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August 10, 2008

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Offshoring SPM – Communication Challenges

July 30, 2008

One of the most important challenges in leverage an offshore team for an IT implementation is to communicate effectively. If this is not taken seriously, all the efforts surrounding making the offshore strategy successful could be wasted.

Communication can be difficult because:

The offshore team is often in a different time zone. Meetings are often very early in the morning, or very late at night (often both).

  • Meetings are usually virtual – often onshore and offshore team members never meet.
  • The onshore and offshore team don’t always share the same first language. Even in a situation where they share the same first language, accents can be a problem. (Although it can also be a problem between onshore resources). I think people get used to by French-Canadian accent fairly quickly, but it took me a long time to get use to the Indian accent. Expressions also vary from country to country.
  • There can be cultural differences leading in communication failure.

Cultural Differences
Erran Carmel and Paul Tjia wrote a great book called “Offshoring Information Technology – Sourcing and Outsourcing to a Global Workforce” in which they list examples of such communication failures with Indian offshore teams. Among their observations, they say that Indians are less likely to engage in small talk than most of their Western counterparts and that they tend to be too optimistic about times and schedules (referred to as the “Indian factor”). Indians are also reluctant to say “no”; they may say “yes” even when they mean “no” to avoid having to give bad news.

Their book also lists many expressions used in English which can be interpreted in a bad way by an offshore team. For example, when an English speaker says “Not bad”, he means the work is good; the offshore resource could interpret that as the work being of poor quality. Another example is when an English speaker says “Interesting!”, it can mean he or she does not agree or believe what the other person is saying; this could be understood as “they are impressed” by the offshore resource.

Improving Communication

  • Avoid slang, idioms and acronyms, and speak slowly. Ensure your message is well understood
  • When giving a task, ask probing question to ensure the task is well understand.
  • Keep written communication short
  • “Offshoring Information Technology” mentions six “R” rules: Repeat, Reduce, Rephrase, Reiterate, Review and Recap.
  • Have regular meetings (usually daily)
  • Use collaborative tools such as Wiki’s when possible
  • Be patient – you may have problems understanding them and vice-versa, but treating each other with respect is they key to develop a solid working relationship.
  • Read more about the cultural differences with the country in which the offshore team is located.
  • If the project is big enough and the offshore contribution significant enough, it may be worth it to meet the offshore team in person. This should create stronger bonds between the onshore and offshore team.
  • If most of the meetings are held over the phone (video conferencing not available), sharing pictures of the team members can also help out in creating bonds.

Makana Motivator for Free!

July 29, 2008

I talked about Makana Solutions’ product – Motivator – before. Makana offers a solution to build really good compensation plans and help you out in the process every step of the way.

The usual cost for Makana Motivator is $49 per month for up to 20 participants, $69 for 21 to 100 participants, and $149 for more than 100 participants. A yearly subscription will even cut that cost by 2 months.

Game Plan
Makana just launched a new program called “Game Plan”. Game Plan is a free program to help out with your 2009 Sales Compensation planning. It offers a free year’s subscription to Makana Motivator and strategic advice with sales compensation experts.

The catch? You have to take a training in July or August to receive your free one year subscription. That probably doesn’t sound too bad, so there is no reason why you shouldn’t check it out.

Note: Makana didn’t ask me to promote this “deal”. I don’t usually promote any Sales Performance solution, but… it’s free!

Webinar Galore – 2 SPM Webinars Tomorrow

July 28, 2008

I will try to provide coverage on this blog for these 2 webinars taking place tomorrow. The webinar hosted by Callidus features an Accenture partner discussing the insurance industry, and the Xactly webinar features Jeff Kaplan discussing on-demand sales performance analytics. Follow the links to register.

Callidus 7/29 @ 9A CST – Best Practices from Accenture – Align producer and advisor behavior, maximize mindshare – and effectively manage compensation
https://callidussoftware.webex.com/callidussoftware/onstage/g.php?d=570992696&t=a

Learn about insurance industry best practices from Jon Walheim – Accenture Partner – North America Insurance Marketing, Sales, and Service Lead. You’ll learn about key trends in the insurance industry, challenges that organizations are facing, and what insurance leaders are doing to gain competitive advantage.

