You are currently browsing the category archive for the ‘Uncategorized’ category.

Businesses aim to make their sales function as productive as possible, but they don’t always support that goal with investment in technology. I recently wrote about sales needing a swift technology kick. Sales application vendor Xactly provides a boot with the release of Xactly Incent 8 and will make parts of the application suite available from the Apple App Store for the iPad in the coming weeks.

According to our benchmark research on sales applications, 40 percent of sales organizations plan to deploy tablets initially or deploy them further. Since sales is already one of the largest adopters of tablets and smartphones, vendors that provide relevant applications will have a ready market. On the iPad, Xactly is providing sales analytics, easy access to quota and commission metrics and specifics of compensation plan performance by product and customer. Users can quickly determine sales performance and interact with the analytics. In addition to the native iPad app, Xactly offers a browser-based version that can work across a variety of smartphones, including those running Android. These advancements in sales analytics are smart as sales is one of the fastest growing adopters of using mobile tablets and smartphones for getting to applications and information. The new Xactly Explorer provides drill down and ad-hoc analytics needed by a range of sales roles. But beyond analytics they now provide the ability to set objectives to address the larger scope of sales performance that can be monitored and scored for integrating into a sales review for providing any additional compensation.

Along with the advances in mobility, Incent 8 helps administrators and sales operations team communicate within the application through its announcements, which can provide immediate notification for reviewing plans or when payments are ready to be made.

I like Xactly’s eDocs and Approvals module, which automates workflow for compensation documents and plans and integrates them within the system. This saves time and hassle by bringing all the components of a compensation plan into one application. Another module, Xactly Territories, lets users manage and optimize territories and define crediting rules and assignments, which is an area where mistakes often occur in manual and spreadsheet-based approaches. Xactly Sandbox provides users with a copy of their production data they can use to experiment as they deal with the changes that are constant in sales and strive to achieve their goals.

Almost half (49%) of sales organizations in our research admitted that the use of spreadsheets impedes the management of sales. Xactly can integrate data from sources such as sales force automation (SFA) and accounting applications and Microsoft Excel spreadsheets with its enhanced data integration service Xactly Express Connect, which uses technology from Informatica Cloud. This helps organizations bring data into the application and send it out to payroll and other systems that need commission and quota information. This application is built using Force.com, so it already integrates with Salesforce.com’s SFA environment.

Incent 8 shows sales administrators the state of their data and documents. To expedite access to the many applications that sales people might need to sign in for, Xactly has added SAML integration for easier single sign-on across applications. This release provides all the core capabilities for compensation and planning and management of sales commission payments. If you need analytics, modeling, territories and other capabilities, you can upgrade to other packages, which Xactly facilitates through its support services.

Xactly provides its applications on demand via software as a service (SaaS), which has become the preferred choice of 41 percent of sales organizations. By operating in the cloud Xactly can provide benchmark metrics that aggregate above and across its customers, providing broad insights into sales operations.

In addition to Incent 8, there is a new version of Xactly Express for small and midsize businesses; it also includes a tablet-based application that helps users ascertain their teams’ reps performance toward quota, which tops the list of concerns in our sales analytics research. Express also empowers sales teams to review their progress at any time without resorting to spreadsheets. The new version provides the drill-down and ad-hoc analytics needed by a range of sales roles, but beyond analytics, Xactly can set objectives and so monitor and score the complete scope of sales performance as part of reviews and for compensation purposes.

Xactly has supercharged its applications with analytics, which our research has found is the number-one technology trend for sales organizations, and now offering internal communication within its products that will hopefully evolve to further collaboration which is the second most desired technology trend in sales. Xactly goes well beyond sales compensation to provide a suite of applications for the needs of sales operations and the overall sales organization. Xactly understands the role of sales operations in supporting both management and account representatives, which is a major reason its business continues to grow. With Incent 8 it offers more sophisticated mobile and sales analytics support while addressing many of the core sales process and efficiency needs of organizations. I expect Xactly to continue to expand and support more needs of sales teams and impact not just the pipeline and forecast, but commissions and incentives. Xactly has advanced significantly since my last written analysis and continues to deliver incremental value to its customers and the industry. If you have not looked at Xactly recently, now might be the time to learn about the latest version.

Regards,

Mark Smith

CEO & Chief Research Officer

The recent buzz around business analytics has generated resurgent conversation about what businesses need from their data to optimize business processes and make better decisions. Our benchmark research on business analytics in more than 2,500 organizations produced unprecedented information about business and IT usage and competency with analytics. It confirmed that effective use of business analytics requires a balance of people and skills, processes, information and technology not just to provide capabilities but also to engage business analysts and users across the organization. The research also identified significant challenges facing organizations in terms of inefficient analytics processes and ineffective technology. 

