The Compelling Capabilities of One Compensation Management Vendor's Solution

Centive, an early entrant in the enterprise incentive management (EIM) and on demand sales compensation software arenas, is focused solely on the software as a service (SaaS) business model. With its product suite Centive Compel, the company maintains its leadership position in the on demand-sales compensation market. Centive also plans to expand its solution set to include other high-value on demand solutions in support of its vision for the sales operations center. For more background information, please see On Demand Delivery Compels a Compensation Management Vendor.

Zooming in on the Centive Compel on demand-sales compensation management solution, the product aims at automating the entire sales compensation management process, including plan creation, testing and management, commission and bonus calculation and approvals, posting and reporting, modeling and analysis, plan document distribution and approvals, and dispute resolution. In other words, the solution was designed to go well beyond simply calculating sales compensation; it helps users to align their sales organizations with their corporate strategies by rolling out more effective and timely sales compensation plans.

Indeed, Compel's real-time visibility into sales performance metrics and analysis should sanction executives and managers to identify issues and trends, take proactive measures, and track and communicate interim individual and team results—all in time to make a difference. Because the solution is an automated, secure, and auditable system, it should foster tighter cost control and greater financial integrity and compliance in the commission accounting process.

In terms of sales plan execution, Compel delivers the flexibility needed by users to easily create, manage, and modify plans without much (if any) dependence on the information technology (IT) department, where day-to-day management is automated with full audit capability, adjustment processing, and process controls. Executives, managers, and compensation analysts thereby gain mid-cycle visibility into more accurate performance data and metrics to motivate performance, analyze plan success, and model for the future. Last but not least, with Centive Compel, organizations are equipped to motivate not only sales representatives, but also partners and channels, to efficiently achieve specific performance goals.

The strategic angle to sales compensation management includes modeling and forecasting capabilities (that is, of new plans, new data, new plans and data, actual versus planned or modeled analysis, etc.), payee modeling (that is, ascertaining potential commissions), and management and adjustment capabilities of compensation strategies to achieve better sales performance and revenue. Pivotal here is the actionable information via interactive (dynamic) drilldown dashboards and graphical analytics for all involved parties, since long gone are the days of waiting weeks, or even months, to receive hardcopy reports on the organization's sales and performance metrics.

Centive Compel's on demand technology strives to allow sales representatives, managers, and executives to access and, where appropriate, share key performance and earnings indicators in near real time. New what-if scenarios can be built on the fly, and the results can then be stored, compared, and securely shared, which precludes the need for traditional spreadsheet formula changes, macro manipulations, or updates to a series of pesky, interrelated spreadsheets. Consequently, there are no inherent risks of making macro errors, forgetting to change formulas (and to apply them across the board), or committing calculation logic errors.

To that end, Compel offers four different reporting options, each a native part of the solution, and delivered on demand. Users can access information via

  1. Compel's interactive dashboards for ad hoc queries (that is, a sales dashboard with transaction details or an executive dashboard with actual versus modeled results);

  2. creating and publishing custom reports (that is, a Subordinate payout by manager report) in Compel's Custom Report Builder;

  3. viewing a plethora of canned reports (that is, employees' commission statements); and

  4. creating custom data exports to Microsoft Excel for further manipulation and analysis.

Centive is quite proud of its reporting paradigm, which provides interactive drilldown dashboards for sales and executive staff. That is, instead of viewing static reports in paper or Web format, Compel users access live dashboards with intelligent summary views linked to well-organized detail views. The information is dynamic and vital, pertinent to the user type, neatly presented, and easily navigated, with drilldown access to transaction level detail. For instance, central to the product is a dashboard where sales personnel can always check their alerts, correspondence, participation and attainment in special programs like spiffs or the president's club, and their commissions and due compensation, which all customarily lead to more immediate satisfaction.

Sales staff, for example, can quickly get the "big picture" from a summary view displaying their sales, attainment, and commissions earned. From this summary dashboard, representatives can then drill down to the transactions related to a specific plan measure, and then summarize, group, or sort these transactions to quickly find specific transactions and to examine related earnings. Sales representatives can even view how their commissions were calculated. Moreover, it is not a static system for checking commissions, since salespeople are able to interact with the system and momentarily obtain answers to the questions such as "How many sales calls, and within which prospects, must I make to achieve my quota?" or "How many orders do I need to close and deliver to win that trip to Fiji?"

