Configurators essentially use a huge calculator to constantly check the impact of choices and determine if options are valid or invalid after making choices. This huge, continuously churning calculator is called a Rules Engine. Because we want to be the most recognized CPQ Tool for Microsoft Dynamics, we’ve invested a lot in the e-Con rules engine. We found that a declarative rules engine offers the right combination of power and flexibility. To understand how our rules engine works, you’ll want to learn about both the declarative rules engine and their opposite—the imperative rules engine. Below, we briefly outline how they differ.
The imperative rules engine
An imperative rules engine is sequential, and follows one direction—A, B,C; 1,2,3. You need to start with question 1 and move forward sequentially. If you are working with an imperative engine and come to question 6, and then realize you need a different value for question 2, you will need to go back and change that value manually. You may need to change answers for questions 3, 4, and 5 as well. It’s a good way to ensure that no balls are dropped, but the forced sequence can involve spending additional time creating accurate quotes.
The problem with imperative rules engines goes beyond changing the answer to one question. For a modeler, it is difficult to create a reliable model because they can’t anticipate all the twists and turns in logic that salespeople encounter when they’re working with customers. For users such as salespeople, creating an accurate configuration with an imperative sales engine implies that they need to go through questions in a fixed order. If they change a question that has been already answered, they need to go back and confirm or re-answer previous questions. Structure and order are great for ensuring accuracy, but only if everyone “follows the rules” precisely.
The Declarative Rules Engine
A declarative rules engine is not dependent on order. If you answer any question within a sequence, the rules engine looks at all associated questions and variables and starts calculating answers, and if there’s a change, all variables and all answers automatically are adjusted. It’s definitely more friendly for selling—in most cases, customers don’t chart out their requirements in ABC sequence, and for custom goods, configuring a product involves a lot of “discovery” questions. Whether you begin with question 6, 1 or 10, a declarative rules engine will cooperate.
The e-Con declarative rules engine gives users a solution that standardizes configurations, but doesn’t strap users to a rigid process. Sellers will feel like they’re working with the most helpful product catalog they’ve ever experienced. Rather than demanding a sequential flow, we make it possible to start anywhere with a configuration process. A product expert can zoom to the question he likes to ask first, with confidence that all questions will be covered and that configurations and costs will be accurate. Just as important, e-Con Guided Selling enables any seller to become an expert, following built in prompts and suggestions that anticipate the answers needed to yield the customer’s optimal configuration.