Sales Reporting Tips

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What are some of the disadvantages of business intelligence and SFM?

Business Intelligence And Sales Force Management (SFM) - Disadvantages

In order for any software system to gain acceptance in an organization, it must first overcome the disadvantages identified and, loudly, decried by detractors of change. Haag et al, and Cognos offer some of these negatives and this tip provides some thoughts on how to overcome them.

Detractors claim that sales force management systems are, for example:

  • Difficult to learn
  • Require additional work inputting data
  • Dehumanize a process that should be personal
  • Require continuous maintenance, information updating, and system upgrading
  • Costly to facilitate
  • Difficult to integrate with other management information systems (MIS)

Some of the negatives are typical of change-resistant tendencies of human nature and can be dismissed as such. However, care must be taken to ensure that eventually, every user of such a system must embrace it in order for the deployment to be successful. Cognos promotes a concept of the BI Competency Center as a way to put developers and users together to ensure efficient, embraced, and repeatable deployment of BI systems.

Other of the negatives are just plain wrong! There is no way that an automated, web-based reporting structure takes more of a salesperson's time than a manual report. If it does, such hand-prepared reports are probably shallow and worthless to management. Integration of automated SFM tools, if acquired from the right vendor, already have the hooks built in that make compatibility with legacy MIS systems relatively easy.

The final, and most salient of the detractions is cost. IT, especially BI is expensive, but so is lost profit on poor sales performance. If a company desires to embrace the concepts of performance management, then the return on investment (ROI) is substantial. There are many independent sources that discuss measuring ROI in a BI deployment, check them out and the underlying value of such an investment will be compelling.

   
Can BI help manage my IP portfolio?

BI And Technology Development

Many large enterprises, and some smaller technology intensive ones as well, have developed intellectual properties (IP) over the course of decades of product and technology development efforts. One can easily envision an executive in one of these companies sitting at his dashboard, wondering if there is any way to leverage that IP into revenue using the IT/BI capabilities he can muster. Here's how it might be realized.

The underlying technologies and innovations contained in the IP may or may not represent viable opportunity. Manual analysis will probably not be helpful for evaluating the IP, since the property may be very esoteric or represent a small segment of a larger development effort. The blinders of "been there, done that" will most likely preclude non-biased interpretations of value from the engineering or marketing departments. However, deep within the sales and market reports are reams of data, applicable to your enterprise's business that may shed light on its true value and merit to the organization.

If one were to query the data repository for both the IP and sales, then analyze that resultant information using KPIs and balanced scorecard metrics, an effective business intelligence system, such as Cognos 8, should deliver valuable insights to the executive to aid in determining whether to apply the IP to a new initiative, reserve it for competitive reasons, or to dispose of the property. Whatever the decision, the result of the process will add to the bottom line, and thus, to a higher level of performance management.

   
How can I use BI in my advertising program?

Advertising And BI Sales Reporting

Consider using sales reporting techniques inherent in BI software to analyze your company's advertising direction. If advertising decision-makers are armed with sales and consumer information based on properly framed queries of all relevant data sources, adequately analyzed, and professionally reported, the goals of performance management in the advertising arena can be achieved.

Another related factor to consider is the manner in which the advertising message is presented in the selected medium. Stephen Few's comments on presentation of information in graphs and tables are very applicable to advertising. Few notes that superfluous information and other material that by the nature of its presentation misdirects or purposefully misleads the viewer is inappropriate. This is also true in bold letters for the product advertising community, whether it be print, broadcast, or Web-based. Too often we are faced with ads that have little or no relation to the product being promoted and only serve as an entertainment device. This may leave some consumers with an affinity for the product, but may drive others away. Use the tools of BI to query the data for clues as to when, how, and where to most effectively structure your advertising to get the desired impact, not the hype offered by the "21st century Madison Avenue" types.

   
What are some of the advantages of business intelligence and SFM?

Business Intelligence And Sales Force Management (SFM) - Advantages

In order for any software system to gain acceptance in an organization, it must first demonstrate the advantages a system will deliver and how it will enhance organizational performance and, eventually, performance management.

Haag et al, claim that sales force automation systems can improve the productivity of sales personnel. Business intelligence vendors agree and together they give examples advantages that can impact the sales force and lead to better sales performance. From Haag:

  • Rather than write-out sales orders, reports, activity reports, and/or call sheets, sales people can fill-in prepared e-forms. This saves time.
  • Rather than printing out reports and taking them to the sales manager, sales people can use the company intranet to transmit the information. This saves time.
  • Rather than waiting for paper based product inventory data, sales prospect lists, and sales support information, they will have access to the information when they need it. This could be useful in the field when answering prospects' questions and objections.

From Cognos:

  • Generation of sales leads from techniques like data query and data mining also saves time.
  • Having automated sales reports that will actually be used to make better decisions and exploit emerging opportunities, enhance the sense of teamwork in the sales force.
  • Knowing that the efforts of everyone in the sales organization are usable and accessible to the entire enterprise makes learning new tools profitable and thus worthwhile.
Haag and Cognos both assert that sales force automation systems can also affect sales and corporate management. Here are some examples:

  • Call sheets and other sales performance management reports are presented in easy to understand tables, charts, or graphs.
  • Activity reports, information requests, orders booked, and other sales information will be sent to the sales manager more frequently
  • The sales manager or executive can develop query databases and structure analysis from his browser-based dashboard and can configure the system via scorecard techniques.
  •    
Can you describe a how CRM applies to sales force management?

Business Intelligence And Sales Force Management

Sales force management systems are information retrieval, manipulation and reporting systems used to enhance management decision-making in a business intelligence setting.. They are frequently bundled with other applications under the collective banner of customer relationship management (CRM) systems. These enhanced information technology tools are also known as retail management software.

Stephen Haag, et al, in Management Information Systems for the Information Age, discuss a component of a typical CRM component, Sales Force Automation Systems (SFA). These capabilities, often offered as an integrated part of most BI vendor's product offerings, such as Cognos 8, take customer relationship management systems to a new level. Typical modules include software that automatically records all the stages in a sales process, tracks all salient information regarding contact that has been made with a given customer, or sales lead tracking systems. Management tools include sales forecasting, order management, and product knowledge information that directly leads to features where managers and executives can employ dashboards and scorecards to query the data for enhanced decision-making and opportunity exploitation. All of these capabilities are resident in a quality BI suite, such as offered by Cognos, and should be specified when considering acquiring or enhancing your company's BI capabilities.

   
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