Revenue lifecycle management tools dial up profits

Seeking out simpler solutions and challenging the status quo is good advice to firms looking to update their business software.
12 September 2022

People, processes and technology: software tools based on a unified data model are helping companies to manage their sales costs and generate valuable business insights. Image credit: Shutterstock.

Businesses are being kept busy in 2022. Organizationally, they need to be nimbler than ever before, composing their structures to meet the needs of different projects; switching from being centrally managed to operating in smaller, autonomous teams, and then back again. But these impressive displays of company restructuring on-the-fly count for little if the underlying systems are eating into hard earned profits. And that’s where revenue lifecycle management is required – to streamline sales proposals and negotiations, accelerate contract agreements, satisfy product delivery, and provide insight for renewals and future growth.

“Revenue is the fuel for businesses,” Noel Goggin, CEO of Conga, told TechHQ. “It provides capital and allows companies to make acquisitions.” But once the deals have are made, how does the parent company bring those acquired products and services into its sales channels? Are the various systems compatible? “Land and expand doesn’t always fulfill the promise,” Goggin adds.

Navigating complexity

As companies grow, new challenges emerge. Enterprises can soon find themselves with a mixture of ecosystems, including multiple customer relationship management (CRM) solutions. “They might have different e-commerce for different geo’s,” said Goggin. “Different portals that have built up over time.” And navigating that complexity is a hurdle without the right expertise.

In the business-to-business (B2B) space, providers are looking to make their operations more self-service. And to understand the scale of this transformation, it’s worth first reflecting on changes taking place in other markets such as omnichannel retail. Here the goal is to provide a seamless customer experience regardless of the sales channel. Unifying the fulfillment of products – which may come in different styles, sizes, and colors – to suit a combination of in-store and online shopping is not trivial. But B2B transactions take things to a whole new level. “The pricing structures and product categories can be much more complex,” Goggin explains.

Taking the healthcare sector as just one example, providers may offer the hardware itself such as an MRI machine, sell servicing of the instrument, and stock recurring product purchases such as the contrast dye that allows the scanner to recognize a patient’s arteries and veins. The complexity involved in customer transactions can easily spiral. And providers need to be on top of the numbers throughout the journey.

Convenience store

Once a proposal has been signed off, the paperwork needs to go through the contract phase – an operation that has been transformed thanks to contract review and redlining software. “You can get contracts done more quickly and standardize clauses across the organization,” said Goggin. Centralized document management software has replaced contract negotiation via email, with rights management settings helping to direct participants to the topics that need their attention and prevent them from interfering in the sections that don’t. Once complete, making the final contract visible to all stakeholders keeps providers aware of their obligations – for example, to check that invoices are created at the necessary frequency. And with billing comes forecasting revenue, which depends on utilization.

Companies across the globe are working hard to move from one-time sales to reoccurring revenue models, which are a much stickier and more appealing solution for sellers. And software as a service (SaaS) businesses are an example of this. But if providers lose visibility of the utilization of their services, they could come in for a shock when it comes to renewals – for example, if a customer is only actively using half of its software license allocation.

Revenue lifecycle management has multiple touch points, but the common theme is being able to ingest data at all stages and pull out the intelligence. Automation helps processes run more smoothly and integration means that as a firm updates or consolidates its business systems, those gains can be accommodated step-by-step (as each of the improvements comes online). It’s a welcome scenario, particularly if the overarching project is going to take years to conclude. “Companies are not going to change their enterprise resource planning (ERP) systems overnight, but integration can still happen,” Goggin points out. “Having a unified data model provides the ‘glue’ to do all of the integration upstream and downstream.”

Adaptable architecture

Trends include so-called ‘headless commerce’ where solutions developers such as Conga, and others, provide customers with a rich set of application programming interfaces (APIs). Plumbed into key revenue lifecycle management services, clients can configure systems as they want them to appear on their front-end. As well as giving customers flexibility, it also means that updates to the back end can propagate quickly without clients having to rebuild their software.

Speedier systems that help to lower the cost of sales by reducing complexity and making key data visible are powerful tools for companies. But only if they have the culture to capitalize on the benefits. “Organizations have to have a clear way of working,” said Goggin, who is a long-time student of organizational health and design. “As companies get bigger there’s a temptation [for them] to go into maintenance mode.”

Goggin has been involved in building organizations for 20 years and is clear that people closest to the customers need to be the ones that are the most enabled. Anything that stands in the way will ultimately be detrimental to the business and he encourages colleagues to challenge ideas and seek out simpler solutions – a philosophy that chimes well with revenue lifecycle management.