Top 5 Sales Compensation Project Lessons

Back in 2012, WorldatWork and OpenSymmetry conducted a Sales Performance and Technology Survey. Among many questions, the survey asked respondents (to choose from a pre-determined list) what they would do differently in managing their sales compensation technology project (refer to Table 9). Interestingly, four out of the top five lessons learned related to the upfront planning phase of the project rather than the implementation phase. This got us thinking about our experience of implementing sales compensation software projects and what lessons we would like to pass on. So we created a list.

How To Effectively Managing a Sales Compensation Software Project

1. Set Project Goals Upfront

Set project goals upfront and align them with your business goals and circumstances. Then, ensure your stakeholders are clear about what criteria your business will use to measure success for the project. Ask the people signing off on the project budget to also sign off on your goals. Interestingly, 20% of respondents from the Sales Performance and Technology Survey wished they had created a more complete definition of requirements before they selected the vendor.

For example, you may set a project goal to automate 80% of the sales compensation process. You recognize 100% isn’t realistic because, in your business, there are 20% of tasks that require manual intervention. It may seem obvious but you need to set your KPI for success at 80% automation. A project can go off the rails because one senior manager expected 100% automation. Clearly communicate your success criteria to your stakeholders so everyone knows what to expect. It will help the business to accept and trust your new system.

set project goals upfront

2. Plan Your Project In Small Measurable Stages

Big projects never work. The goal of the project gets lost in multiple spreadsheets with 100 ‘to do’ items that never get done by the deadline. Instead, chunk your sales compensation project into a series of smaller sprints that lead towards the end goal. To keep your team focussed and enthusiastic, celebrate the wins at the end of each sprint.

plan your project in small measurable stages

3. Create A Small But Highly Effective Project Team

Allocate your best two people from the client side and the best two people from the vendor side. Be inclusive at the consultation phase but use a small team of top guns to get the job done.

create a small but highly effective project team

4. Plan Your Communication and Change Management Upfront

What will happen in the lead-up to the ‘go live’ date? How will you train users? How will you report the project outcomes to the senior executive team? Don’t rely on email communication to get your message through, use a variety of communication media including face-to-face and written and multimedia communication. You don’t have to create extra meetings, ask managers to include your project on their agenda for their next team catch up.

plan your communication and change management upfront

5. Stay Focused On The End Goal

At the end of each project phase, check back that you are achieving the business goal. Implementing the compensation software project is NOT the end goal. Your project needs to benefit the business by way of efficiency, better communication, increased sales, decreased costs etc. Always have the business goals front and center at all project meetings, be critical and ask “are we achieving our objective?” because it’s the business goals that matter.

stay focused on the end goal

Sales Performance and Technology Survey

“If you had to do it over again, which of the following would you do differently in managing your recent sales compensation technology investment? (Please select top 3.)” (n=122)

(Only participants who answered yes, in any form, in Table 6 received this question.), WorldatWork and OpenSymmetry, June 2012.

Option Percentage
Streamline work processes prior to implementation 29%
Spend more time developing and documenting reporting requirements 29%
Spend more time ensuring data feeds are clean and accurate 28%
Allocate more time to get the software installed and configured 25%
Create a more complete definition of business requirements before vendor selection 20%
Conduct more thorough testing prior to moving the system into production 18%
Ensure plan designs are finalized prior to beginning implementation 18%
Provide more staffing during implementation (internal IT & Sales Operations) 16%
Ensure crediting rules were better documented 14%
Provide additional training to sales compensation analysts 14%
Ensure more involvement of sales management during implementation 13%
Ensure incentive roll-up, roll-over, roll-down data are fully documented prior to implementation 11%
Ensure more involvement of sales compensation analysts during implementation 7%
Ensure more executive involvement during implementation 7%
Research more vendor tools during the vendor selection process 5%
Consult an independent third-party expert to assist during the vendor selection process 2%
Other 7%

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