Whether you call it a Sales Performance Management, Incentive Compensation Management, Commissions Management or Enterprise Incentive Management there are some things that every project team should think through when taking on a new project. This first in a series of blogs covers some ideas for reporting.
When designing reports for new incentive compensation systems, there are two questions project teams need to ask:
- Are all of the reports produced today still necessary?
- Can technology be used to improve existing reports?
Let’s look at these individually.
Reducing the number of reports
Is there really an opportunity to reduce the number of reports produced without sacrificing any business value? While it might not be intuitively obvious, when it comes to reporting quite often – less is more.
The approach that many organizations use when it comes to specifying reports is to take the existing reports from their current systems and processes and look to deliver exactly the same reports via a web browser. Teams often work under the assumption that the current systems and processes produce reports that are both necessary and sufficient.
The reality for many organizations is that a significant number of reports were designed to solve a problem at a specific point-in-time when they were needed for a specific plan or purpose, but have since out-lived their usefulness. The reports getting produced are no longer are required or deliver the business value they once did. Other reports that are required today, are only required because of some limitation in the current environment. With a new SPM system, many manual processes should be eliminated and this may likely reduce the need to produce some of the reports for audit and control. Compensation teams are well advised to take a hard look at reports and determine which are still required.
Report consolidation is another area that needs to be considered when implementing a new incentive compensation management solution. In a rigid or antiquated system, it is often the case the only static reports can be produced. For example, a departmental commissions summary, and a divisional commissions summary may well be two distinct reports in today’s environment. With a new solution these separate reports can be merged into one simple report that includes an option to display departments or divisions.
Without considering whether all of the existing reports created are really needed, teams can waste valuable time and effort when implementing their new solution. Often there is an opportunity to significantly reduce the number of reports without sacrificing any business value whatsoever.
Active intelligence versus static reporting
Organizations that plan to simply deliver traditional static reports via the web miss a big opportunity. Project teams can provide meaningful enhancements to reporting by elevating static reports to include interactive components that provide much more insight into the data. Modern Incentive Compensation Management systems can take static reports, and when delivering them through a browser add interactive features that make the reports much more insightful for their readers.
Some of the common features that should be added to reports include:
Drill Down – When viewing reports there is often a question that arises that can only be answered by looking at the underlying data. Static reports cannot provide insight into the underlying data leaving report viewers to launch queries if at all possible, or more likely email the report author looking for more information. Modern Incentive Compensation Management systems should provide the ability to see the underlying data that created that report. This ability provides great value to the reader, and can also significantly reduce the time and effort required by compensation administrators chasing down data and providing custom reports.
Self Calculators – When sales reps view their commission statements, quite often the first thing they do is to take the numbers and start calculating a number of things. What do the numbers look like if Scenario A happens? Scenario B? What do I need to do to make the next tier of the plan? Do I have the right mix to make the accelerators? Project teams should take the time to consider augmenting the existing commission statements with self-calculators. With this approach the result is that sales teams spend less time trying to calculate data, more time understanding it, and they certainly view the commissions systems in a much more favorable light.
Selection – Adding selection boxes to web views of reports can add tremendous value for the person viewing the report. The concept of a selection box is that the user of the report can pre-select from a long list, only those items that they want to see. For example if there is a Region Selection Box and a Product Line Selection box, the user can simply select the EMEA region and product lines A, B and C and the report of that data is immediately displayed on their browser. Without selection boxes, it would be virtually impossible to consider all the combinations of product, geography, versions ahead of time and generate reports for all the variations required. Generating a custom view of data with just a few mouse clicks provides significant rewards for the organization.
Charts and Graphs – with older technology, it was very difficult to produce chart and graphs and include them on existing reports. Today’s technology makes it very easy to do, and as we all know – a picture is worth a thousand words. Trend lines, pie charts and other graphic options are an easy, yet effective way to enhance existing reports. With today’s modern solutions, the chart definition has to be created only once, and then it is dynamically updated as the data changes, saving the user from having to redefine and change the charts at the end of every commission period.
In summary, project teams looking to implement a new incentive compensation or sales performance management solution, should look hard at reporting, and look to see where they can be both more efficient – by reducing the number of reports and more effective – by adding value to those reports that have a lot of value.