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Most organizations see improving the effectiveness of sales as a way to increase productivity. Those organizations that take advantage of the latest sales applications and technology are finding themselves with a competitive advantage, but many organizations lack the time and resources to assess and deploy appropriate platforms. That’s a shame, since most sales organizations have plenty to improve in their selling, forecasting, incentives and planning according to our latest research on sales performance management. We found a high demand even for many of the basics; for instance, many organizations still use personal spreadsheets or outdated applications that are costly to manage. At the same time, marketing organizations are investing heavily to be more revenue- and sales-focused to ensure they maintain relevance and contribute to their organizations’ performance and profitability. Both sales and marketing have fixated on specific processes and how they can work better together.

Our research agenda for 2013 calls for us to examine how organizations can maximize results through new business technology, adopt dedicated applications designed for sales effectiveness and marketing, and use best practices to be faster, smarter, better and more cost-effective in operating sales.

The top three technology trends in sales are analytics, collaboration and mobility. Together with advancing technologies such as business and social collaboration, they are helping increase the flow of information to help Sales Technology Trendsmanagers coach and increase employees’ learning potential. Mobile technologies such as smartphones and tablets are becoming more common, tied to dedicated sales applications and tools that now become more accessible at any time or any place. We will conduct more research in 2013 on the growth in social and mobile sales to see how early adopters are doing and where the industry is improving with these new technologies. At the same time a lot of new software is available through cloud computing; you can rent and configure the software for your organization, reducing the need for IT resources to implement, deploy and maintain it. Advancements in dedicated sales analytics can help organizations understand performance, and help plan and predict sales, providing a path for increasing optimization and letting users more readily share information with finance and operations. We plan to conduct more research into the next generation of sales analytics and build upon our existing research, making sure that the metrics and plans adapt to the existing economic and industry environment.

Value Index on Sales Performance ManagementMany sales organizations realize that traditional sales force automation is mostly for tracking accounts, contacts and opportunities. In 2012 many SFA providers started to expand to a broader sales performance management platform, with integrated forecasting, collaboration, document management, quotas and territory management. This new focus, along with a rapidly expanding set of dedicated applications that have evolved from sales compensation, can bring better incentives, quotas, territories and analytics. This evolution of sales application suites was evident in our 2012 Value Index for Sales Performance Management.

My personal perspective is that 2013 will be even more competitive. While sales compensation management software has been evolving over the last 15 years, it is still finding its place in increasing numbers of sales organizations. In 2013 we will assess how and where sales should be managing compensation and incentives. Many sales organizations that are still wedded to the use of spreadsheets will come to realize that the use of such outdated software impedes their ability to manage sales effectively. It’s not easy to manage forecasts and pipelines that have specific time series and change level analytics in a spreadsheet; a better approach is to use applications designed for the task, and designed not just for sales operations but for the entire sales team. Our recent research in sales forecasting finds areas of improvement that could have dramatic impact on course-correcting sales activities and moving beyond the probability of sales to the confidence of the forecast, which is probably why forecasting was the top application priority in sales according to 65 percent of sales organizations. Sales is also starting to realize the advantages of using marketing in demand generation processes, which nurtures leads into opportunities and can provide a wealth of information to help sales organizations better engage with prospects.

Sales organizations with limited resources and time need to use best practices and not waste time on technology that’s not ready for deployment or that fails to match up with the competencies of their teams. Interactive social collaboration across sales teams is a better and more effective practice than a myriad of emails. In addition, the use of product information management through all channels of sales and marketing is essential, but our product information management benchmark found significant room for improvement as organizations work to ensure proper representation and highest customer satisfaction. Our assessment of PIM vendors finds many addressing these needs and delivering benefits for sales.Benefits of Dedicated PIM

As the configuration, pricing and quote (CPQ) process gets more automated, sales organizations find better consistency in their business processes, including in the fundamentals of contract management. Sales organizations have significant room to improve in supporting non-direct channels and ensuring that data and processes are aligned to the overall sales target. As marketing gets its act together on demand generation, the scoring and qualification of contacts for their true interest through a lead nurturing processes that include behavior, demographic and relevance will help identify the right opportunities for sales to act upon. Sales organizations need to address technology best practices and use analytics and metrics that can be harvested from modeling and planning methods in order to increase the quality of their results. I expect that big data and predictive analytics also will make inroads with innovative sales teams in 2013.

