SCOPE Better: how CPQ is changing the professional services game
Neverbland: Tell us a little about yourself and SCOPE.
Tracey Shirtcliff: I’m the CEO and founder of The Virtu Group - the company that has created the award-winning software SCOPE, also known as SCOPE Better. SCOPE is officially a CPQ platform, although not many people know what that means. It stands for configure, price and quote. It's a platform for professional service businesses. So if you’re a business that puts together proposals or SCOPEs of work that involve hours/roles/rates, we help you maintain consistency at scale - replacing Excel spreadsheets, Word templates or Google Docs that you’d normally use to put these things together. Essentially, SCOPE digitally transforms the process of scoping, pricing and document creation for professional services businesses.
NB: How did you come up with the idea for SCOPE?
TS: I have been in the software space for many years. I was previously the founder and CEO of one of the first SaaS businesses called Traffic Live. That software solved the problem of project management and workflow. It was obvious to me that there was a CRM (Customer Relationship Management) on one side and an ERM (Enterprise and Resource Planning) on the other. Neither of these solved the problem that SCOPE does. With a large manual space in the middle, it was performed manually in almost all professional services businesses. SCOPE helps you put together proposals at scale, so if you’ve got lots of people producing proposals containing information about fees/roles/hours/rates or other complex pricing needs, we help you to digitally simplify it. This gives you a single source of truth no matter how your team's price for their services. SCOPE is an easy-to-use tool that also creates a polished proposal document for you at the click of a button.
NB: So it’s a problem-solving software.
TS: Absolutely. One of the things that sets us apart from other CPQ services is that we’ve cut our teeth working in the creative, communication and media agencies which can be very complex in their needs for client demands. Our skills lie in seamlessly delivering complex processes in simple and effective ways. I think we’ve nailed it. I might be biased but proud of what we have accomplished.
NB: How long has SCOPE been around
TS: Officially we’ve been around for about six years, but a lot of that was development and client onboarding. Working out to make sure we were the best we could be. We are always developing and improving. The CPQ space is relatively new still, which is a little surprising because it feels like something that should have always been a thing. We’ve been distracted by CRM. 20 years ago there was no such thing as CRM or Salesforce. I believe the CPQ space will be as big as the CRM space in the next five or ten years. You’ll see every service business that sells its time using a tool like SCOPE to manage its complexities. The value of any business starts with what you are selling – so management and control of this leads to success and margin growth.
Fundamentally, a business needs to manage those things critical to its margin, which is what you're selling and what your team is delivering consistently. You need a source of truth that is reliable and consistent, not messy manual creation of any key elements to your business. SCOPE Better can allow you to manage and account for anything that you price – and we speed up the quote to the cash chain. A business differentiator in these times.
NB: What challenges have you had to overcome recently?
TS: The main challenge we face with every client is the challenge of simplifying each client’s unique complexities. For instance, one of our key clients like Oglivy might have 200 different clients, hundreds of different roles, and rate cards, which can be split by location and skill. All of these could be used in building up your pricing proposal. We have nailed the complexity of that. Anyway, pricing is the new black in professional services businesses – it lets you price how your clients want to buy.
NB: How do you tailor the software to meet each client’s needs?
TS: Traditionally, in a professional services business, you may build up pricing systems in Excel because there are so many factors like numbers/hours/rates, but then you’d still have to produce the proposal or the SCOPE document or statement of work. SCOPE does all of that at the push of a button. You can set up your terms and conditions, with any specific client MSA’s and with your logos within the system, you can ensure that it’s right every time, consistent and correct, SCOPE Better has a nifty editor that's drag and drop as well, it’s so easy to use and that's why people love it. It looks good and it's easy to use. We live by the quality of the information in – if it's easy to use this is second to none – and then you get a top level of data out for your business and this drives your success.
NB: And those are the two things that everyone looks for in everything nowadays isn't it?
TS: Absolutely. Some people might say that process software isn’t very sexy in the world of AI. But, the difference for me is that this is all around making sure you are doing the best thing for your business by using CPQ software. Also if you have a single source of truth, a place that has all the structures of pricing then you can monitor and build for success. You have access to all your key business pricing data – and this is where it starts. On tools – if they look good and are easy to use the quality of data and information in will be better - which means the quality of data out is better too. Simple really. It's important to have great dashboards and analytics which we do, but it also drives a single source of truth. No longer do you need messy manual spreadsheets. With SCOPE, you can digitally transform the process in which, we push that data into your CRM and ERP to create an entire end-to-end flow of business-critical data – an ecosystem so to speak.
NB: What sort of clients do you work with?
TS: My domain knowledge is mostly agencies, but we have consultancy, and IT clients across multiple industries from pharmaceuticals to architecture. Some names you might know are Media.Monks, Oglivy and Syneos. We find that every business comes with a different set of unique challenges, but ultimately SCOPE helps them automate their services and drive margin and pricing success into their business.
NB: What are the key factors for the success of CPQ implementation?
TS: I think every business likes to think they do things completely differently from other businesses. Our skill is making sure we can accommodate variety within a business and simplify how they work in a smart and succinct way. We run what we call a ‘shared implementation’ process at SCOPE. Where we work hand in hand with our client and do it together – we know the best ways to map SCOPE to your business and you know your business. Our implementation team also runs our proven and proprietary five-step implementation process with each of our clients. We start with what we call Business Process Mapping. We look at your existing manual processes and map that same process into our software covering all the necessary bases. Then, we set up a project team and set clear business objectives so we can deliver the best service possible. Implementation is at the core of what we do, and we’re proud of it.
NB: How do you feel like you stay up to date with trends in the space?
TS: The key thing is that we grow and take feedback from every single one of our customers. We’re constantly evolving to meet the requirements, needs and complexity of our customers. Our software is designed to be easy to use and better define their existing manual processes in an automated way. Sometimes you don’t need to reinvent the wheel for your client, but we make it easier to change the shape, style, or colour of the wheel for every one of them.
NB: What advice would give to businesses thinking about leveraging CPQ software within their businesses?
TS: I think it's fundamental to have software that can handle the complexity of the business but is simple to use. This sounds easy but this is our special sauce. I have seen many many professional services businesses that operate differently from other businesses in the space, and even differently from their clients. You’ve got to ensure that you’re creating a framework that works for you and your clients. I also think that your team needs to be as comfortable as possible with the process – CPQ should work seamlessly within your business.
NB: Are there any upcoming initiatives for SCOPE that you’re excited about?
TS: We’ve got lots of campaigns coming out from a sales and marketing perspective which is exciting. We’ve got some compelling ‘reasons to buy’ that we’re proud of, so we’ll be shouting more about that soon. We’re also always developing – we never rest on our laurels – that's what makes a great product. We’ve got some new views and updated dashboards that will be delivered in the next couple of weeks that we’re excited about as well.
NB: Sounds like SCOPE is taking off.
TS: Oh, yes. I am so excited about where SCOPE is going. I think the CPQ space is ginormous and has so much potential. It's the new CRM if you can say that. Process automation, although it's not super sexy, is how you can turn your business from good to great.