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“Our incentive compensation management software is broken. We need something new.”

Over the past few months I’ve heard that statement and similar sentiments from at least four companies. All were using Gartner defined Sales Performance Management (SPM) “Leaders” ) yet all believed their SPM system was failing them. The companies complained about the lack of flexibility to adapt to their changes and some were moving to manual processes to get commission calculated.

Speaking further with these companies highlighted the same core issue at each firm and it had very little to do with their SPM technology and everything to do with their staffing decisions. For instance, one of these companies had been successfully operating their sales compensation system for over three years. Three years of success and then the only trained person to maintain and operate the system left the company.  Then, much to the company’s surprise, everything came to a screeching halt. The company blamed the software for not being flexible enough and set off to find a new system.

While it’s easier to blame a vendor than to accept responsibility, this company was operating with a naïve assumption that anyone could step in at any time and keep the system running.  IC systems are complex and require the proper staffing, training, and maintenance to keep them operating smoothly. Single points of failure are never safe (would you fly with only one pilot?). Maybe it was the original sales pitch that told them how easy things would be that led them to this point? Maybe it was a short term situation that turned into a long term situation? Regardless, if you want to minimize your risk of a service disruption and make proper use of your SPM solutions, take the following steps.

1. Document
You must maintain some minimum level of documentation. In the case cited above, there was nothing in writing – it was all in the head of the one user. Start with a simple ‘run book’ that documents the major steps in your commission cycle (i.e., data loading, calculations, QC steps, outputs) as well as a Data Flow Diagram. Each cycle, make note of special cases and exceptions and use the history of multiple cycles to guide you to process improvements.

2. Staff Appropriately and Cross-train
It’s important to have skilled people (more than one) supporting your IC system. Companies all too often fail to appreciate what it takes to manage an SPM system well – trusting too much in the tool’s much advertised flexibility. Companies that do this well, acknowledge that this is a specialized skill set and requires people who are adept at managing multiple constituencies and who are able to translate requirements to produce deliverables. Be sure to anticipate and address peak staffing needs as well by cross-training beyond your core support team (for example, you can have the person who is responsible for quota maintenance also learn your ICM system).

3. Stay Current
SPM/ICM vendors are constantly rolling out new features. Pay attention to those and proactively work to incorporate those into your configuration. That means staying on (or near) the latest version of the software as well as investing in training – both base-level training to new staff and advanced training to more tenured staff. Join and participate in local user group meetings and attend the vendor’s national conference (i.e., Callidus’s C3 and IBM’s Vision) each year.

4. Archive Old Components
Be sure to allow for time to archive and remove unused components (rules, data, reports, etc.) from your system to keep as clean as possible. Doing so extends the overall life of your incentive compensation system, keeps the processing speeds faster, and allows for faster configuration changes.

In summary, managing sales compensation programs takes considerable focus and proper staffing. Recognizing and addressing this is critical to its successful operation. To discuss this further feel free to email us at info@spectrumbiztech.com or call us at (408) 813-1443.


About the Author: Dan Ganse has 20 years of deep expertise in the area of Sales Performance Management (SPM) and Incentive Compensation Management (ICM). His experience includes assisting customers in all aspects of enterprise-wide incentive management and brings a unique combination of business and technology expertise to address customers’ incentive management issues.