In a changing marketplace, companies must adjust their incentives compensation programs to reflect shifting priorities. To meet these needs as it grew, Colt wanted a more flexible management tool.
With IBM Sales Performance Management, Colt simplified development and adjustment of commission plans, and enabled more detailed reporting for sales teams and management.
30% increasein sales force accommodated with no change to compensation team size
Boosts accountabilitycontributing to more effective compensation plans
Ramps upefficiency and agility, diverting time to strategy and innovation
Business challenge story
Spurred into action
When you invest time and resources to build an effective sales force, you want to make sure they’re motivated to work to the best of their ability—which is where compensation plans come in. But it’s crucial to adapt incentive programs alongside changes in market conditions and customer expectations, or you risk getting overtaken by more agile competitors.
Thierry Casier, Sales Compensation Director at Colt Technology Services, picks up the story: “As a sales-driven organization, getting our compensation plans right is a priority. However, we saw room for improvement for our previous approach, which was based on a bespoke system. Calculating payments took a long time, and we needed help from IT consultants to make any changes. Also, we could only offer sales reps and management limited reporting.”
With Colt’s customer base and sales team expanding, the company’s compensation team set out to find a more efficient approach to help it deal with growing numbers of transactions.
“Our aim was to find an alternative compensation management tool that could offer greater flexibility, transparency and control,” sums up Thierry Casier. “Critically, we wanted to be able to make changes without external support, and to adopt a cloud option so we didn’t have the hassle of managing infrastructure.”
Racing ahead with automation
Colt selected IBM Sales Performance Management to transform its incentive compensation capabilities—not once, but twice. Thierry Casier recalls: “We originally chose IBM Sales Performance Management, or Varicent as it was known then, because it offered the combination of stability, ease of use and features that we were looking for.
“When the solution came up for renewal more recently, we conducted another tender to check whether any new technology was better than the latest iteration of the IBM solution. Once again, we picked IBM Sales Performance Management, which matched the functionality of the next-best competing tool, but at much lower implementation cost.”
Colt moved compensation plans for both its sales teams and agents to the new cloud-based environment. Today, the company manages commission payments for 650 sales reps and 200 agents with the IBM solution.
“Each year, we work with sales managers to set targets that correspond to budget and business priorities,” comments Thierry Casier. “Previously, this involved a mix of bottom-up and top-down input, and painful reconciliation of many spreadsheets. By configuring a tool based on the IBM solution to automate the target-setting process, we moved to an entirely top-down approach that is much more time-effective and precise.”
With IBM Sales Performance Management, Colt can provide sales reps and managers with more comprehensive reporting and a better user experience.
“We continue to use the IBM solution to provide new reports to users, enabling them to run more in-depth analysis of sales performance,” explains Thierry Casier. “The latest version of IBM Sales Performance Management brought significant improvements to look and feel, increasing user satisfaction with the system.”
Staying ahead of the pack
Armed with the IBM solution, Colt’s relatively lean sales compensation team can keep pace with new demands as the company grows.
Thierry Casier remarks: “We were put to the test when Colt expanded into Asia a few years ago, and needed to add 150 reps to our commission plans. With IBM Sales Performance Management, we succeeded easily and without expanding the size of my team, translating into a big cost saving for the company.”
Colt employees are confident in the accuracy of the commissions system, helping to highlight errors in other processes and inspiring greater accountability, as Thierry Casier explains: “When our reps make a sale, they generally check their compensation payments afterwards. If the payment is lower than expected, they know something has gone wrong elsewhere, as they trust the figures produced by the IBM solution. In this way, we pick up on mistakes with billing, helping to ensure that we charge customers the correct fees."
“Deploying the IBM solution has also had an impact on managers,” adds Thierry Casier. “It gives us an audit trail for the number of changes they make to plans during the target-setting process, giving us a good indication of how seriously they take this vital activity! If something goes wrong down the line, we can often trace the problem back to its source.”
With a more efficient approach to incentive compensation management, Colt saves time that can be diverted to higher-value activities. It also gains the agility to put changes into action faster, which is a key competitive advantage.
“We still devote the same period to developing our commission plans each year, but now we use that time so much more effectively,” explains Thierry Casier. “Rather than focusing on administration, we can direct more attention to strategy and innovation."
He adds: “For example, we can easily launch new incentives across the organization, worldwide. Last year, we integrated league tables into the tool to celebrate our best-performing sales reps. Also, we have introduced some gamification aspects: allowing users to win points through certain sales that will increase their ranking. The IBM solution frees us up to think about innovative ways to motivate our sales force to the next level of performance, which represents a major benefit to Colt.”
Colt Technology Services
Colt Technology Services Group Limited (Colt) aims to be the leader in enabling customers’ digital transformation through agile and on-demand, high bandwidth solutions. The Colt IQ Network connects over 850 data centers across Europe, Asia and North America’s largest business hubs, with over 26,000 on net buildings and growing. Colt is also recognized as an innovator and pioneer in software defined networks and network function virtualization. Headquartered in London, UK, it has offices in Europe, Asia and North America.
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