Hitachi Vantara’s Kim King on Automated Partner Quoting

Larry Walsh talks to Hitachi Vantara Senior Vice President of Strategic Partners and Alliances Kim King on automating quoting for partners to ensure fast, easy access to accurate pricing with minimal human interaction.

Buyer expectations have evolved. No longer are companies willing to wait for weeks for quotes on their IT projects. They want the same “Amazon Experience” in their business purchasing that they get in their consumer lives. In other words, they want quotes in days, if not hours.

Quoting has been a longtime challenge for both vendors and distributors. Partners receive different discounts and incentives based on their status, sales performance and history, and competencies. Adding to the complexity is the impact of regional pricing differences, the varying needs of customers for different types of products, and the cost of distribution and fulfillment.

Configure, price, and quote (CPQ) solutions go a long way toward automating many steps in the process. Through such systems, partners (in theory) gain access to product pricing and quoting based on customer specifications and fulfillment needs. CPQ works well, but to a point. These systems often lack the ability to take into account the nuances of incentives and other financial measures that influence partner buying. As a result, gaps remain that keep the quoting process running long.

Storage vendor Hitachi Vantara decided to tackle this problem directly. Rather than adopting a CPQ system, the company formed a “tiger team” to develop a homegrown system based on Salesforce’s CRM. The team set out with the goal of creating a platform capable of processing partner quote requests within hours – even for large enterprise deals. Moreover, the system would include all partner incentives, including deal registration and promotional discounts, in the quotes.

The development took two years of work that included platform customization and the collection of volumes of pricing, discounting, promotional, and partner data. The effort, thus far, is paying off. The Hitachi Vantara partner quoting system is delivering enterprise-level quotes to partners, often in just hours. The tool, which gives partners a competitive advantage by turning around accurate prices with blazing speed, also gives partners more control over pricing, as they’re able to add their own markups with greater ease and consistency.

The Hitachi Vantara quoting system isn’t perfect and remains a work in progress, but the company is demonstrating how vendors can create better quoting systems that improve partner experience and performance. In this edition of Channelnomics’ Changing Channels, Kim King, senior vice president of strategic partners and alliances at Hitachi Vantara, joins host Larry Walsh to discuss how the company developed such a complex quoting system and extracted the benefits it sought.



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