Salesforce has been a leader in CRM for many years. Still, despite this dominance, many Salesforce customers have had to deal with gaps in their customer relationship functionality. The first has to do with configuring and pricing products, commonly known as CPQ for “Configure, Price, Quote.” Out-of-the-box Salesforce does have a pricing model (price books), but more often than not it’s too basic for most companies’ needs — especially in manufacturing and retail industries. The other business function Salesforce didn’t fill was field service.
Enterprises with Salesforce CRM that need CPQ and field service have always had many options. For one, they could build it themselves. Frequently these home-built systems predate a Salesforce implementation. The advantage for enterprises building a CPQ or field service system is they can make it exactly what they want. The disadvantage, though, is that enterprises have to pretend to be software companies. Software is difficult. But even if a company managed to build and maintain a CPQ or field service system, getting good value out of it requires a custom integration with Salesforce.
For enterprises (rightly) nervous about building their own software, many vendors have stepped into the CPQ and field service breach. Some of these tools are built on the Salesforce platform, and some are not. Salesforce MVP Geraldine Gray published a fine blog on the many choices customers have for CPQ on Salesforce. For field service, there are several tools available on the AppExchange (most notably, ServiceMax).
Each of these software tools has their fine points, and can make a case for why it’s better to be built on the Salesforce platform versus their own platform. But generally, it’s better to be on the platform (i.e., “native”). Being native on the Salesforce platform removes the need for a custom integration. It also lets administrators take advantage of one of Salesforce’s best qualities: its point-and-click configuration and workflow. Finally, being native gives you access to other Salesforce abilities such as Mobile and Community.
Salesforce, CPQ, field service, and the case for going native
There are software packages for CPQ and field service built on Salesforce, and then of course there’s the software that comes from Salesforce itself. For these business functions, sticking with Salesforce is becoming an increasingly attractive option.
Steelbrick was acquired by Salesforce back in December 2015, and can be implemented in weeks — not months or years. The acquisition of Steelbrick is an acknowledgement that CPQ is essential to CRM.
In February 2016 — just as the dust was settling from the Steelbrick acquisition — Salesforce announced Field Service Lightning (FSL). FSL allows users to intelligently schedule field service work, and to monitor and manage work being done in real time.
In addition to all the great stuff that comes with natively built apps, CIOs and IT leaders should look into the efficiencies of dealing with one vendor. Clearly, customer relationships hinge on a good deal more than opportunities and cases. Your employees in the field are on the front line of conveying your brand. They need good tools tightly coupled with the rest of your system. And when it comes to finding the right product at the right price, having a solid, configurable CPQ system is essential.