Making Quotes Easy Inside Microsoft Dynamics

Microsoft Dynamics CRM NAV Experlogix

Jeff Holway (the VP of Sales at Experlogix – an organization that specializes in Product Configurators for Microsoft Dynamics) recently joined Carlos Ekkert from Encore Business Solutions to discuss many of the exciting changes in the Experlogix product line.   

Carlos:  Thanks for joining us today Jeff. Do you want to tell us a little bit about your role in your organization?

Jeff:  I am the Vice President of Sales and Marketing and am responsible for the sales of the Experlogix Configurator solution worldwide.

Carlos: What is something you enjoy about your role, your position there? I know you have quite a bit of experience in the ERP and CRM space?

Jeff:  What I enjoy is the fact that we get to work with a diverse set of companies out there. Both CRM and even ERP to a certain extent are fairly horizontal applications that touch a wide variety of organizations.

You’re not working with the same customer or things that are of the same nature every time.  You get exposure to various business processes and requirements.  It keeps it quite interesting.

Carlos:  You especially have quite a variety of companies that you work with. For example, the manufacturing industry is one that you work with quite often. Other ones?

Jeff:  That’s right. So, manufacturing, distribution, professional services, telecommunications, construction equipment, software, hardware, etc. There is really a wide range of industries.

Carlos:  So let’s back up a little bit and maybe you can share with us a little bit about your organization to someone who might not be aware of you your organization.

Jeff:  Experlogix was founded in 1997.  Our headquarters are in Santa Barbara, California.  We have regional offices in Salt Lake City and Boston. We’ve been a Microsoft Dynamics Independent Software Vendor (ISV) since 2005.  So, we’re one of the pioneering CRM ISVs and we’ve been supporting Microsoft Dynamics CRM since version 1.2.

We’ve been in the channel for a long time. Of course, we support not only Dynamics CRM but also Dynamics GP, Dynamics NAV and Dynamics AX

Carlos:  What is something you would say that it’s unique about the organization Experlogix?

Jeff:  We’re one of the few Microsoft ISVs that supports not only CRM but also Dynamics ERP solutions as well.

Also what`s unique is that we`re solely focused on Microsoft Dynamics and product configuration.

We are very concentrated and have a lot of deep expertise in the configuration business.

Carlos:  As a Microsoft ISV, it’s important you’re aligned with the Microsoft product vision.  How would you characterize your relationship with Microsoft?

Jeff:  We have a very close relationship with Microsoft. Three years ago we were elevated to a managed ISV status within Microsoft.   Microsoft has approximately thirty or so ISVs that they consider to be strategic ISVs that are assigned to a business development manager.

What it does for us is, it gives us deeper access to development resources within Microsoft, have access to a program called Tap, and gives us access to beta releases and other types of things.

Carlos:  How did the organization see a fit to provide a solution like your Experlogix product configurator for Microsoft Dynamics?.

Jeff: We saw that there was quite a bit of a white space in Microsoft’s solution set related to product configuration.  So, we thought it would be a smart business move on our part to jump on board with the Microsoft Dynamics line of products. And aligning ourselves with Microsoft has proved to be a wise move.

Screenshot of the smooth Experlogix product configurator …

Experlogix Product Shot

Carlos:  So, tell us a little bit of what your solution and what benefits the customers receive from the product?

Jeff:  So, product configurators really help accelerate the process of putting together complex quotes and orders and ensures accuracy.

This in turn helps companies increases their quote to order ratios, eliminates mistakes, and simplifies complex pricing scenarios.

Really the kind of challenges come from three functional areas within the company: sales, IT, and engineering. In  sales they have their own set of challenges and reasons why they need to turn to a product configurator including things like their competitors are getting quotes out faster than they are.

Often organizations are having challenges with forecasting because the quotes are not being produced in a timely or accurate fashion.

Without a configurator sales reps might just be using Microsoft Excel or Microsoft Word and quotes aren`t being delivered in a consistent professional looking manner.

We see many times that there are too many different systems, rather than having everything consolidated from a reporting perspective within the CRM and ERP platforms. You might be tasked with managing a very large Excel workbook as well as the information in the ERP system.

Experlogix consolidates all those systems in a single solution.   Sales and product management typically want to be owners of the product configurator and quoting tools and not IT.

At the same time, IT doesn’t want to have to have one more thing to manage. The benefits of our product configurator are that it is easy to use and the business users can easily maintain the system.

Finally, the other benefit of our product configurator is it puts the expertise of the product into the sales rep’s hands. In other words, especially for complex manufacturing applications, traditionally sales reps have to contact engineering or product managers and ask questions around compatibility between items and other rules that ensure an accurate order is placed.

The product configurator embeds all that engineering knowledge and product management knowledge into the system so sales reps can then quote intelligently.