Xactly 7/29 @ noon CST – The Business Case for On-Demand Sales Performance Management Analytics
https://www1.gotomeeting.com/register/415893690

In this Webinar, Xactly’s Karen Steele and THINKStrategies’ Jeff Kaplan will discuss how post-sales analytics can provide new and strategic insight into an organization’s selling patterns, commission spend, product performance, sales rep and team performance, and sales plan effectiveness. They will examine how post-sales data – traditionally scattered across a variety of disparate systems including ERP, HR, and Payroll – can be now be integrated and analyzed with an eye towards enhancing business strategies, changing sales rep behaviors, and super-charging sales organizations.

Topgrading for Sales Book Review

July 26, 2008

The Topgrading team sent me a copy of their newest book “Topgrading for Sales” to review. The book focuses on recruitment, an area in which I have very little experience. However, I think the book is relevant to this blog; incentive compensation is one way to increase your workforce performance, but at the root, it is important to hire top sales representatives.

When I first picked up the book, my first thought was – wow, this book is only 57 pages, 113 pages counting the appendix. However, when I opened the book I quickly realize that while it is small in size, it is heavy in content.

Topgrading for Sales promotes the Topgrading philosophy, to only hire “A Players” A definition of top performers and an explanation of the general concept is provided in the first chapter, and the following chapters detail methods to interview, hire and coach top sales reps. The appendix includes practical templates to topgrade your sales force.

Here is a quick summary of the proposed steps to increase hiring success:

  • Construct a sales rep score card to know which skills and attributes are required (what needs to be done)
  • Analyse your sales team and determine what your top performers have in common, as well as what your bottom performers have in common.
  • Create a list of prospects
  • Ask good phone screening questions (many good examples are provided in the book)
  • Screen finalist candidates rigorously
  • Perform a reference check after the interview and contact all supervisors in the past 10 years
  • Coach your sales reps regularly

This book is extremely practical. It provides many great tools and ideas to hire top sales representatives and the general concept can be taken beyond the “sales world”.

However if you don’t have prior experience in recruitment, other books will be required to build a solid foundation in some of the many areas touched by this book such as interviewing and coaching.

New web forum for the EIM Community – Get your Answers Now!

July 24, 2008

Today I came across a web forum called “Ask Jon!” by OpenSymmetry. It’s a great knowledge exchange platform where anyone can submit questions and answers.

Most posts are currently related to Callidus TrueComp, but there are new categories to discuss solutions by many other SPM vendors such as nGenera, Oracle, Practique & Merced, Sungard, Varicent, Xactly, etc.
Such forums are only as good as the content being posted, so I encourage everyone to visit and contribute in making this forum a one-stop shop for Sales Performance related information.
Of course my blog is still THE number one source of SPM information, but I may not [always] be able to answer all your questions, about every product on the market.

Don’t wait, go have a look and sign-up.

SPM Analytics Webinar Tomorrow, 1PM Central

July 21, 2008

Remember to join the free Webinar: 5 Best Practices with Analyzing Sales Performance, hosted by OpenSymmetry and presented by Greg Livengood.

When? Tuesday, July 22nd 1pm (Central).

Find out more about the presenter here.

Register here.

Offshore Outsourcing – Humor of the Week

July 19, 2008

Here is one of my favorite Dilbert strip:


A friend also sent me this funny conversation between a consultant and an offshore resource:

Consultant: So, today is the checkpoint for the designs, status should be on 90% completed, meaning everything’s done and waiting for final review. Are you finished?
Inder: Yes, I put the status on 90% completed
Consultant: Ok, let’s have a quick look at the document. Well… the document is basically empty? How can you put it on 90% completed?
Inder: Yes, document is empty – but it’s all in my head!

