Apttus applies Azure machine learning to quote-to-cash

Phil Wainewright Profile picture for user pwainewright April 3, 2016
Quote-to-cash vendor Apttus is using Azure machine learning to help mold enterprise sales behavior to achieve higher performance

Apttus product footprint graphic
Cloud application vendor Apttus is launching a new version of its quote-to-cash suite of applications that applies artificial intelligence from the Microsoft Azure Machine Learning service to help guide sales people to achieve higher performance.

Launched today at the Microsoft Envision conference, the full suite of products is also notable for being available native on Azure as well as on the Salesforce platform. This new multi-platform strategy will help the previously Salesforce-only vendor reach a new market among the Microsoft Dynamics customer base, says its CEO Kirk Krappe:

There are many customers, especially in Europe, that have no Salesforce presence and that really need quote-to-cash.

It's a marketplace that's sitting there that's unaddressed. For us it's a different scenario.

Deep learning

Called the Apttus Intelligent Cloud, the new product applies artificial intelligence and deep learning technologies to discover and dynamically recommend actions that will help sales people increase the size and speed of deals.

Apttus currently has six customers live with the new capabilities. Krappe says one early adopter expects to add between 1 and 2 percentage points to its total sales as a result of them improving the overall performance of its sales team. Krappe explains:

The concept here is that when a user does something, the machine will look at data with a similar situation and tell you what you should do.

This helps to address the perennial sales challenge in enterprise sales teams where, out of a team of 1,000, the top 200 sell most of the revenue. Machine learning can look at what makes them successful and help the rest emulate those success patterns, for example by incentivizing certain actions over others.

Guiding sales behavior

Adding this functionality extends the scope of the Apttus suite beyond purely automating previously manual or disjointed processes into guiding the behavior of the people involved in these processes, says Krappe.

To date we've been doing quote-to-cash — quoting, contracts, revenue management. We fill the gap between CRM on the left and ERP on the right.

When you implement all these applications, they are tremendous to automate the process. But now there's a behavior component.

If you're a salesperson doing a quote, to be presented with what you're going to make in commission, that changes behavior.

The concept is, instead of trying to control process, you try to change behavior.

There are three components to the Intelligent Cloud announced today:

  • The full Apttus quote-to-cash suite — the core Apttus product suite, comprising configure price quote (CPQ), contract lifecycle management (CLM), omni-channel c-commerce and revenue management solutions.
  • Incentives Suite — incentive management add-ons designed to motivate the behavior of the sales team with promotions, sales compensation, rebates and alerts throughout the sales cycle.
  • Deep-Learning Intelligence — Azure-powered machine learning tool that makes dynamic recommendations to help decision makers take relevant, informed action across the enterprise. According to Apttus, the tool will allow the top percentile of every sales organization to serve as a model for the entire sales operation.

Apttus currently has more than 500 mid- to large enterprise customers. It raised $108 million in venture funding last September, bringing its total funding to date to $168 million.

My take

It's a smart move by Apttus to climb on the rapidly accelerating bandwagon of AI. Sales is an obvious target for this type of technology and has been an early adopter in the enterprise, with vendors such as InsideSales — also a partner of both Microsoft and Salesforce — rising fast on the back of the technology.

Even without Apttus's other news today about bringing its software onto Microsoft's cloud platform, this would still be a notable announcement in the enterprise software world.

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