Archive for the ‘Best Practices’ Category

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.

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?

Upcoming Sales Performance Analytics Webinar, July 22nd 1pm Central

July 10, 2008

There is a very promising webinar coming up, hosted by OpenSymmetry and presented by Greg Livengood.

I particularly wanted to promote this event because I worked with Greg for several months on an Accenture project, and I know that when it comes to Sales Performance Analytics, he REALLY knows what he is talking about. Expect a very insightful presentation by a friendly, dynamic and easy-going individual who built a world-class reputation as a sales performance analytics leader and pioneer.

Event Description:

With the economy in a downward slope, sales leaders more than ever need ‘Sales Performance Analytics’ and efficient ways to proactively identify potential problems and opportunities.

Most companies have the information they need to improve sales performance, however, many sales managers are challenged with accessing and correctly interpreting the data.

Greg Livengood, Senior Business Analyst with Livengood Consulting Group, will discuss how to leverage the 5 best practices in sales performance analytics that can boost your sales force performance.

• Visualize Sales Performance
• Develop Corporate Alignment
• Simplicity
• Build a Self-Sufficient Solution
• Engagement at the Executive Level

Click here to register.

ICM Implementation Offshoring Pros and Cons

July 8, 2008

Projects can be partially or completely outsourced. The outsourcing can be done partially or entirely offshore. The most common scenario I usually encounter is when a company outsources a project to a consulting company. The consulting team usually works on-site, and often have several resources located offshore. There seems to be a trend for consultant who used to work on-site, to be allowed to work remotely.

As I pointed out, many EIM/SPM solution vendors and consulting companies will discuss the benefits which can be achieved by outsourcing parts of an Incentive Compensation Management implementation. I agree with these benefits, but there are also many challenges which must be carefully managed to be successful.

Working with an offshore team through a consulting company reduces a lot of the risk; you don’t have to worry about contracts, quality, infrastructure, intellectual properties, etc. Furthermore, consulting companies usually have a good relationship with their offshore arm.

Setting aside all ethical and macro-economics discussions about offshoring, here are some of the main pros and cons.

Main offshoring benefits:

Labor: Skilled labor can be very expensive, but it can especially be very difficult to find. Even a large consulting company may have problems finding an available consultant with the right skill set.

Cost: Offshore locations are usually developing countries where labor is significantly cheaper.

Speed: When a project is well managed, more people usually mean a more aggressive schedule.

Work 24/7: For North-American people, working with a country such as India makes it “easy” to work around the clock.

Some of the challenges to be managed

Communication and language barriers: Most of us have some experience working with team members who are located somewhere else, and have faced communication challenges related to this. Offshoring brings another layer to the communication challenges, a topic to which I will dedicate another article.

Coordination: Because of all the communication challenges, complex coordination activities become even more complex.

Cultures: Each culture have their own principles and values. Not being mindful of cultural differences can lead to big problems.

Cost: Savings could be only marginal, especially with rising labor costs in some countries (especially in India)

Quality: This is a challenge for on-site and offshore team alike. Offshore teams are usually very good at achieving very high quality standards. However, quality is still perceived as a higher risk with offshore teams.

Security: Quality is another concern most companies have, especially when dealing with confidential employment information. There are very secure mechanisms to collaborate, even across continents, but security is a topic which requires particular attention.

Key to Success

In my opinion, the key to successfully leveraging an offshore team is in:

  • Having a good manager and team leads experienced with offshore projects
  • Having A good [formalized] communication strategy, “hand-off” mechanism between onshore and offshore teams and processes in place
  • Having a good understanding of which project components can be tackled “at night” by the offshore team and handed to the onshore team “in the morning”, and vice-versa.

Outsourcing and Offshoring your SPM Implementation

July 6, 2008

I’m planning to write several articles related to sales performance management outsourcing and offshoring. Let me first define what outsourcing and offshoring means.

Outsourcing: This is when you subcontract the design and implementation of your compensation plans.
Offshoring: This is when you subcontract (typically parts of the implementation) to another country. India and China are well known IT offshoring destinations, but there are many others.

One of my first post on the blog was about in-house development versus outsourcing. Most SPM implementations I see follow one of these patterns:

Pattern 1:
An implementation partner is selected – this can be a vendor agnostic implementer, or the product vendor. As part of their submission, they propose the use of an offshore team to reduce the cost of their bid, or to be able to “go-live” more quickly.