Carlos:  Do you have any specific industry that you find you work a lot in?

Jeff:  Clearly manufacturing, specifically discreet manufacturing.  We have a lot of traction working with heavy equipment or construction, working with dealerships, hi-tech and electronic telecommunications, and scientific devices.

Experlogix Customers …

Carlos:  Can you list a few of your customers?

Jeff:  Certainly, you`ll recognize some of your customers like Valley Countertops and Beachcomber Hot Tubs.  Some of our larger customers are Konica Minolta, FEI Company, Mitsubishi Caterpillar and Nikon Instruments.

If you look at our company website you can see some of the case studies on our website like iBAHN. They were having to manage very convoluted Excel spreadsheets to do their quoting.  They then had to re-key orders into GP.

By consolidating all that spreadsheet information into Experlogix from CRM, they experienced a big change in terms of the amount of time it takes to get a quote on out to a customer, from hours to minutes.

Carlos:  What advice would give to someone who is considering a product configurator?

Jeff:  Number one, the integration. The depth of integration to your CRM and ERP is critical. When you’re using a product configurator you really want it integrated into the rest of your systems.

We’ve got several customers in the manufacturing world where if they’re shipping to somebody internationally, the configurator automatically adds things like an international power supply and other components that are required for that international region.

Carlos:  And that all comes because of the integrations.

Jeff:  That’s right.

Carlos:  What kind of goals do you have for the products in the future that you can sneak out to us?

Jeff:  Well, soon we’ll be launching support in an iPad. So, that is coming. We’ve also embraced Microsoft’s Metro user interface.  The administrative console that we have for the configurator is being redesigned into a Metro look and feel.

We’ve also continued to do more work with portal capabilities, which is why also we’re adding additional functionality around customer and partner portals.

Carlos:  Can you expand on that a little bit? We`re familiar with the portal because we did an implementation of the product configurator portal at Beachcomber.  With the portal Beachcomber received some amazing benefits.

It eliminated for them the need to work personally with their hundreds of dealers and extended that quoting capability directly to the dealers so that they could just process orders. Can you just expand on the capabilities of the portal?

Jeff:  We get asked about portals in almost every sale cycle because so many of our prospects are wanting to extend their service quotes to their customers or onto the web.

Another big benefit of the portal for the customer is the ability to develop their own quotes off the portal.  We also have integration into Microsoft CRM from the portal.

So as you know, Beachcomber for example has great visibility right within CRM on all the quotes that their dealers are producing out of the portal.  That allows them to forecast better and more effectively because they’re able to get an accurate picture of what their resellers are producing for quotes.

Carlos:  What kind of things are you doing to keep the product up-to-date? Have you published a roadmap?

Jeff:  Well, we continually request and receive enhancement requests from our customer base.  And we come out with two major updates annually.

The majority of those updates include enhancement requests from our customers.

Carlos:  What is something that stands out to you as being a benefit from the perspective of Microsoft Dynamics products versus other CRM or ERP products out there?

Jeff:  Really, the Power of Choice is something unique. Experlogix has aligned itself with that unique model as well in terms of being able to deploy the solution on premise or in the cloud.

Carlos:  Where do you see the market going? Where would you see Microsoft’s  position in the market a few years from now? Any insight you may especially have on CRM?

Jeff:  Certainly I see Microsoft Dynamics CRM going more mobile right now. We’re also seeing more requests for tablet support, mobility, offline mobility.

A lot of people want to work offline for example on an airplane or at a job site or at a customer site where an internet connection may not be available. The customer still wants to be productive. We continue to see Microsoft as a leader in this space, an innovator.

Carlos:  Is there anything that you do to make it easier for customer to learn your software in conjunction with the Microsoft CRM software?

When we did an implementation of the Experlogix configurator at one time, you provided some great training. Part of the training was actually helping them set up the software and get a prototype running.  That really impressed the client.   What kind of things do you do with customers to get them up and running?

Jeff: We very much believe in the train the trainer approach to encourage to customer to learn our solution so that they can be self-sufficient as their business changes. It allows them to add new products as their business rules change.

After we’ve trained them, they can then go into the configurator and make those changes on their own without having to come back to the vendor.

This enables the customer to stay dynamic, stay current, and be able to respond quickly as their business changes. Customers don’t have to rely so much on software vendors to support them.

As you know, we deliver training as you mentioned in a consultative fashion, a train the trainer approach. With that we also provide comprehensive documentation and training materials.

Finally, we circle back with them to provide ongoing support.

Carlos:  Microsoft has a large set of ISV partners like you. If you were to recommend another ISV solution out there, who that might be?

Jeff:  Scribe Software is great. Also I’d encourage people to look at ADX Studios and Insideview.

Carlos:  Thanks Jeff. We appreciate you joining us for the interview.

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