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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 applications 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 GlobalEnglish. My 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.
My 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 expanding 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.
CEO & Chief Research Officer
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.
CEO & Chief Research Officer