frustration for all involved. And although behavior and interpersonal skills play a critical role here, sometimes it is simply down to the tools that are available to us.

Consider this scenario

Imagine yourself in a sales meeting with a customer. You’re discussing a new packaging line for his pharmaceutical plant. You have with you a brochure with glossy pictures of the equipment that your company sells. You also have your laptop. On it, a six-month old company PowerPoint, plus a bunch of other information which you probably don’t want your prospect to see.

Because of this, you end up sitting across the table, the laptop now forming a physical barrier between you and your customer. The very same person you are so desperately trying to engage with, and whose trust (and signature!) you want to win. What better way of distancing yourself from your client?

When the customer tells you that he needs a line that can handle 28,000 triple-laminated units per day, you start searching through your laptop for some form of relevant information. But even before you start looking, you know you will have to say your goodbyes and ask to come back with a proposal and rough price estimate next week…after you speak to the product experts back at HQ.

You end up leaving frustrated, and your customer is far from impressed.

Now, let’s look at another way this could play out

Imagine that you have with you an iPad with a customer-focused CPQ tool. As you walk into the meeting room, you ask the customer to sit down next to you and place the iPad on the table. It’s alreay pre-loaded with his company information. There are no personal emails, and no sensitive information about product costs and margins.

You ask him what he needs, and he mentions a 28,000 a day unit that can handle

triple-laminated packs. You enter his capacity requirements. You tap ok.

And there it is – a valid configuration complete with a 3D image of the solution. Your customer can see it, he can almost touch it. Now you have something to talk about!

Immediately he starts providing additional pieces of information, and the two of you together can see how his input changes the configuration, bill of materials and associated pricing. You tweak the solution together. When he’s happy, you generate a quotation and email it to him.

His smartphone buzzes and his proposal, complete with budget pricing, has just arrived in his inbox. He thinks to himself – ‘this is the type of company I want to do business with.’

Last month Tacton Systems launched the most significant release of its CPQ software in over a decade – Tacton CPQ. This month, Tacton announced iOS mobile apps for CPQ and Order Approvals. By leveraging mobile CPQ functionality, manufacturers using Tacton CPQ can now engage in a more collaborative and productive way with customers. And as we all know – a customer who is truly engaged in the buying cycle will do most of the selling himself.

If you want to know more about Tacton and how CPQ apps can transform the way you sell, contact us for a demo.

Design Automation Quality

 

What if you had a design tool that ensures quality designs, no matter who used it?

 

Imagine that your most important customer would call Gareth and Rhonda, your two best sales reps with a request for a product. These sales people would interpret this need and hand it over as a problem description to two different design engineers. These design engineers, with their own experience, preferences, knowledge and style would then create a separate quotation for that customer. What are the chances those two quotations would be the same? Perhaps a more interesting question is: How important is it for your business that those quotations would be the same?

 

It may not be a common issue that a customer would get two quotations for the same problem specification at the same time. What is common, however, is that companies produce highly different quotations for very similar problems depending on who creates the quotation. Design engineers are after all humans and, as such, do things their own way. Some are senior engineers who designs ”like they always have done and it has always worked fine”. More junior engineers may lack that experience but use new, modern ways of solving the same problem using other techniques and parts. In practice, this means one design engineer will use one set of parts and another one another set of parts, when they really could have been using exactly the same. This workflow makes it frictionless and allows for more flexibility for the engineers but is much less efficient, and more costly, for the company as a whole. If every engineer has his preference of motor, for example, the company needs to keep an excess of all of those different motors in stock, even if the different solutions just as well could have used the same motor.

 

The major issue here however, ladies and gentlemen, is the loss of quality. When you do not have repeatability in your design process you will be more vulnerable to the risk of creating occasional low quality products, followed by claims costs. This, since you cannot guarantee the design was made by your best engineer, on his best day, every time. The key to really solving these problems is to have an automated design tool that ensures quality designs – no matter who uses it and when. Your business should be offering the same quotations, design solutions and products no matter who does the design and his or her preference, experience, or knowledge. This will also highly reduce the resources spent on time-consuming design processes that could, and should, be automated.

 

Design automation tools like Tacton’s Design Automation tool is perfect to address challenging, time-consuming, and costly errors in the design process. The benefits will be real quality assurance, faster quotation and better efficiency in the overall design process. So, next time your customer calls with a request for a product, they will receive the same quotation in the end – no matter if they talk to Gareth or Rhonda.