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Sales organizations and individuals strive to reach their quotas and get paid the maximum commissions for their performance. In support of these goals, software vendor Xactly offers a suite of VR_leadershipwinnerapplications for sales performance management that operates in the cloud computing environment. An example of its success is receiving our recent 2013 Leadership Award in sales excellence for work by its customer Zuora. This achievement builds on its 2012 Leadership Award with customer GlobalEnglishMy last analysis of Xactly discussed its applications running on mobile technology including the Apple iPad, which answers the needs of sales people who prefer to use mobile technology. Xactly signed its 500th customer in late 2012, a milestone demonstrating its adoption by companies looking to improve sales.

I stopped in at its annual conference, CompCloud 2013, where it showed a range of advances in its core products Xactly Explorer and Xactly Territory Management, but what caught my attention was the introduction of Xactly Objectives and its innovative approach to simplify the user experience in defining, tracking and achieving objectives, which also can be linked to incentives not just in sales but anywhere in an organization. The application addresses the need for timely guidance and direction from managers to employees; that is a key aspect of  human capital management, as my colleague Stephan Millard outlined it for 2013. Xactly’s unique approach integrates to-do lists and objectives from worker to manager, who then can link them to incentives and bonuses; this facilitates motivating people to perform well. The idea of pay for performance has been a mantra in sales compensation for some time, and Xactly Objectives provides a viable way to accomplish it with an approach to help manage people and individuals manage to their objectives on a routine basis. While annual performance reviews might not go away anytime soon, lines of business need to manage performance weekly and monthly, which is easier when they can use incentives to stimulate higher performance.

vr_sales_preferred_accessMy analysis of the application shows that it covers the practical aspects of defining and supporting workers’ to-do lists and links them to individual and departmental objectives. Xactly Objectives shows progress and team members in visual form, which helps users engage more readily, and includes notification reminders such as the number of days left to achieve specific objectives. Xactly’s deployment in the cloud also matches the preference of 41 percent of sales organizations in our research. Xactly’s applications, and especially Objectives, also provide ease of use, which is the number-one evaluation criterion for purchase consideration in 73 percent of sales organizations and for 77 percent of participants in our human capital management research. Similarly the ability for individual sales reps to review progress to goals is one of the five most important capabilities according to our research. The Xactly Objectives application can add significant value to sales as well as the rest of the organization.

In the last year Xactly has worked to interoperate and integrate data with sales force automation systems from Salesforce, Oracle and even SAP so customers can work across applications used in their sales processes. Xactly also provides a rich set of analytics and reporting to help guide sales people in understanding how to reach their quotas and commissions. Xactly also previewed Insights, a benchmarking service that it has built from metrics in more than 500 companies that use its applications, to indicate where companies can improve their sales processes.

The introduction of Xactly Objectives demonstrates the SPM_VentanaResearch2012_SPMHotVendorexpanding nature of sales performance management, as outlined in my research agenda for 2013. It indicates why we see Xactly as a key application provider for sales and a Hot Vendor according to our 2012 Value Index on Sales Performance Management. Expanding its applications and integrating them all in its suite is the right approach as sales performance management continues to be red-hot with applications. I am happy to see that sales applications are getting smarter, as I hoped they will, and Xactly is expanding rapidly to meet the broader range of needs in sales and across the organization.

I expect that Xactly will find interest in its focus on objectives in customer service, field service, marketing and others departments, supported by its ease of use. Our research finds that in sales departments alone, 27 percent are looking to deploy new applications by the end of 2015 and that doing so is important to 83 percent of organizations. Other approaches in the market are either more closely aligned to HR and performance reviews or are trying to emphasize social collaboration rather than enabling workers and managers to define and achieve objectives. I believe that Xactly has some work ahead to make the application engage people in roles higher up the organizational chart, and it needs to add more collaborative capabilities, but for a first release Objectives offers much of what organizations should have in their standard portfolio of applications for gaining better productivity and performance that is directly aligned to the objectives of the organization.

I think those in management and finance roles will like to have visibility into objectives, and most will welcome having pay for performance, incentives and bonuses more tightly aligned with the direction of the organization and directly linked to daily, weekly and monthly activities. If you are serious about getting the most out of your workforce, having a defined method to use objectives that link achievement to incentives can be a useful management tool. In that perspective, Xactly Objectives should be on your list of applications to consider.

Regards,

Mark Smith

CEO & Chief Research Officer

IBM held its 20th annual IBM Connect conference (previously known as Lotusphere) as part of its IBM Social Business efforts at the end of January. The conference focuses on business and social collaboration technology, which our business technology innovation research found to be the second-ranked priority for business innovation. At the conference IBM made a series of significant announcements, including a new version of its social collaboration suite, IBM Connections, and the ability to use the software on a cloud computing platform.Technology Innovation Priorities

In the mid ’90s Lotus Notes and Domino led the market with the first true business collaboration and communications software. Today, after decades of fierce competition with Microsoft and its Office and SharePoint offerings, IBM is innovating (in a much more serious way than I have seen from Microsoft) to gain growth in the new market for business and social collaboration software. It is a good time for IBM to aggressively expand into the market, as our research finds only 25 percent of organizations are satisfied with their social collaborative capabilities. These have been dominated by shared folders and documents (86%), videoconferencing and instant messaging (66%), yet those applications are only a small piece of what social collaboration is about.

