September 1, 2011

Conference highlights - WorldatWork Spotlight on Sales Compensation

For the second year in a row the WorldatWork’s Spotlight on Sales Compensation event was a sell-out and a great success.  Approximately 300 people congregated at the Westin in Chicago to discuss sales compensation.  Most of the people I talked to came with one of two things on their minds.  How do we improve the compensation plan design?  Or how do I better leverage information technology to improve efficiency in the compensation management processes?

The who’s who of sales compensation showed up and presented their latest thinking on managing the sales compensation and commissions processes.  Attendees got to hear from many speakers including practitioners  from organizations like, Manpower Group, American Express,  and Office Depot.  We also were able to from hear thought leaders from organizations including Towers Watson, Coletti-Fiss, Sibson Consulting, BetterSalesComp and the Cynal Group.

As readers of this blog will know, I have been out collecting  ‘keys to success’ from project managers of incentive compensation systems.  I have collected a ‘top 10’ list over time and I was asked to share the findings of these interviews.   I was fortunate by be joined by Vivian Adashek of Manpower, and we jointly presented - Keys to Success in implementing a Sales Performance Management Solution on Thursday afternoon.  Manpower has been using an automated solution for a few years now and Vivian gave some great advice for new project managers.  We also had a interactive group which made the session that much more enjoyable.

Some of the Keys I have blogged about before, but a new one has hit the top 10 recently.  It’s all about understanding the policies, processes and procedures that surround the commissions management process - before you start doing things.  Vivian found, and others agree,  that when a project team first assembles on the project,  that they have a general understanding of the compensation processes but this is not enough.  The challenges that arose during software selection, implementation and roll-out were often caused by the fact  that they did not understand the commissions process at a deep enough level, and this lack of knowledge tripped them up several times.  I too have seen this on a few of the projects that we have worked on.   Managing compensation is a complex process that has often been patched, pulled and changed to meet a myriad of changing requirements over the years.  Fully understanding what truly happens along the entire process is key before you start the automation project.  Ignoring this often leads to delays in the project plan, frustration for the team members, and cost overruns that could have been avoided.

I know that there is always the desire to jump right in, and start developing with the new software, but take the time to make sure you document and fully understand how sales compensation in done today and a very detailed level.  This up front effort will save you lots of time and money over the course of the project.

If you want a copy of the presentation, or have suggestions for the top ten list, or other questions and comments about commission management software please let me know.  

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