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VR2014_TechInnovation_AwardWinnerAt its Oracle OpenWorld the multibillion technology provider showcased the breadth and depth of its cloud computing applications and platform. Chairman Larry Ellison proclaimed it the only unified and open approach in the industry. He criticized other large application vendors that use multiple platforms to support their applications, use a proprietary layer that is not fully extensible, provide only a portion of applications needed to run the business or run on Oracle’s database technology. These technical merits may not be relevant to the decision-making processes of business but can be critical for CIO and IT. But the strength of the Oracle Cloud Computing portfolio, which includes infrastructure, platform, tools and applications, is so impressive that our firm awarded Oracle the Technology Innovation Award in Cloud Computing for 2014. This builds from my analysis earlier in the year on the overall efforts of Oracle for cloud computing.

Oracle’s cloud application portfolio spans many areas of business, including human capital management, which my colleague Stephan Millard has analyzed. Its sales application portfolio also has reached a high level of maturity. Its efforts for sales organizations go beyond sales force automation (SFA) for sales reps and managers to other applications for those roles and sales operations and executives as well. In the years since its acquisition of Siebel Systems, Oracle’s position in this market slipped as nemesis salesforce.com became a major player. Now it not only has climbed back into a competitive position but has a more complete sales portfolio than salesforce at a more affordable price.

At Oracle OpenWorld it announced highlights of its advancements in sales. Oracle Sales Cloud version 9 advances sales force automation, partner relationship management and sales performance management along with adding support for mobile and social collaboration technology and sales analytics for roles from executives to front-line sales teams. The greatest changes as I see it are in the sophistication and usability of the sales applications and the embedding of analytics and collaboration that make them faster and easier to use. Oracle has ensured that the new versions are backward-compatible with previous iterations and integrated them with on-premises legacy systems such as Siebel and its own Oracle E-Business Suite to help customers that have mixed environments operate now and will migrate in the future.

Oracle has redesigned its approach to sales to focus on productivity enhancements in tasks related to meeting customers and updating information in more user-centric ways than most SFA systems have. For example, a new mobile application yet to be released, Oracle Sales Cloud Call Report App, enables smartphone users to review and update sales opportunities quickly and easily and to immediately see the impact of changes to forecasts and quotas. In a second area, collaborative selling, Oracle Sales Cloud Mobile is easy to use on smartphones and tablets, but still could improve in being more task and workflow based and be more optimized for touch gestures. In another area, however, Oracle has advanced beyond others: Oracle Voice users can interact verbally with the application to engage in sales at any time and place, even while driving. To reach this unique position Oracle partners with Nuance, as was announced earlier this year. It works on Apple iOS platform to enable a range of tasks to be conducted through voice operations.

Oracle knows that sales prospecting requires robust information that often exists outside the enterprise and across the Internet. To make it easier to get data from partners such as Dun & Bradstreet, the company announced Oracle Data as a Service (DaaS) for Sales, which enriches data with more than 150 attributes about organizations and 100 attributes about individuals. This product takes advantage of Oracle’s acquisition of BlueKai, which provides a marketplace for organizations to share and license data for use within their business. Oracle Data as a Service is a significant component of Oracle’s cloud computing platform and will be valuable for sales organizations.

In recent years sales organizations have become able to automate configuring products and quoting prices by adopting configure price quote (CPQ) software and integrating it with SFA to support interactions with customer prospects. Oracle’s acquisition of Big Machines complements the Oracle Sales Cloud by eliminating the need for a separate application that might not be integrated into the sales process. The company does market Oracle CPQ Cloud as a separate offering, but it is clearly part of the sales portfolio. The next step for Oracle in this area should be to enhance its portfolio for contract automation, which is a challenge that causes sales people and operations to spend significant time in creating a process and workflow of documents that legally define purchases, deliveries and invoicing.

vr_scm14_03_issues_with_incentive_calculationAnother key component is Oracle Sales Cloud Sales Performance Management. It uses analytics to manage and improve sales performance with applications designed for coaching and territory optimization. It also has a new mobile application for monitoring sales contests among teams in which progress toward quotas and goals can easily be seen and reviewed. Our firm takes a broad view of sales performance management to include operations, tasks and all sales processes; Oracle’s application is limited to gaining knowledge from analytics on sales activities. For other users seeking to manage sales compensation in general and the unique elements of incentive compensation the vendor has advanced from Oracle E-Business Suite Talent Management to Oracle Workforce Rewards, which includes compensation, benefits and payroll management as part of the Oracle Human Capital Management Cloud. Our benchmark research finds that the process of sales compensation continues to be an issue for almost two-thirds (65%) of organizations; it affects sales operations and executives along with individual sales reps, and for many it is a priority to improve.

vr_SF12_07_impediments_in_sales_motivate_investmentOracle has also expanded its analytics offerings for business. A relevant one here is Oracle Transactional BI Enterprise (OTBIE) for CRM, which provides a portfolio of analytics for forecasts, the pipeline and accounts and helps users understand past performance and predict the future. Analytics of the sales forecast and pipeline is another priority for sales; our research shows that scattered and inconsistent information are the top two impediments that drive about half of organizations to invest further in sales management systems. Oracle’s analytics build on its experience in providing operational reporting capabilities in Oracle Transactional BI Standard, which can present a range of metrics for insights on activities. New advances in sales analytics are evident in Oracle Mobilytics, which provides a sophisticated view of sales activities that can become interactive through visualization. There is also Oracle Sales Cloud Sales Predictor, which helps guide sales people on which products are most likely to be purchased. Overall Oracle has advanced the analytics in its cloud platform significantly this year. Recently it announced Oracle Analytics Cloud, which enhances its tools and the ability to access and embed them in Oracle applications.

