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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found many areas for improvement among sales applications in a field where many sales organizations still use outdated or insufficient applications to manage revenue generation and customer relationships.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

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

Mark Smith – Twitter

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