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  • CPQ Product Configurators: Build or Buy

Epicor CPQ Product Configurators: Build or Buy

A growing number of cloud SaaS solutions provide significant benefits over in-house development. But when considering the “Build or Buy” question, it helps to understand the pros and cons of your options.

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“Build or Buy” is a fundamental question in IT when considering a new software solution. More than half of our customers started with some kind of in-house product configurator before upgrading to Epicor CPQ. Those initial solutions ranged from simple pricing tables in spreadsheets to complex Excel macros to full-blown, multi-year custom development projects.

A growing number of cloud SaaS solutions provide significant benefits over in-house development. But when considering the “Build or Buy” question, it helps to understand the pros and cons of your options.

1. Building a Product Configurator with Microsoft Excel

Many organizations start by using Microsoft Office Excel to standardize pricing. As small businesses grow into medium-sized or enterprise companies, their need to collaborate and maintain a single-source-of-truth quickly outgrows Excel capabilities. Things become unpredictable when trying to scale beyond a project or challenge, putting critical business operations at risk.

The Pros 

  • Affordable, robust, and ubiquitous application
  • Easy and familiar to most users
  • Handles light-to-medium complexity

The Cons

  • Only as good as your best Excel expert
  • Challenging to ensure formula accuracy
  • Different users may lead to inconsistent output
  • Challenging to customize or maintain
  • Difficult version control
  • Doesn’t work with complex products
  • Requires too much training
  • Lack of integration with other systems or processes

2. Custom Coding a Homegrown CPQ Solution

The person who takes this on is signing up for a job in organizational development, requirements gathering, project management, software development lifecycle management, system/end-user/acceptance testing, change management, and much more.

The Pros

  • Somewhat flexible since you own the code base
  • The ultimate level of control
  • Built to your exact requirements
  • May be perceived as ‘cheaper,’ or live in a budget grey area by putting idle resources to work

The Cons

  • A tendency for hard coding rules that are hard to maintain
  • The complexity of creating custom software
  • Can get expensive if/when the project gets out of hand
  • The project is only as good and stable as your best CPQ expert and developer
  • Maintainability and integrations will always be challenging
  • Long-term value and usability is tied to the employee who created it

Choosing this route requires an internal workforce skilled at spinning up custom development projects and expertise in building a product configurator. If control and flexibility are the utmost concern, this works for some companies—but carries risk.

3. Build a Product Configurator Using a ‘Job Shop’ (Contracted Third-Party)

Like the in-house option, using a job shop presents challenges in owning the development of the software. Your role is to guide the work, not deliver it. You need a clear vision of what you’re building, with budgets, timelines, and resources ready to hold your contracted vendor accountable.

The Pros

  • Somewhat flexible since you own the codebase
  • The ultimate level of control
  • Built to your exact requirements
  • Less risk than developing in-house

The Cons

  • A tendency for hard coding rules that are hard to maintain
  • The complexity of creating custom software
  • Can get expensive if/when the project gets out of hand
  • The project is only as good and stable as the chosen vendor and their teams
  • Maintainability and integrations will still be complicated and expensive
  • Dependence on this job shop for the useful life of the product

Much like in-house development, this is a more expensive way to re-invent the wheel and drives higher risk than buying and deploying ready-made CPQ software. But if you require custom functionality, a high level of control, and don’t want the risk of owning development, it might be your only option.

4. Buying (or Subscribing to) a CPQ Solution

Companies that graduate beyond using Excel and homegrown tools to run their sales functions have a number of CPQ vendors ready to accept their business. Choosing one is not an easy task. You have to look past the pitch to dig in and see if there’s a good requirements match, backed by evidence that shows they can deliver and keep customers happy. The tendency is to compare apples to apples, which can be challenging with how segmented the CPQ market has become.

The Pros

  • Easier and faster to get running than custom development
  • A SaaS solution will deploy and scale easily
  • The problem is already solved for you
  • Expert guidance and support
  • Minimal training
  • Potentially cheaper than building yourself
  • Easy to maintain and update

The Cons

  • May not match your requirements 100%
  • This solution also includes a vendor to manage
  • Potentially more expensive than building

This one is both potentially cheaper and more expensive. The promise of cheap custom development is appealing—but often, the price of implementing a platform that can be maintained will save you more money in the long run.