A high level of excitement tends to surface when the request for funding to automate your organization’s sales compensation process is approved. The journey that culminates in approval of a sales performance management system can take months or years to complete. Many hours are spent researching technologies, reviewing Gartner’s Magic Quadrant for Sales Performance Management, attending vendors’ user conferences, and discussing functionality with vendors’ sales reps. Although it’s fun to focus on the set of differentiating bells and whistles delivered by the solution that you selected, once the funding is secured, it’s imperative to focus on preparing for the implementation: identifying your implementation partner, completing mission-critical due diligence, constructing your internal team, and preparing for your implementation kickoff.

I’ve been an active participant in many incentive compensation/sales performance management implementations and have seen, firsthand, what I believe are major obstacles hindering implementation success, and most could be eliminated by a little forward thinking. Even though each implementation has its unique set of constraints around plan complexity and design, data integration and team structure, commonalities prevail in successful implementations. 

Drawing the Right Cards

After you’ve identified your vendor solution, engaged an implementation partner and set a project start date, there are three more components of a winning hand: people management, process management and data management. Missteps in any of these categories can and likely will result in project slippage or rework after the implementation partner turns over the solution.

  1. People management: Your sales operations team must be involved in the implementation. These stakeholders ensure that compensation program knowledge is distributed, documented and communicated to the consultants implementing the solution, which is vital for success. Team member involvement in configuring the solution is paramount to success; training classes cannot compare to hands-on configuration. Ensure that the team is comfortable making minor plan changes and resolving errors that occur during calculation processing.

  2. Process management: Introducing a new technology solution will undoubtedly change the way that you work. Use the system implementation to develop new or improve existing processes, documenting system configuration rules and components, and establishing a change management process to ensure that anything that’s changed in the system is reviewed and approved.

  3. Data management: During the vendor selection process, your IT department should have investigated the hardware and software requirements and integration capabilities. Assuming their involvement during this process, your IT and business stakeholders are responsible for creating an exhaustive list of input sources. This would seem to be a rather simple task. However, in my experience, identifying data sources and configuring the data to meet vendor specifications are the most difficult and time-consuming tasks in the implementation process.

Applications or one-off Excel “spreadmarts” that store referential and transactional data can be difficult to track down. Missing a data source can have implications in payout accuracy, reporting, data integrity or data confidence. Ensuring that internal data stewards are on board at the start of the project can alleviate these initial hurdles, eliminate longer-term issues, and prevent the “Why did we do it this way?” questions.

Now that you have a few high-level recommendations to consider when preparing for your implementation, take the time to think through your specific needs and let us know if you agree with our recommendations.


Topics: implementation, sales performance management, winning hand, Steven Bebout, SPM