IBM has been adding business collaboration features over recent years with new capabilities that include activity streams, broadcasting, instant messaging, videoconferencing and wikis. All are part of IBM Connections 4.5, along with content and document management. With IBM Docs people can collaborate on a range of documents, including spreadsheets, presentations and word processing. IBM has advanced the user experience and integrated its collaborative and social software into a unified user experience. IBM is also making the software available on Apple, Android and BlackBerry smartphones and tablets. Our research finds Apple to be the first-ranked priority for smartphones (50%) and tablets (66%), followed by Android on smartphones (27%) and tablets (19%). Though BlackBerry (which just announced the change in its corporate name from Research in Motion) is a distance third for smartphones, it still has a loyal following that also uses IBM software. Our research finds Microsoft at the bottom of business and IT buyers’ priority lists. IBM is also expanding its social collaboration support for mobile technology to operate in an offline mode which is essential and has also addressed the need to secure sensitive communications and content.

IBM also maintains a strong installed base with Notes and Domino. IBM Notes and Domino Social Edition 9 is expected to be available in March and brings an innovative approach to blend social collaboration within electronic mail that many will really like IBM innovative approach. Businesses that do not use Notes, which make up the majority of the industry, can examine IBM Connections.

IBM is also moving fast to ensure that its offering is available in cloud computing. IBM SmartCloud for Social Business will make it easier for organizations to get started and use the software without the need for servers, storage and other internal IT resources. This is an important step to bring its offering to a larger audience that may not have the IT resources or budget to support new business collaboration efforts. The software helps streamline the cultural transition to using social collaborative software. IBM has introduced adoption services with a range of models, processes and education. This investment is critical to get organizations to step into the new world of social collaboration and increase the confidence level of organizations in this approach; today only 17 percent are very confident and just 38 percent are confident.

IBM has completed its acquisition of Kenexa, and at IBM Connect seemed to indicate it has settled on some specific areas of focus that blend learning and recruiting with Social Collaboration and Talent Managementsocial collaboration. It has taken steps since my analysis at the time of the acquisition to address many of my concerns. In addition, IBM introduced its new Employee Experience Suite, which is designed to provide an interface to business priorities and work like an employee portal. IBM also touted its new social learning offering, which when delivered will leverage its existing software and what the company purchased with Kenexa. I would like to have seen more on how to leverage Kenexa OutStart mobile learning. The potential in social learning is significant, and IBM’s product offerings put the company on a short list of providers who offer integrated social learning today. More broadly, IBM’s efforts to bring social collaboration to human capital management come at a time when our research into HCM shows that knowledge sharing, collaborating and learning are key priorities in organizations today. IBM will need to invest further to bring into IBM Connections more from Kenexa of what is needed in talent management in recruiting, performance and compensation. IBM has a great opportunity to expand its position with Kenexa recruiting customers that use both its software and its services and get them to use more IBM social collaboration and workforce analytics software.

IBM spoke at the conference about its Smarter Workforce Analytics Suite, designed to address workforce analytics and predictive hiring analytics, but I did not see this software leveraging the company’s business intelligence or workforce analytics solutions. The tandem of this software foundation, the IBM Research and global Improve Workforce Analyticsbusiness services organizations, and the analytic services of the Kenexa organization has the potential to advance the necessary process of moving off of spreadsheets to a dedicated business intelligence tool to meet the needs for workforce analytics and planning. We have found in our research a significant move by businesses to improve workforce analytics in 2013, with 61 percent of organizations indicating they have plans in this area. Also most HR organizations are still working on advancing beyond the use of spreadsheets and reports indicating a lower level of maturity than what IBM might expect. This could be an opportunity for IBM if they fully utilize the core technology of its business analytics software and that I wrote about last year.

Technology ConsiderationsI was impressed with IBM’s advancements in social collaboration at Connect 2013 and its commitment to usability, which our research found to be the highest priority (64%) in choosing technology, followed by reliability, since technology in use across an organization must be able to scale and perform. Organizations that have not considered IBM for social collaboration should examine the new version of Connections, since it offers a powerful set of unified capabilities that encompasses mobile technology. The top benefit to such software according to 72 percent of organizations in our research is better communications and knowledge sharing, and Connections has the power to deliver that. However, IBM should also embed its social collaboration features in other business applications, as that is still a preferred method of accessing collaboration according to 43 percent of organizations. One area that I expected to see more highlighted was its integration with IBM business analytics software which is one of the top use cases for using social collaboration in the enterprise and that IBM has integrated already.

IBM is taking a significant step forward to bring Smarter Workforce into a highly competitive market for human capital management. This is confirmed in my colleagues (Stephan Millard) research agenda for human capital management, that the pace of innovation in 2013 will be significant. IBM new offerings and approach are ones to watch but make sure you are able to get something for use today in your business and not have to wait for the future. IBM is a vendor to watch for its ability to help organizations of all sizes with social collaboration and human capital management.

Regards,

Mark Smith
CEO & Chief Research Officer

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