Pattern 2:
An implementation partner is also selected. There are no upfront discussions about offshoring any work. The concept of an offshore team is brought up if the project falls behind schedule.

Upcoming Topics
The reality is that most vendors and consulting companies use offshore teams. I will write about the pros and cons of offshoring, the associated risks, the challenges it will add, the importance of communication strategies, and a few personal stories of managing offshore teams.

I will also write about which aspects of the implementation can be “offshored” more easily. The good news is that with an SPM implementation, once the design phase is completed, there are different way to “break-out” work in different components which are not on a critical-path to each other.

Finally I will answer several questions I have received on this topic. If you have any questions, please don’t hesitate to send them to me.

Don’t Automate Chaos

June 25, 2008

I came across an interesting article by Roy Altman: Avoiding “Gotcha’s” – Tips and Techniques that Drive Successful Implementation Projects.

Roy describes some of the common pitfalls that can undermine an HR System implementation project, including the importance of getting buy-in, of planning early, of knowing your organization, of not reinventing the wheel, etc.

There is one point which I haven’t talked about on this blog so far: Don’t Automate Chaos.

If your processes currently result in chaos, and you automate them, you end up with automated chaos.

That’s something a lot of companies implementing EIM solutions don’t always seem to understand. Many Compensation System implementations are subject to delay, budget issues or even failure because processes are not re-examined. Implementing a new large-scale system should be seen as an opportunity to redefine and improve these processes.

In a typical Customer Relationship Management (CRM) implementation such as SAP or PeopleSoft, business processes generally have to change to be in line with the application. However in the case of an EIM solution, it is easy to make the mistake to try to implement the system in the same way it is currently working… and that can result in automated chaos.

When planning your implementation, set some time aside to map out existing processes and logic to assess if/how they can be improved. Better processes should result in a higher quality implementation which will fulfills business requirements.

Stick to a Naming Convention – It’s not Rocket Science!

June 23, 2008

Wikipedia has one of the best definitions on the net for a “naming convention”: A naming convention is a convention for naming things. Awesome!

In the Enterprise Incentive Management and Sales Performance Management world, this means naming all plan objects in a consistent way. Naming will vary from tool to tool and there is not a single set of best practices that can be followed. Most vendors provide some recommendations, but it’s up to the implementers to decide which naming format will be used. Since there is no generally accepted “convention”, it may be more accurate to call this a naming strategy.

Why is sticking to a naming strategy important:
Incentive Compensation Management is not difficult. What makes ICM systems complex is the volume of plan elements (plans, rules, formulas, tables, variables, etc..) A large implementation can quickly become a jungle if not everybody agrees on a common way of naming different objects. Not only will it make building and testing the system easier, a good naming strategy will especially be important once the original implementation team is gone and others have to understand the logic of the system. Finally, aside from clarity, a naming strategy will also help search for plan components more efficiently.

Choosing a naming strategy
As I said, since all applications do not share the same objects, and also because each application works differently, I cannot provide a silver bullet for all situations.

Generally, I try to stick to these principles:
  • Make the name descriptive
  • Use abbreviations to identify object type
  • Begin object name with its object type abbreviation

For example, a credit rule could be called CR_AE_description. Some systems could have a direct credit rule and an indirect credit rule; in such case my abbreviation could be DC and IC instead. In some systems I may want to prefix a formula with F (if all objects can be displayed in the same view), if not, then it would not be necessary to explicitly say that a formula is a formula.

Naming of output is also important: The importance of naming an object may be obvious, but in the case of rules, the output of such rule should also be named carefully. A result name that makes sense can often by “Rule name _ result” or something similar.

Getting Started…

It is important to define a naming strategy early on in the project – before any detailed / technical design documents are created. The strategy should be illustrated on one page to enable the implementers to quickly see how to name the different objects. This “page” should be distributed to everyone involved in the implementation and be given to new joiners as well.

The first steps in defining the naming strategy is to find out if the application being used has a set of best naming practices or standards. In the case of an upgrade, it is important to stick to previously used naming strategy.

Happy Naming!

Sales Compensation Planning Made Easy – Interview with Makana Solutions

April 22, 2008

I recently had the opportunity to spend an hour with Liz Cobb, Founder and CEO of Makana Solutions, and with Arthur Gehring, Director of Marketing.

Makana is a relatively new company (founded in 2004) offering a very good on-demand application, called Makana Motivator, which helps build effective and clear compensation plans. Makana Motivator is very easy to use and allows its users to quickly create a plan either based on other sample plans, or from the ground up. It also has the capability to “test” your plan.

As I mentioned several times, one of the biggest challenges faced by sales management or consultants when implementing a sales compensation system is the “complexity” of the compensation plans. Sometimes compensation plans are quickly described in a e-mail or over the phone, or almost handed over written on a napkin. In other scenarios, they are can be well documented but may still lack clarity, key aspects, or examples, or may be lengthy. Finally, even if a compensation plan is well documented, it does not mean that the plan is effective and well aligned with the objectives and budget of the company.

The Makana Motivator application is very intuitive to use. Companies using the application typically receive a 1-hour live tutorial from Makana, after which they are able to model plans on their own. The main components of the application consist of the space in which the plans are built, where the organization is built with assignments and territories (participants can be imported from SalesForce.com), a section for cost modeling the plans, and finally, a section that generates a plan and gives the option to save it as a PDF.


In my opinion, one of the most powerful aspects of Makana Motivator is that it allows users to choose templates from a best-practice library and to adapt them to meet individual circumstances. The application then guides the user following a “wizard” step-by-step approach to ensure nothing is overlooked. The application is very interactive; hovering over most of the application components provides additional feedback . “Blue-ribbon advice” offering expert tips and help is also available throughout the process.

Another important feature of this application is the ability to display and compare plans side by side. Such a graphical representation quickly helps identify the major differences between plans.


Plans are not only displayed side-by-side; they can also be designed and modified side-by-side. Plans consist of measures and formulas which can be edited by expanding their respective section.


The cost modeling section can show costs for the entire company or byany sub-set such as product group or geography. Projected attainment can be modified to gain an idea of the impact of those variables on the overall incentive costs. Many sales performance management applications offer modeling and analytics capabilities, but Makana Motivator allows its users to model the plans BEFORE they are implemented rather than after, which can save a lot of time, money and headaches.

Once the plans are fully designed, and since the application is on-demand; they can easily be circulated and feedback can be gathered directly in the application. Upon acceptance of the plans, plan documents can be individualized and generated. The resulting plans are very clear and easy to understand by consultants, comp teams and sales reps alike, and are visually pleasing.

Motivator adds a lot of value over the spreadsheets used for planning today by streamlining the process, providing best practice guidance, easy cost modeling, clear plans and an audit trail. Makana Motivator also provides Salesforce.com users Apexchange certified integration.

Read more about what customers have to say about Makana Motivator.

After completing a form on the Makana website, you can access several free webinars and articles about Makana Motivator and compensation plan design best practices.

Upcoming Free Webinar: Industry Banking Best Practices for Maximizing Your Customer Value and Sales Behavior

April 18, 2008

A free webinar “Industry Banking Best Practices for Maximizing Your Customer Value and Sales Behavior” will be hosted by Callidus Software and Accenture on Wednesday April 23rd at 11:00 EDT.

Learn about banking industry best practices from Accenture to ensure that your front line sales people are selling efficiently and effectively – and selling the right products to the right customers. Together with strategies and best practices, you’ll also learn how other financial services organizations are using the latest solutions and technologies to optimize these processes, and achieve competitive advantage.

For additional information and to register for the event go to: http://www.callidussoftware.com/go/08/banking-best-practices-to-maximize-sales/

Best Practices for Sales Performance Management

December 22, 2007

Christopher W. Cabrera, founder and president of Xactly Corporation, published a white paper on December 18, 2007: “Five Best Practices for Sales Performance Management”.

These best practices are:
• Use incentive compensation to align payments to strategic corporate objectives
• Motivate and reward performance with contests, SPIFs (special performance incentive funds)and non-cash incentives
• Model and forecast your compensation plans prior to deployment.
• Use analytics to drive sales performance
• Integrate CRM and compensation management applications for greater insight into sales opportunities

I think those points are very obvious… Actually, they are usually the driving force behind automating the compensation management process. I recommend reading the article, it’s short and fun to read.

The Five Best Practices for Sales Performance Management paper can be found here.