Sales Force Automation, SaaS-Style—It’s Xact-a-Mundo

If you haven’t yet heard of SaaS BI startup Xactly, consider yourself duly informed.

If you haven’t yet heard of Xactly Corp., consider yourself duly informed.

Xactly, a software-as-a-service (SaaS) business intelligence (BI) pure-play which specializes in sales compensation management, recently closed the books on a very encouraging 2006. Not only did it notch several important deals with several prominent customers—including LoanCity, IronPort Systems (recently acquired by Cisco Systems Inc.), Markinekt Professional Resources and SonicWALL Inc.—but it also firmed up its ties with salesforce.com, introduced a new on-demand analytic component (Xactly Analytics), and recruited former Informatica Corp. principal Karen Steele as its new vice-president of marketing.

Incent, Xactly’s flagship SaaS offering, is an indication of just how far SaaS offerings have come over the last 36 months—and just how sophisticated SaaS itself has become. Incent supports real-time what-if calculations; real-time reporting and sales insight; plan-based document management; integrated plan maintenance and lifecycle management features; and a bevy of data integration features—including pre-built connectors for salesforce.com, SAP, PeopleSoft, Oracle, Siebel, JD Edwards, Great Plains, and Microsoft CRM.Add it all together, says Mark Smith, a principal with consultancy Ventana Research, and you’ve got a fresh new spin on a not-so-new idea: "[M]ost organizations design their sales compensation plans in spreadsheets and other documents and manually enter them into sales force automation … systems."

Enter Xactly, which Smith says can help bring some degree of automation to an otherwise manual sales compensation planning process. Consider what typically transpires after an organization has designed its sales compensation plan. "[T]hey transfer information about deals closed, again manually, from the SFA application to the booking and order processing systems and ultimately to the accounting system," he points out. "Moving this data through these disparate systems has impacted the timeliness and accuracy of the sales compensation process, often with the negative effect of de-motivating the sales organization."

That’s where Xactly has a somewhat refreshing story to tell, Smith says.

"Incent takes a rules-based approach to designing the sales compensation plan," he points out, noting that Xactly’s SaaS offering enables users to manage documents and workflow over the lifecycle of the compensation process—including plan creation, plan revision, and plan approval. "[Incent’s] user interface was designed to accommodate the variety of roles that interact with sales compensation … [including] executives, sales operations and finance managers, compensation analysts and sales representatives themselves," he continues. "Reps can create what-if scenarios, reports on their progress in relation to the plan and forecasts of their potential payments."

Xactly added another arrow to an already brimming quiver last October, when it announced an analytic module—the aptly entitled Xactly Analytics—based on technology it licenses from Cognos Inc. Smith, for his part, says Xactly Analytics is intended for power organizations.

"Xactly Analytics … provides in-depth analysis and reporting of sales compensation for sophisticated organizations whose compensation analysts demand more than simple reports or plan-design analysis," he notes.

For example, Xactly Analytics boasts user-configurable dashboards; report management and scheduling features; and alerting and notification capabilities. It supports a bevy of reporting niceties, including ad-hoc authoring, cross-tab views (and pivot tables with drill-down features), charting capabilities, summary , and—of course—out-of-the-box report templates.

About the Author

Stephen Swoyer is a Nashville, TN-based freelance journalist who writes about technology.