What’s old is still new with sales, and improving upon forecasting, compensation, coaching, collaboration and learning will be job one for those that really want to drive excellence. Applying talent management process with adapting the existing sales team and hiring the right team members, and help ensure that everyone contributes to the business of sales. The rapid increase in the use of smartphones and tablets in sales is leading to a new generation of applications and technology that can better meet sales teams’ needs. I expect to see more reengineering of marketing and sales processes, improving leads and materials and using automation to enhance the quality of leads and move beyond just the process of passing a quantity of useless leads. Finance organizations can also demonstrate their commitment to improvement in sales processes by offering to help argue the business case that delivers the benefits they care most about, which is profitability.

Being more timely and proactive in sales is the mantra for 2013. Those organizations that are prepared to use technology to those ends will be the ones that maximize their potential and retain sales teams that can contribute to financial profitability and customer satisfaction.

Come read and download the full research agenda.

Regards,

Mark Smith

CEO & Chief Research Officer

I attended Oracle’s annual OpenWorld conference this week. The company claims it holds the world’s largest technology conference, with 50,000 attendees and a million people viewing sessions online. It was a great opportunity to get close to the Oracle Fusion Applications, which the company presented as proven and ready, with customers using them on-premises and in private and public cloud computing usage methods. In keynotes from executives Larry Ellison, Mark Hurd and Thomas Kurian and application-focused sessions with executives Steve Miranda and Chris Leone, Oracle repeated the message that Fusion Applications are not just for cloud computing and web services but are also accessible through mobile technology called Oracle Fusion Tap that operates natively on the Apple iPad. The company left no confusion about its applications’ readiness for cloud and mobile computing, and provided insight into future advancements.

After last year’s Oracle OpenWorld I made a cloudy forecast for Oracle Fusion for CRM and HCM due to Oracle’s lack of clarity in its message, the applications’ lack of readiness for cloud computing and slow progress on its on-premises customer deployments. These items have been addressed over the last year. The company presented significant customer and partner validation on deployments of Oracle Fusion Applications in HCM and some in CRM for Sales. Oracle discussed marquee Fusion HCM customers such as ConAgra, Nikon and Red Robin, and boasted about overall progress on adoption. Oracle Fusion for HCM has expanded with the company’s acquisition of Taleo, which has been progressing nicely. Oracle recently announced its intention to purchase SelectMinds, whose software adds depth in recruiting and hiring processes through the use of social media to promote a company’s brand and attract talent. Oracle is rapidly filling any possible gaps in its ability to meet the expanding need to manage human capital effectively.

On the Fusion CRM side, especially for sales, I didn’t find as much validation from customers at OpenWorld, though the application is ready for faster adoption, as it proved by earning our highest-level Hot rating in our Sales Performance Management Value Index research; you can download the executive report at no cost and see for yourself. Oracle discussed its own transition to using Oracle Fusion CRM for Sales, which for any sales organization the size of Oracle would not be easy. Oracle also has embedded in the application a spectrum of analytics including predictive ones to provide indicators of retention issues with employees, just as it can help predict the potential behavior of customers in sales.

Oracle also showed off advancements for offerings in the contact center and marketing, but we will talk about those offerings and provide deeper analysis in the future.

On the mobile side, Oracle officially unveiled Oracle Fusion Tap, which provides an intuitive approach to using Oracle applications on the iPad. Oracle made a demonstration version of the software available on the Apple AppStore in August. I tried it out after seeing the demos at the conference. The application took seconds to start and was easy to use. The demonstration is focused more on sales organizations than on broader human capital management. Oracle takes advantage of Apple’s swipe and gesture support, and its organizational selector makes it easy and fun to assess a team and their activities. Oracle Fusion Tap is well ahead of offerings from many other companies that compete in sales and human capital management. It should be on HR and sales organizations’ evaluation lists, especially since they can try it in seconds themselves without having to do any complex configuration or waiting for approval by Oracle.

Oracle’s largest challenge with Fusion Tap is in the performance indicators part of the application. It provides easy access to key areas of focus, but its metrics charts are not well presented and not designed for autosizing and interaction. When you try to examine a chart more closely, it does not size to the maximize size of the display, nor does it let you explore charts interactively. On the plus side, eventual integration with Oracle Social Network will make Fusion Tap more powerful by adding collaboration features. The other challenge with Fusion Tap’s performance indicators is a problem I have written about recently and tried to educate people about for years: Performance is only one type of indicator necessary for action on analytics. I hope Oracle will address these issues and make the analytics more actionable and engaging. I wrote about this same issue of usability of mobile analytics in my analysis of Oracle Business Intelligence Mobile earlier this year.

I decided to see if the underlying Oracle Business Intelligence Mobile has advanced since much of this technology is used in Oracle Fusion Applications. Oracle had updated its mobile business intelligence for the iPad in August, but it appears the offering has gotten more complex in many areas of presentation and interactivity, and the demo performance compared to Oracle Fusion Tap was very slow. This could be compensated for with Oracle server computing power unless Oracle has placed the burden of processing locally on the iPad. Also, unlike Fusion Tap, Oracle still makes quick access to try its mobile business intelligence cumbersome with required configuration and registration, which leaves more room for improvement.

I found it refreshing to see the embedding of Oracle Social Network within Oracle Fusion for CRM and HCM. I was pretty harsh on Oracle last year for not being ready in its presentation of the software. I thought that we would not hear a lot more about the product until this year’s conference, and I was pretty much right. Now Oracle seems to have learned that simply providing social collaboration software by itself is not as valuable as embedded in the applications. Social collaboration should be part of business processes, as we have found in our business-specific research across sales, customer service and human capital management. According to Oracle it plans to make it available inside of Fusion CRM in 2013; it’s not clear yet when it will be available for Fusion HCM, but I expect also in 2013. I believe that Oracle Social Network is enough of an advancement that offering a trial of the software on the Internet via public cloud computing, as Salesforce.com has done with Chatter, would help give customers and us in the industry more confidence in its human and technological advancements. It would have been great to have everyone at Oracle OpenWorld using it to socialize and engage about Oracle advancements. Maybe next year.

Oracle also sees the importance of engaging employees and managers on a routine basis to increase the efficiency of their interactions. Oracle previewed what appears to be a Fusion employee and manager self-service set of applications. I liked what I saw but I am not sure when the company plans to release this, but competitors such as SAP, Workday and even Salesforce, with its Work.com and Do.com, already have similar existing approaches in the cloud today. Oracle also showed the future expansion of its footprint in traditional workforce management, where worker time and absence are tracked no matter whether they are salaried or hourly employees. This expansion beyond what Oracle already offers in Fusion HCM today, informed by its experience with previous Oracle and Peoplesoft approaches, is critical to helping the company stay competitive, and could be especially useful as organizations blend their focus on talent and workforce management together.

After two days of Oracle and customer sessions, along with a visit to the demonstration stands in the exposition area, it was clear that Oracle has made an important change in its approach to the market and its executive-level commitment to Fusion Applications. I saw more dialogue with partners to complement its applications, and many announcements, including Oracle’s on partners in Fusion CRM, who were also visible during presentations and demonstrations.

Oracle largest challenge is marketing to a business audience and being seen as a friendly and effective supplier of business applications. Businesses that have established relationships with other cloud computing application providers will not be easy to gain as customers just because Oracle is Oracle or their IT departments say it is a good idea.

Oracle Fusion is worth your consideration whether you are considering a move to cloud computing or still run applications on-premises or use a hybrid approach which provides more choices to customers than just a cloud computing only approach. We are now in a renaissance of business driving what it needs from business applications, and vendors that convince business they can be trusted will be at the center of a new world of cloud, mobile and social computing.

Regards,

Mark Smith

CEO & Chief Research Officer

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