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We have just released our 2012 Value Index for Sales Performance Management (SPM), in which we evaluate the competency and maturity of vendors and products. Our firm has been researching this software category for many years, and our latest benchmark research in sales performance management found many areas for improvement among sales applications in a field where many sales organizations still use outdated or insufficient applications to manage revenue generation and customer relationships.

I am excited to bring this research to market again this year. No other research firm performs this level of analysis or follows it up on a regular basis. The Ventana Research methodology utilizes a request for proposal and assessment approach, and each value index takes six months to complete; unlike other analyst firms, we look at the product details that have the most importance in successful adoption and use. In the process we identify best and worst practices that further refine how we assess technology vendors in each category.

Our Value Index analysis for Sales Performance Management looks at the complete range of applications for sales organizations, including forecasting, coaching, compensation, incentives, quota and territory management and other key areas. This year it also examines the emerging needs for mobility, collaboration and analytics. We examine role-based requirements for a sales organization, from management, managers and operations to the account and sales representatives. We also look at the need for integration with other applications and processes. We individually assess and score the key product areas of usability, reliability, manageability, adaptability and capability, and also the customer assurance areas of validation and TCO/ROI.

A lot has changed among SPM suppliers since our last Value Index. For instance, Oracle has made multiple releases of Fusion CRM for Sales. Its applications are now rated Hot and rival those of salesforce.com; as well Oracle has many applications that salesforce lacks. For the first time we assessed SAP Sales OnDemand; its new focus and the updates to this cloud-based application have advanced it significantly. Xactly continues to release applications that are usable, manageable and adaptable to an organization’s sales processes. Microsoft has made significant strides with its applications, which now can be accessed on mobile platforms such as Apple iOS and Android. These are just a few examples of the advances in applications for sales that go well beyond the traditional sales force automation of the past.

While many vendors use the sales performance management moniker to describe their application suites or capabilities, some are just beginning to address the broad scope of needs across all sales processes. We do not assess in the SPM context vendors that provide only sales force automation applications, which really just track accounts, contacts and opportunities; that is only one portion of what sales organizations need to be efficient and effective. The SPM category is maturing rapidly, with new applications and capabilities that often available for rent in the cloud by organizations that prefer that approach to buying and installing software.

Our Value Index methodology assesses vendors across the seven categories noted above, each weighted according to its priority to buyers, and sums the results to 100 percent for scoring purposes. We placed a heavier emphasis this year on usability and manageability, which organizations indicated in our benchmark research are their highest priorities. You can read the details on our methodology and process in the full Sales Performance Management Value Index 2012 report.

Our analysis this year found eight vendors that provide robust offerings and deserve to be rated Hot, which is the highest value level and demonstrates maturity of offerings. Oracle and salesforce.com rank at the top, followed by SAP, Xactly, Microsoft, Varicent, CallidusCloud and Synygy. We note in our analysis that Microsoft and Oracle showed rapid product advancements, and their focus on usability, manageability and adaptability helped raise them in the ratings from last year. Oracle is the only vendor ranked Hot in the Capability evaluation, which is a thorough examination of all of the features needed for sales performance management. Salesforce.com has its work cut out to keep pace and maintain its leadership position in the face of fierce competition from the other vendors listed here.

We take pride in our Value Index, and we believe it is cool to be a Hot vendor. Unlike us, IT-focused analyst firms that do not research or advise sales organizations have a limited view focused on SFA or sales compensation and have created more confusion than clarity. The competitive market for these applications comprises a mature set of applications and capabilities across the roles and responsibilities of sales. Congratulations to the vendors that stood up to our detailed assessment processes and granular analysis, which represent how organizations assess and select vendors. If you want further information, please download the executive summary. We look forward to offering continued guidance to buyers on this critical application category for sales and operations professionals who need to have the most productive and result-oriented sales organizations.

Regards,

Mark Smith

CEO & Chief Research Officer

NICE Systems last week announced an agreement to acquire Merced Systems, a provider of business applications for customer service and sales organizations. This acquisition slipped by with little fanfare, but it marks a significant milestone for NICE, a major provider of applications and technology for call centers and a player in their evolution into multichannel contact centers. Building on a good 2010, as my colleague Richard Snow noted, NICE expects to reach almost $800 million of revenue in 2011, which would make it one of the largest companies in its segment. NICE has made multiple acquisitions to build its software portfolio, including purchases of Actimize, CyberTech, eGlue and others mentioned below. It recently won our 2011 Ventana Research Leadership Award in the contact center category with its customer deployment at Alliance Data. NICE Systems plans to have Merced Systems as a foundation of its enterprise systems and a complement to its contact center workforce optimization offering. This purchase builds on its other acquisitions, including FizzBack recently and IEX and Performix in 2006, which helped NICE establish its customer service and back office agent performance management software. That area has not grown as quickly as NICE would like, mostly due to marketing that was not aggressive enough in attracting customers. NICE recently rebranded its NICE SmartCenter for helping agents, as Richard noted, and is leveraging its assets into the back office, which he also assessed. Our benchmark research on contact center technology found that companies’ priorities for future investments match up well with NICE Systems’ focuses on expanding customer service agent applications and analytics applications.

Merced Systems brings to the deal a strong foundation based on analytics and metrics: areas we have benchmarked in the contact center and sales among others. While software for customer service and contact centers motivated this acquisition, NICE Systems plans to expand into sales organizations through Merced’s sales performance management. In agent performance management NICE and eight competitors all have comparable ratings in our Value Index for Agent Performance Management. NICE is rated near the top, but it has struggled in its marketing and sales. This is part of why it needs to retain Merced’s team to continue its market momentum. On the sales side, with a smaller number of dedicated providers, Merced ranked in the middle of the Value Index for Sales Performance Management but is part of a significantly larger organization worldwide with access to a large number of organizations using NICE.

Customers of Merced Systems should look for affirmation that NICE Systems will include their needs in its product roadmap before they make further purchases and deployments. They should look for continued operations of Merced as an entity and availability of its applications. Potential purchasers should restrain themselves to ensure the Merced products they are examining are part of the future NICE enterprise portfolio as the company evolves its application architecture. Existing NICE customers will find a new portfolio in agent performance management and sales performance management, which appear to put NICE’s existing performance management applications at risk or position them to receive lower priority. On another front it will be interesting to see if NICE will continue distributing Merced Systems’ new analytics offering built on an OEM of MicroStrategy, with which the company has built applications that also operate on smartphones and tablets.

NICE Systems made a wise investment in acquiring Merced Systems, especially at the price it paid (approximately $150 million and $20 million in cash), considering the company’s profitability, growth, products and customer success. Now NICE must retain Merced’s key people and grow its investment in the newly acquired company. NICE can extend its current reach to grow its business significantly, pending effective investments in marketing and sales. 

Regards,

Mark Smith – CEO & Chief Research Officer

Mark Smith – Twitter

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