On the other hand, managers and executives have access to the key information they need to measure and manage their teams. To that end, they can see virtually, in real time, how their teams are performing in terms of both sales and incentive pay; they can rank individual performance by various attributes and drill down to individual-level information. The executive summary view includes key performance indicators (KPIs) such as percent of total sales, cumulative percent, and percent of pay based on a specific measure. Empowered with such vital information, managers can then use Compel as an influential coaching tool in one-on-one meetings, as they should then know what people, territories, and products outperform and under-perform, and what the impact on individual earnings is.

Last but not least, as a strategic tool, Compel does not stop with reporting. The solution also presents executives with graphical analytics to compare and contrast performance across multiple dimensions. The ability to compare actual versus expected results allows managers and executives to monitor and adjust the effectiveness of compensation plans in a timely manner. They can even link back to the particular plan model to review incentive costs at the macro- and micro-levels, as well as obtain a snapshot of their teams' attainment distribution curves to easily assess the effectiveness of sales quotas. For more information on the enterprise incentive management-incentive compensation management (EIM-ICM) constituencies and their particular needs, please see Enter Enterprise Incentive Management and Incentive Compensation Management.

As Compel is a Web-based solution delivered in the SaaS model, it does not require an additional software development kit (SDK) to install or maintain it. Furthermore, no additional hardware or software is required to use the system, which has a completely configured user interface (UI) and an access point through a Web browser. The product also has the ability to support subsidiaries and affiliates of the user company, as these potential future businesses can be built into the Compel database, or they can be designed as completely separate units, depending on organizational roll up and reporting needs. Finally, the product supports multicurrency and dynamic currency conversion requirements for companies with operations that extend internationally.

In summary, Compel contains all the necessary tools to help users design, model, test, roll out, calculate, track, communicate, manage, and pay on the most effective sales plans for their organizations. The product was awarded the 2006 CODiE award for Best Financial Software, the 2006 CRM Excellence award from Customer Interaction Solutions, and the 2007 WizKids CRM award. The CODiE award, presented by the Software and Information Industry Association (SIIA), represents the highest honor in the software and information industry, and is the only peer-recognition program of its kind.

Centive's Compel(ling) Roadmap

Despite the product's notable functional scope, Centive is committed to maintaining leadership in on demand sales compensation management, and the vendor believes it now has sufficient resources (including the cash received from the recent CompCentral sale) to fund product research and development (R&D) and business initiatives for some time to come. Compel is supported by an expert professional services team that has years of experience in sales incentive compensation, as Centive currently employs nearly sixty well-versed individuals. Two years ago, the vendor proclaimed its commitment to at least two major releases of Compel per year. The vendor maintains a detailed internal product roadmap, along with a detailed feature list having precise enhancement specifications that are targeted for each release.

With the upcoming spring 2007 release, Centive will have successfully achieved the stated release cycle for five consecutive releases. The scope of each release is locked down incrementally as the prior release is introduced to the market, which incorporates the most requested enhancements and new features. It is Centive's goal that each release of Compel delivers a solution that is aligned with market needs and that supports an evermore rapid return on investment (ROI).

Compel's product strategy and release plans are driven by feedback from Centive's Customer Advisory Panel (CAP) and prospective users. Such feedback enables Centive to consistently maintain perfect subscriber loyalty. The CAP includes key customers and partners, all of whom are committed to successfully managing sales compensation with Compel. CAP attendees meet periodically with Centive executives and prereview the forthcoming release. They discuss role-based customer experience, IT strategy, and data integration, as well as professional services and customer support. Attendees also share their sales operations goals, and provide feedback for the next release and overall product vision.

The CAP program, along with ongoing customer visits and market research studies, is vital to keeping Compel focused on customer and market needs. Centive claims that one of the key reasons for Compel's success is that each product release is driven by and prioritized based on customer and market input. Therefore, it is no coincidence that over 90 percent of Compel customers serve as references for the vendor and its product.

