In today's fierce business landscape, organizations are constantly seeking ways to drive revenue growth. For Workiva, a leading provider of cloud-based solutions for Finance and Compliance teams, improving operational efficiency has been the path to growth.
I sat down with Maria Oczko-Canant, Workiva’s Head of Global Sales Planning, Performance and Incentive Sales Compensation and Grant Berthold, Senior Manager of Sales Planning & Performance at Workiva, for a fireside chat to discuss the challenges faced by their Revenue Operations team and the transformative impact Xactly has had on their business. Here’s a recap of what we discussed.
A Lack of Data Informed Insights to Drive Decisions
Over the last few years, as they grew at a rapid pace, Workiva's Revenue Operations team encountered significant data challenges, including the lack of clean data hygiene and insights, which hindered their ability to make informed decisions for effective quota management, sales comp administration, and sales performance analysis. These data issues contributed a lack of transparency with how reps were paid, affecting accurate payments and accruals.
Adding Automation and Science to the Comp Admin and Planning Process
To address these challenges, Maria said, the Revenue Operations team first leveraged Xactly's comprehensive ICM solution to streamline incentive compensation management. They did so, with great success, going live with Xactly Incent in less than 4 months from the start of the project. Their error rate was reduced to less than .005% in month one, and had 0 post payroll adjustments, down from an average of $100k a month from prior periods.
The next step was to reassess the quota setting, using the detailed review of past performance against measures. They aimed to ensure equal potential compensation for employees in different locations, so that an AE in Idaho had the same earnings opportunity as an AE in New York, aligning incentives across the board.
Taking the updated earnings targets, combined with achievable quotas, ensured that high-performing individuals were appropriately rewarded. Better line-of-sight for the Sales team of how their quotas were set, and how high performance was paying off, helped motivate the entire team to higher levels of performance.
Forecasting and Sales Compensation: Tying Two Critical Aspects Together
Maria and Grant next embraced Xactly’s real-time forecasting offering and deal scrutinization. Sales reps could track and update their pipeline, and more easily identify new business opportunities.
Maria recognized the importance of connecting the forecasting functionality with the sales compensation system, a connection often overlooked in traditional approaches. By utilizing Xactly Commission Expense Accounting, she said the data became cleaner and allowed reps to visualize their potential earnings. With transparency across the board, the Sales team gained insights into their own performance and the potential of their colleagues, instilling confidence and driving productivity. Sales leaders have gained reps' trust and credibility, and turned into trusted advisors.
This same visibility extended to the Finance team, providing more accurate commission expense forecasting. The reps knew how much they could make, and finance knew how much it would cost. Overall, this connection has minimized errors and propelled efficiency, benefiting Finance, Sales, and Revenue Operations.
Navigating Market Volatility
Like many, Workiva's Revenue Operations team faced challenges related to hiring, layoffs, and maintaining a skilled workforce. The company understands the significance of nurturing talent and retaining knowledgeable employees. Maria called out that a mere 5% improvement in the performance of the mid-range performers can lead to a significant organizational transformation. In fact, by elevating the capabilities of their salesforce, the team achieved remarkable productivity gains and mitigated risks associated with market fluctuations.
Automation Enables Strategic Focus
Although forecasting was not something the team was directly tasked with, they saw an area of opportunity to contribute to this process. Working directly with sales leaders, the team implemented automation of the forecasting process that created transformative change for the organization. According to Maria, automation has reduced the time spent on forecasting from 15 hours per week to just a couple of hours, enabling the team to become more strategic versus tactical.
A Single Source of Truth
Maria acknowledged that revenue operations is at a pivotal point where performance, productivity, and planning are all moving under one umbrella. Although this is an exciting evolution, the importance of having a single source of truth can’t be overlooked. Grant said they are actively working towards achieving a standard definition of productivity tracking, ensuring consistent metrics across departments. This unified approach will foster collaboration and enhance decision-making, as everyone will be aligned on the same data points.
With Xactly, Workiva revolutionized their revenue operations, addressing the challenges related to data accuracy, incentive compensation management, and forecasting. The transformative impact of these implementations resulted in improved productivity, strategic focus, and a unified approach across the organization. Workiva serves as a testament to the power of leveraging cutting-edge technology to drive revenue growth and operational excellence.
The information provided in this blog post is based on a fireside chat with representatives from Workiva and Xactly during Sales Comp'23.