February 6, 2012

Observations from CFO Enterprises CPM conference

I had the opportunity to present at CFO Enterprises annual Corporate Performance Management (CPM) conference in New York last week.  Robert Kaplan opened the conference with an update on The Balanced Scorecard and Activity Based Costing.  He used some great examples of companies like Volkswagen to illustrate how organizations are mobilizing the entire company towards executing a few key strategies utilizing the Balanced Scorecard.   David Axson, of Accenture (formerly a partner at the benchmark research firm – The Hackett Group),  opened the second day with a great session on our need to recognize that the speed and impact of world politics, business events and even weather have an increasingly stronger direct influence on this year’s financial plan.   Organizations must be more nimble in their planning, forecasting and budgeting processes in order to survive.

Most of the speakers talked to the finance audience about alignment, strategy and execution.  Each and every presentation I attended mentioned increasing revenue and increasing forecast accuracy – from both a revenue and cost perspective.  The challenge I observed however is that many of the follow-on conversations led back to the traditional topics of how to improve budgeting, consolidation and forecasting.   This has been the traditional view of CPM over the years.   I believe that while this is important and necessary, it’s missing a key element - sales force alignment.   It’s hard to find an organization that doesn’t have strategies that involve penetrating new markets, selling more to customers, launching new products, yet there was precious little conversation about how to align and motivate sales teams in order to execute these strategies.  

Based on the feedback that I received at my session and the follow-on conversations I had with attendees, it appears that I hit a nerve. When CFOs think about strategy and organizational alignment their perspective on what sales should be doing is quite often at odds with what the heads of Sales believe.  One example of this disconnect is that most sales organizations are striving to introduce incentive plan simplicity.  Many CSOs believe their sales compensation plans are too complex, too confusing, too rigid, and are looking for ways to simplifying them in order to drive the desired behavior from their sellers.  Many of the leading compensation plan consultants argue that a good sales incentive plan should have no more than three components.  

Yet when CFO Research Services surveyed CFOS about the same topic, CFOs responded the most important thing that Sales could do to ensure reaching its goals is to Encourage Sophisticated Sales Behavior.   They want to drive up-sell, multi-year deals and other high-margin offerings.  The goal is to drive bottom-line improvements and overall customer retention.   Increasing sophistication is at odds with increasing plan simplicity.

Both the Sales and Finance leadership are motivated to improve sales but their views of the solution lead to conflicting tactics.  This is just one area of the discord.   Sales Self-Service, the right role for business analysis,  how best to set sales targets,  technology to support sales management are just a few of the topics that Sales and Finance need to agree on in order to work together to drive organizational alignment and driving increased high-margin business.

When considering how to execute strategy and improve organizational alignments CFOs and CSOs need to make sure that they are aligned first.

If you would like copies of some of the research I reference here just let me know and I will forward it to you. 


Gary Cokins said...


I liked your comments about the CFO CPM NYC conference. I would like to communicate with you about it. I cannot locate your e-address. I am on Linkedin.

Gary ... Gary Cokins, SAS

Anonymous said...

I can be reached at



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