Automation v/s Automation: An ICM Perspective

To say that the way in which organizations have managed their Incentive Compensation plans has changed over the years would be an understatement.

Not long ago, IC managers would bend over backward drawing columns and rows in bulky ledgers to compensate their sales teams. Each data point was manually entered, and complex calculations were done by hand.

The “Spreadsheet Revolution” changed this forever! With the click of a few buttons, spreadsheets gave businesses the power to store and manage data like never before. Thus began the romance between data and spreadsheets. 

Since then, organizations have relied heavily on spreadsheets to manage their IC plans.

To the extent that a lot of IC managers actually confuse spreadsheets for automation. It is true- spreadsheets are convenient, easy to understand and can carry out complex calculations after you feed them with enough data and formulas. 

However, spreadsheets are far too error-prone to be a future-ready automated solution. In this fast-paced business ecosystem, there is a pressing need to address this divide: What “Automation” is perceived as and what it actually is. 

If you are an Incentive Compensation Manager trying to figure out if your system is automated, here’s a quick checklist for you-

What is Automation, exactly?

To start with, it is not spreadsheets. In simple terms, Automation is a technology-driven solution that minimizes human input. What this means for sales organizations is that their sales comp team can remove the manual, repetitive task work and instead do what matters the most. 

With this in mind, it is easier to understand why spreadsheets are not an automated solution- they simply do not reduce the manual work that goes into compensating your sales team. If your sales comp team is still spending hours entering data points manually into a spreadsheet that is likely to be error-prone more than 80 per cent of the time, your Incentive Compensation management system is definitely not automated!

Even if you are using an automated solution, it is important to ask if the solution is serving the intended purpose or is it just barely getting the job done under the garb of automation.  

Is your ICM plan automated?

If your organization uses spreadsheets or a homegrown system, ask yourself these questions to make sure that your solution is really automated and future-ready- 

Is your solution built for integrations across CRM, ERP and HRIS?

A good Automation tool will help you break the silos of legacy systems by collecting your data from multiple sources (spreadsheets or any other homegrown systems) and streamlining it into a single source of information. This macroscopic viewpoint makes your data usable, helping you create more accurate forecasts and make better business decisions.

With all the relevant data in one place, sales comp managers can proceed to analyze it more deeply and give holistic insights. Things that simply weren’t possible with static spreadsheets like identifying problem areas in real time are possible with an automated system. 

Is your solution capable of change?

The business ecosystem is ever changing and your Incentive Compensation plan needs to keep up. Growth leaders want an automated solution that can change as quickly as they would like. Is your Incentive Compensation solution capable of incorporating these changing needs or does it break like most legacy systems would? 4

Is it easy for your sales leaders and reps to interact with your solution?

Your solution should have the ability to communicate with the sales team and tell them what their goals are and exactly how they can achieve these goals. According to a study done by Mckinsey, teams that know what their goals and challenges are, are more likely to hit the targets and perform better. Is your solution interface rep friendly?

Similarly, you should ask if your plan allows your sales leadership access to answers like these-  Are the selling abilities of their reps improving or not? How have reps reacted when they are assigned new territories? Which reps and products are their top performers?

Can your solution incorporate incentives like bonuses, spiffs, and MBOs?

When used strategically, incentives like bonuses, spiffs and MBOs can encourage reps to earn more. They are effective tools that can be used for course correction when sales figures fail to hit the margin or simply when the organization wants to see a rise in sales figures.

It is therefore important that your Automation system is designed in a way that makes it possible for these incentives to be incorporated into the system. 

To know more about how Incentive Compensation automation works, book a demo with us!

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