As Oracle continues to advance its Sales Cloud, the products are less of a challenge than recognition of the company by customers as a leader in these sales applications. To be competitive in the market will require further investments in marketing and sales to gain momentum and customer adoption but also to continue to expanding the application portfolio. For the Sales Cloud Oracle currently charges $100 per user per month and considering the breadth of applications and analytics, this could be seen as very competitive; salesforce.com starts at $65 per user per month for the basic SFA, but the recently announced Salesforce Analytics Cloud will cost $125 per user per month of which both are significantly more costly. Others major application providers like SAP are also advancing similarly to Oracle for SFA and sales performance management but still have not been able to fulfill on the larger portfolio of application needs for sales operations and executives.

Oracle is a serious player in the market for sales applications and very price advantageous and innovative in its portfolio; we advise organizations to evaluate the company as one of the few that offers more than just SFA and operates in the cloud and mobile technology environment. If you are looking for an integrated suite of sales applications that can help everyone involved in sales, Oracle should be on your list for optimizing operations and maximizing sales performance.

Regards,

Mark Smith

CEO and Chief Research Officer,
Ventana Research

vr_SF12_07_impediments_in_sales_motivate_investmentIn an analyst perspective at the beginning of this year I wrote that sales organizations must step beyond conventional wisdom to generate the best outcomes. One such step is to invest in software that delivers immediate value to manage sales and be efficient in its operations. Our latest research on sales organizations finds that inconsistent execution (53%), scattered information (48%) and limited visibility (42%) are motivating investment to improve sales. At CompCloud, its annual conference, Xactly unveiled advances in its software to help improve the effectiveness and productivity of sales organizations. Spokespeople said the company’s sales compensation products have helped users manage US$10 billion in commissions in the past two years.

To make it easier to access critical information from its applications Xactly now supports the range of mobile devices running native Apple iOS, Android and HTML5 apps. The mobile capabilities enable users to view commission statements, track quota attainment and compare performance to team rankings. Xactly is right to advance its mobile efforts as account managers and management extensively use smartphones and tablets. Our latest research in sales finds that smartphones will be deployed to four out of five (81%) in sales and tablets to three-quarters by the end of 2015.

The company also announced the release of Xactly Quota to help management and analysts allocate quota assignments to teams. By automating the quota process and providing visibility into quota performance this application helps reduce manual effort and potential errors in those tasks. The quota management application can link with Xactly Incent to help users plan sales targets and link potential commissions to payments. They can collaborate in designing and agreeing on quotas, and the comments feature enables direct feedback. Our research finds that quota attainment is the top way to measure overall sales performance, so this feature is likely to please Xactly’s customers and increase sales. After aligning quotas and commissions, the next logical advance would be to help users manage sales forecasts to support progress toward quotas and ultimately commissions. Comparing quotas to forecasts is a top priority for sales teams, according to our research. Xactly’s products can integrate forecasts into its analytics, which is a key first step to assess to quota and potential commission. I have already written that dedicated technology enables successful forecasting.

At the conference I got to review demonstrations of its analytics and benchmarks in Xactly Insights that help provide performance metrics from all the data it collects from its customers. Such measures can be useful: Xactly released a report on performance and quotas showing that 79 percent of sales reps selling software as a service miss their quotas. These insights help provide a guideline to where a company can improve in the design of its quotas which Xactly released a new application but also where it compares in the market to others. Xactly has been able to take the aggregate of its own customers’ metrics in using their products to provide some insightful perspective on a range of compensation and time related sales metrics.

Xactly unveiled Xactly Objectives at its 2013 conference that I covered, and we named it the prestigious 2013 Technology VentanaResearch_TechInnovation_Award_Winner_2013Innovation Award winner for sales. Now the product is fully localized to support Spanish, French, German and other languages. It is easy for managers and sales reps to track progress toward their overall objectives. Having a system to identify overarching sales objectives and link them to sales compensation is important to motivate and guide personnel on a regular basis. The Xactly Objectives can be used anywhere in an organization too, which makes it appealing to any department.

Other improvements outlined at this year’s conference included more comprehensive incentive statements, analytics that can be displayed in any HTML5-compliant Web browser, flexibility in plan rules with lookup tablets and adaptations to credit allocations. Xactly continued focus on satisfying its customers through product improvements have provided it a very high customer retention rate.

Xactly continues to focus on inspiring sales management and operations to making sales more productive and generate higher level of sales. Its software is more appropriate for sales compensation and related processes than CRM or SFA applications and much better than using general-purpose spreadsheets. Our research finds that more than half of sales organizations still use spreadsheets for these purpose and that doing this undermines their ability to manage sales with accurate information. In today’s intensely competitive sales environment, Xactly is positioned to grow. Sales organizations that seek to improve these sales and compensation processes and provide the information that sales teams need both to perform well and be satisfied in their jobs should examine Xactly’s software.

Regards,

Mark Smith

CEO and Chief Research Officer

Mark Smith – Twitter

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