Apttus has announced the general availability of its Incentives Compensation Management solution (ICM). The solution provides a comprehensive portfolio for companies to manage their strategic sales programs. The deliverables include commissions, bonuses, SPIFFs and contests for both direct selling teams and its channel initiatives. There are three main foci for the product: Incentives, rebate management and promotions. As with other Apttus products, AI is also embedded deep into the product.
Is it all about the data?
Enterprise Times spoke to Apttus about the announcement. The product itself was demonstrated and talked about at Accelerate earlier this year. We asked Kamal Ahluwalia, CRO at Apptus what has happened since.
Ahluwalia responded: “Since Accelerate we have got a lot of interest. It’s not just ICM its the whole behaviour layer which is becoming really important as you go to market across all channels. AI can play ia role n actually mitigating bot risk issues as well as maximizing the business outcomes. This becomes even more insightful if you have the ICM data in hand. The behavior layer is starting to become an excellent next step for us in concert with AI in Max.”
ICM builds on the data that Apttus already holds about every contract and sales transaction. This is where the new ICM system can help organisations. Ahluwalia explained that Apttus holds all the data about rebates, promotions and incentives. This includes both transactional and contract data. He explained that each is a form of contract. Rebates are a contract between two trading partners while promotions are a contract with direct customers. In addition incentives are a contract between the company and an employee. The problem for many companies is that calculating the rebates, compensation and success of incentives is not an easy task.
Ahluwalia explained their intent with ICM saying: “We are trying to take it to the point of transaction not after the fact. Right now, all these things are disputed and settled after the fact. What we are trying to do is make it material at the point of transaction. Whatever you are trying to do for your salesperson. The system should be steering them in that direction with the right guidance and in a helpful fashion not in a big brother fashion. ‘Let me help you maximize the commission that you will make from this transaction’. Then you are helping then and then the adoption is much better.”
Not exactly. It depends upon how much data is readily ingestible into the system. Apttus has interfaces to transactional data from its own systems and other ERP systems such as SAP or Oracle. For those customers already using Apttus software the insights could come very quickly.
Jason Loh, Senior Director, Incentives Portfolio at Apttus explained further how ICM helps. He said: “By having access to all this data and machine learning it can then understand where the soft spots are. Maybe it forecasts a drop in this particular region, this particular product family or this particular industry. Machine Learning is incredibly powerful for that. But once you identify that you need to create an inflection point to get people to act in a different way.
“If I am a pharmaceutical company and one of my drugs is going to generic and I am going to have more competitors in this space, I am going to need to find an incentive to create an inflection point to change the trajectory of what would happen. I can now leverage the outcome of machine learning and AI as the feeder for an incentive program in order to micro target.”
Why is this important?
The key to the Apttus solution is that the information about an incentive is available quickly. While the ability to calculate the financial aspects of incentives is useful it is actually the risk mitigation that is more powerful. In recent years Wells Fargo were fined a total of $185 million because they incentivized their employees to open accounts. The problem was that those employees opened accounts without customers permission. Apttus research has shown that 48% of incentive programs don’t achieve their desired results. With the ability to discover which incentives/rebates are working in near real-time, poorly constructed ones can be altered or removed.
Ahluwalia summarized the benefits saying: “The behavioral layer of our apps in the context of how it can be applied by AIto all channels is what we are excited about. You can really change the outcome for the company if you can influence the behaviors at the point of transaction and that is fundamentally different from some of these back office apps.”
What does this mean
For existing Apttus customers with complex incentives programs Apttus ICM is well worth a look. For others, it is another benefit that Apttus offer for the sales and marketing environment. The Alexander Group cited that 90% of companies chose to make changes to their sales incentives program in 2017. It is likely that figure is consistent every year.
Machine learning might now change that statistic but Apttus will expect that with the help of Max, its customers will see an improvement in outcomes from those programs. There is good news for the end consumer as well. It means that promotions will become more attractive to them as machine learning starts to understand their preferences.
It will be interesting to see the case studies from the dozen or so lighthouse customers that have used the software for the last few months,