In Summary:

  • The communication infrastructure in some countries can be unreliable.
  • Risks associated to offshoring should be identified early.
  • Expectations need to be set and communicated clearly.

Compensation Architect: The New Blog on the Block

July 17, 2008

I mentioned Santorini Consulting a few times in previous posts and they just told me they had started their own blog called “Compensation Architect – Your guide to designing, implementing and managing effective compensation solutions“.

So far, David Kelly, a fellow compensation management expert, is the main contributor. Sheryl Friesz, Founder and VP of Partnerships, and Brian Silverman, President and CEO of Santorini Consulting, are also planning to contribute their perspective on related topics. Each have acquired years of experience working at Callidus Software before joining Santorini.

Their 3 first posts which have been published at a frequency I hope they will be able to maintain, provide insightful information about sales compensation, policies versus procedures and the difference between reports, queries, feeds and analytics.

Hopefully, over the next few weeks we’ll see some synergy between our blogs, and rather than creating redundant entries, we will each be able to provide fresh perspectives and information to our readers. Even in a field as specialized as incentive compensation, there should always be a place for blogs from product vendors, consulting companies and especially from independent guys.

Go on, take a few minutes for a visit.

Offshoring Sales Performance Management Implementation Components

July 16, 2008

Based on my experience and on common sense, there are some project components which are easier to offshore than others.

Requirements and Functional Design
Early phases of a project are more challenging to offshore; these phases include the requirement gathering and the functional planning of the project. Offshoring these activities can be difficult because they require a lot of interaction with stakeholders, users and subject matter experts. This type of interaction usually works much better face-to-face than over the phone.

Technical Design, Implementation and Testing
Once the architecture of the project is established, components of the technical design, implementation and testing phases are good candidates to be offshored. Interaction with project stakeholders will obviously be necessary, but the “what” of what needs to be done should be obvious.

Sales Performance Management Implementation
There are many strategies to leverage an offshore team to implement a sales performance management application. Compensation plans can be divided between on-shore and offshore teams, or both teams can collaborate on all the plans. I prefer the collaboration approach; coordination will be a bit more complicated, but many of the risks will be mitigated. As a result, the onshore team will have a clear idea on the status of the offshore team at all time, and there will be less communication issues such as misunderstandings of the requirement and functional design documents.

Here is a list of several common SPM activities which in my experience are good candidates to be offshored. If the design documents are detailed enough, there is no reason why an offshore team could not work on everything. However, there is probably less risk in offshoring well defined activities.
  1. ETL: A large project will use an Extract, Transfer and Load (ETL) tool to move data where it can be used by the SPM solution. With proper access, an offshore team can make a significant contribution to this process.
  2. Configuration Management: An implementation is usually carried in different environments; development, various testing envionments, and production. Moving the latest files from one environment to the next can be very time consuming, and often can’t be performed while a team works in the environment.
  3. Reference Data: Loading all the reference data including participants, titles, positions, relationships, territories, etc are activities which will not impact the building of plans, until required for testing.
  4. Quotas, rate tables and lookup tables: Creating and updating these objects can be a very time consuming activity.
  5. Formulas and rules: Sometimes, several formulas and rules which are almost identical to each other are required. Not all SPM solutions have an easy “clone” feature, making this activity very tedious.
  6. Processing: Also called pipeline in Callidus TrueComp, with a large number of participants and of transaction (in late testing phases), processing can take up to several hours. It can be very nice for the onshore team to work on the implementation during the day and come back the next morning to find the results ready and analysis of issues that occured.
  7. Testing: Testing can be a tedious job. As I discussed before, test scripts should exist which will be executed again and again… and again. Some of the first testing phases such as unit testing and system testing can be almost entirely offshored, but later phases such as integration testing and user acceptance testing are often kept onshore to be able to better monitor quality.
Note: Offshoring all the boring and repetitive activities could have negative impacts on the moral and efficiency of the offshore team, just as it would on any team.

Does anyone have other examples of SPM components which can be offshored easily?