Making the most of business analytics means enabling the business analysts who support the departments and processes of the line of business. These individuals and teams may be found in finance, operations, the supply chain, sales, customer service, marketing and other areas; in each they are the ones accountable for using analytics to determine the metrics and key indicators that they need to present to management and collaborate closer together. These individuals usually work with their IT organizations for data access, but in some larger organizations they work with line-of-business technology groups. In recent years businesses have hired data-focused analysts to support their thirst for analytics across a range of data and sources.  

Unfortunately, many IT departments are unable to provide automated data feeds fast enough to support the analysts, and that creates gaps in the analytic process. Our research found this to be a serious issue, as people spend 69 percent of their analytics time in data-related tasks, not only preparing data and reviewing it for quality and consistency but also just waiting for the data. This leaves too little time for analytic tasks such as determining root causes of issues, assembling scenarios for analysis and determining the impact to business from planned changes. The best path forward is to ensure that these data-related activities are automated or streamlined to meet the business analytic needs. In addition, IT should spend less time trying to dumb down and standardize delivery of data through business intelligence and spend more cycles helping business analysts get the data at the frequency they need. In other words, IT needs more focus on data governance, which our benchmark found to be critical to bring data integration, data quality and master data management into a single, standard process. 

Beyond the data gap in business analytics, the analysts have to deal with the issue of what technology they use to conduct analytics. As technology spending has gotten more controlled, centralized and standardized in IT organizations, fewer organizations have purchased specifically tailored analytics tools. Instead, our research shows more use of spreadsheets; they’re the most often used technology in 60 percent of organizations, followed by business intelligence in 49 percent. Line of business or analyst-specific software is used in less than 20 percent of organizations. It is clear that this has to change, as more than half (55%) of organizations are dissatisfied with their analytics process, saying it is hard to build and maintain and too slow. Well, that is what you get with spreadsheets, along with disorganized business processes.  

What do business analysts need from their analytics technologies? Our benchmark research found the top request was access to source data for analytics (52%), followed closely by the ability to take action on the outcome of analytics (47%), the ability to design and maintain the business model (42%) and to quickly generate presentations and other analytics reports (41%). These might sound straightforward, but it’s not if you are using Microsoft Excel, and it’s even worse in a shared work environment. A growing base is looking for analytics to be delivered in an on-demand, software-as-a-service mode (27%), though more than half (52%) of organizations still prefer the status quo of buying and installing software on-premises.  

All of this leads me to urge analysts to stand up and demand the tools they need to be more efficient in their analytic modeling and planning. Ask yourself how easily can you make changes to your analytics model and recalculate a forecast that links to the integrated business plan? Can you adjust and decrease a metric such as days sales outstanding (DSO) by one day to see the impact on cash flow in the business? Can you adjust the sales and operational plan by adjusting the forecast by one day? You should be able to make these and other model and variable updates in minutes, not days, and be able to share the results with others to determine actions and outcomes. Knowing that you can do the what-if and planning based analytics should be easy and straight forward. 

At the same time, the speed at which analytics get computed and information generated needs to improve, and the assembly and deployment to business users must be made more efficient. Our research found that businesses want the basics; searching for specific answers was the top priority of 83 percent, who deemed it important or very important. Also important is exploring the data underlying analytics through drilling and navigation, cited by 78 percent of organizations. These are not standard functionality in spreadsheets, presentations and documents, and not what you get in reports or most dashboards.  

Our research indicates that the more innovative the organization, the more sophisticated the results. We performed our own root-cause diagnostic on these mature organizations and found that they have automated the data aspects of business analytics from data access to data quality. They also are able to generate more sophisticated analytics and metrics, and perform more frequent reviews. These organizations also foster great relationships between their analysts and their IT teams, which work collaboratively on business analytics. These organizations are also the ones expanding their deployments to smartphones and tablets, integrating forecasting and planning and using predictive analytics. 

The time has come for business analysts to lead the fight to improve business analytics to ensure their organizations have the information they need. Instead of having silos of reports, dashboards, spreadsheets and other data points, organizations need unified analytics and planning capabilities built into a common set of technology using a sophisticated modeling for representing the business and integrating data efficiently. Our recent business intelligence and performance management benchmark research found that this need to bring analytics and planning together is a top priority in more mature, sophisticated organizations.  

So put the uncontrolled use of spreadsheets into the box it came out of and focus on working together to ensure that business analytics is like any business process – documented and automated to meet the majority of an organization’s needs. Look for simple and sophisticated means for analysts to work together on the business analytics journey and ensure you vocalize your needs for better investments. If you are not sure if you have the business analytics you need, let me know. The self-assessment is easy, but planning to adapt and change, well, that might take some work. 

Regards, 

Mark Smith 

CEO & Chief Research Officer

Mark Smith – Twitter

Top Rated

Stats

  • 182,041 hits
Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 18,819 other followers

%d bloggers like this: