How to Simplify Complex Product Configurations for the Average User

July 23, 2023

Product configuration is the process of rearranging and custom selecting a product to be made and delivered to the customer, specific to their choices. It’s usually done by the sales team or by a piece of software. In 2020, 32% of European online manufacturers sold complex products.

For a complex configurable product, the process is usually highly interactive. Despite this, a lot of complexity comes with a configurable product. There are complex engineering formulas, layered systems, databases, pricing, and information. Learning how to use this tool can be a huge pain point for the average user. 

What Makes a Complex Configuration Complex?

For a complex configurable product, many factors add to the complexity of the configuration. It can be anything from policies and regulations around the product, delivery and installation restrictions, health and safety, cost and performance considerations, the way the complex product configuration system was made or even the way the business wants to sell the product. 

The required communication, collaboration, and synchronicity between different teams is the main reason complex configurations are complex, as the configuration gives the user infinite ways to make their product. 

Top 5 Tips and Techniques to Reduce Complexity in Your Product Configurations

As the end-user increases their demand for the option of choice and customization, it is important for software and tools selling a complex configurable product to find ways to reduce the complexity. 

One huge way is integrating a configuration life-cycle management process. This is a method that allows a complex configurable product to have every possible configuration predetermined by the solution. Once it is integrated, it can save time for sales, and manufacturing and also provide the customer with pre-made solutions.

The whole purpose of a product life-cycle management system (PLM) is to take out complexity. It allows for greater collaboration and can address any challenges. It does not get in the way of any pre-existing IT systems or production processes but can give manufacturers more power.  

Introducing more collaboration can help reduce the complexity of selling a complex configurable product. Having a system that is fully connected with all teams, stakeholders, manufacturers, and more can help save time when things need to be changed, approved, or created. Creating a cross-functional team process so they have the data they need will provide more reliability, speed, and success while reducing complexity. 

Greater collaboration reduces the complexity in product configurations as it allows the team to work together in every department to share up-to-date info and speed up any processes which were slowed by lack of communication. 

Integrating crucial IT systems is important as every business has multiple channels and platforms that need each other to be truly successful. Whether it is product lifecycle management (PLM), enterprise resource planning (ERP), or customer relationship management (CRM), these systems are often disjointed and this makes selling a complex configurable product even more complicated. 

By integrating these platforms, you will create a consistent and holistic view of the product they are selling. By making them all aligned, you will see what product options can be offered in different areas and get the results, data, and products all faster compared to before. 

Pros and Cons of Using a Configuration Wizard Software to Simplify Your Product Configurations

A wizard is a step-by-step process that allows users to enter information on each step. The next step is always determined by the information in the previous one. Along with forms, it is the most common form of data entry on the internet and can help the user get a personalized result at the end of the process.

For product, there are many pros and cons to using a wizard. The system can follow a customer’s route and give them the complex configurable product they were desiring. A strong pro for using a wizard for product configuration is that it doesn’t overwhelm the customer with information on the page. Because it uses multiple steps, the process is easier for the user. They don’t need to digest as much information on one page and can make fewer mistakes. Compared to a complex form, users may skip parts or are likely to rush to finish it and incorrectly add data. 

A wizard provides the quickest route for each user, reducing any unnecessary data entry points that you can find in some forms. A correctly-assigned wizard will only give a user the steps they need when they are purchasing their complex configurable product. An example can be if a user picked a product that doesn’t have certain customization, they won’t be asked about it. It will skip this and move on to the next appropriate step.

Wizards also have cons for a user. Data entry from a wizard can be very tiresome when you need to change displays and sources. Rather than being entered directly into a spreadsheet, you will need to switch between the mouse and keyboard to type in different sources or displays. 

Wizards create a high amount of interaction through the required clicking to get through each step. This can become tedious for the user, especially when they are trying to design a complex configurable product. 

Wizards can have problems with interruptions, as a user might need to quit or pause midway, and they will lose their progress. Even if some wizards save their steps up to a point, the customer can forget what they put before for their complex, configurable product. They will need to start over and this will cause a fair amount of frustration.


What are product configurations?

Product configuration is the process of customizing a product to meet the needs of a customer. A product configuration solution is usually part of CPQ software that helps sales reps and customers get specific solutions.

What is a complex product example?

A complex product is a grouping of products, like menus, packages, catalogs, etc. It is a culmination of multiple products and items packaged into one, that is a specific package for a customer.

How does a product configurator work?

A configurator allows customers a visual interface where they can design and change their product attributes (for example, color, shape, size, accessories, etc.) and therefore get a fully-personalized product.

What are the major features of a product configurator?

The biggest features of a product configurator can be found in a clear bill of materials regardless of how simple or complicated the product is, visual models to give the end-user and manufacturer see the design, and safeguards against products that can’t be produced fast, efficient quote generation.

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