This year the Apttus Accelerate event was at Pier 48 in San Francisco, CA (right next door to the Giants Baseball Stadium) and with 3500 attendees it was definitely considerably bigger than the last one I attended two years ago. I arrived Wednesday and on Thursday I participated in the panel discussion “Why Omni-Channel Should be a Sales Leader’s New Best Friend” with #LouisColumbus #NeilBelstock and #JohnNarbaitz .
Accelerate is now a big event and reminded me of a “Mini-Dreamforce”. In addition to the Key Note Sessions there were 90+ Breakout Sessions in 7 Meeting Rooms! In the Breakout Sessions, Headsets were available for speakers and attendees. While it felt a little weird in the beginning and probably looked goofy it ensured that the attendees could hear everything. Especially for the busier sessions with many attendees it turned out to be a good idea.
All Breakout Sessions were divided into different categories like Sales Execs, B2B Leaders, Finance Leaders, Sales Ops Optimizers, Legal Luminaries, Awesome Admins etc in the booklet every attendee received. While I thought this was a good idea I did not use it much since I had numerous unplanned meetings with people and hence couldn’t be on time for most of the Breakout Sessions. But I understand that all Breakout Sessions have been recorded and will be available online soon. In any case the few Breakout Sessions I attended provided helpful, high-level overviews. For Apttus Customers or Prospects interested in Apttus’ products it is a great chance to learn more about their products, best practices and to network with CPQ specialists. Here some more info about CPQ, location and entertainment at Accelerate.
I was looking specifically at Artificial Intelligence (AI)/Machine Learning (ML), Augmented Reality and Virtual Reality.
So let me talk about these one-by-one
AI/ML: Since I learned that Salesforce and Apttus both work with IBM’s Watson AI I was interested to learn more about this topic. In one of the Key Notes the Apttus Team showed how a Sales Rep could create an opportunity by voice. While this was very impressive because it has the potential to make a Sales Reps live considerably easier it was more on the Opportunity and Account Management side than on the CPQ side. So I used the opportunity to talk to an Apttus specialist to understand what other AI capabilities may become interesting for CPQ (e.g. use AI to determine most beneficial sequence of features and/or feature values shown to users, setup of configuration rules by AI). The last time I discussed this topic it sounded like AI is mostly used for cross-sell automation. Now it sounded more like other capabilities are getting a closer look and so I’m very interested to see what comes next. It will also be interesting to see if and how much of a differentiator AI is for CPQ Vendors.
Virtual Reality and Augmented Reality is definitely an interesting topic for CPQ and for me personally especially since we did our “Visual & Virtual CPQ Research Report” in April.
Virtual Reality: Microsoft was there and was showing off a HTC Vive with hand controllers and an audio headset. While this was interesting it was more focused on gaming and learning than on CPQ.
Augmented Reality: Apttus used a Microsoft HoloLens with a bicycle configurator. The demo did not work well for me because the hand controls didn’t work and I didn’t see the bicycles clearly. While I was a little disappointed that it didn’t work for me I was excited to see that this technology was shown at Accelerate.
About the location (Pier 48): Wednesday was hot and there was no air condition. Sweating in San Francisco in May really! But Thursday was ideal with considerably milder temperatures. Outside were food trucks with different lunch and dinner options and inside they served great coffee and ice cream. Inside was also plenty of room to meet and talk and charge your devices. Mix that with lots of people and a general excitement and it was a good atmosphere.
About entertainment: While I didn’t see the English Beat I saw David Blane the Magician. He was there Wednesday afternoon and it was a lot of fun to watch him do his “magic” tricks.