Since the product is delivered as a Web-based, on demand, multi-tenant solution, new releases are automatically rolled out and seamlessly available to all customers (during off-hours, with no interruption to customers' daily workflows, and at no additional cost). Customers thereby reap the benefits of the subscription-based model, paying virtually nothing for product advancements. For instance, in May 2006, Centive announced the spring 2006 release of its flagship, multi-tenant, on demand solution, which was designed to better support global business operations; improve sales performance management; and enable more sophisticated plan logic and more efficient plan administration. In addition, the release enabled customers to deploy Compel within their implementations via the AppExchange on demand platform.

More recently, in November 2006, Centive announced the fall 2006 release of Compel, which included such new functionalities as the custom reporting tool—Compel Report Builder—which allows for document workflow with automated plan approval and enhanced executive analytics and dashboard. In addition, the release included several operational enhancements, such as automated transaction approval and posting; an analysis tool for crediting research and adjustment tracking; additional functionality on subscription measures; enhanced UI (with the ability to suppress fields and create custom field names); enhanced liability recovery; and a new option to perform advanced searches on transactions (by any field in the transaction). Nonetheless, the two most important from the above enhancements include

  • Custom Report Builder—now the fourth reporting option (others being custom exports, ad hoc query, and canned reports), the tool enables administrators to create report templates that can be accessed by users. Users can see only the data they have security privileges to when they run their reports. The capability to run reports allows for such custom reports to be run at certain periods.

  • Document management with approval—enables users to create, publish, and track approvals (via filtered views if necessary), or to attach documents (and document lists), including plan documents, to distribute to individuals, teams, or the entire sales organization. Business rules can apply to each document, such as "withhold commission payment until automated sign-off on the document is complete," for example.

Delving deeper, Compel Document Management and Plan Approval ensures a consistent, efficient, and auditable process for distributing and tracking compensation plans and other related documents, since customers are able to create, publish, view, approve, and track plan documents and other key documents, such as sales performance incentive fund (SPIF) eligibility rules. This all takes place within the Compel solution, which leverages a document creation and distribution wizard along with status and alert information for plan recipients and compensation analysts.

As for the creating and publishing documents feature, compensation analysts can create document profiles and attach documents in any file format, including Microsoft Word and Excel, Adobe PDF, etc. This capability enables administrators to distribute and track not only annual plan documents, but also a variety of related sales communication documents throughout the year.

In terms of the viewing documents feature, sales representatives and executives have at-a-glance views of their documents directly in the documents section of their dashboards, and can view them at any time. Compel notifies payees every time a new document is published on their dashboards through an alert message pop-up window when they first log in. Documents that require approval are flagged with an icon indicating that an action is required, and appear first on the list.

Last but not least, with approving documents, sales representatives and executives can also approve documents directly from the documents section of their dashboards. Clicking on any document name brings the participant to the document details pop-up window, which indicates the date the document was created and published, and allows the user to approve any documents that were flagged for approval by the compensation analyst. The approval checkbox becomes available only after the user has viewed the document, thereby safeguarding against unwarranted approvals.

Coming next from Centive is the spring 2007 release of Compel (the fifth major release over the past twenty-four months). In this release, Centive is migrating Compel to the new Flex 2.0 Rich Internet Application module now available from Adobe (Compel previously presented the UI via Flex 1.5). In addition to providing Compel with the opportunity to further enhance some UI presentation elements, the move to Adobe Flex 2.0 should provide users with an even richer UI experience in terms of graphics and performance.

Also coming this spring are further enhancements to the Compel Custom Report Builder, including new formatting and graphics capabilities; enhancements to the suite of crediting options that allow customers to define end-to-end transaction crediting through Compel; new plan creation and streamlining features in Plan Builder; and the availability of additional Web services for automating the integration and loading of various plan-related data elements (that is, organizations, products, territories, transactions, quotas, etc). Compel is also working closely with (Centive is part of the AppExchange Incubator program, and Compel is a certified AppExchange solution) to develop additional integration points, such as offering features of each application seamlessly within the other.

This is part two of the series On Demand Delivery Compels a Compensation Management Vendor. In the part three, Centive's partnership and alliance strategies will be discussed in detail.

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