Part 1 of 3: Flawed Reporting Ruins a Flawless System

May 25, 2017

“If a commissions management system works flawlessly and no one is able to interpret the reports, does it make an impact”

What’s the reporting experience like for your end users? Often, our clients’ wish lists include accurate incentive calculations and models that run efficiently, and stop there. BUT, if your reports are subpar, is the mission accomplished? Oftentimes, reporting is the critical piece of an incentive compensation strategy that either makes or breaks the focus of the sales team – either they will be held up asking questions about the what, when, and why of the payment calculation, or they will be able to quickly access the information they need to move on and perform at a higher level.

In this three-part blog series, we’ll walk through the play-by-play of an effective reporting strategy from the industry insider’s perspective, taking years of tribal knowledge from OpenSymmetry’s consultant team and distilling it into the most impactful steps to take. In this series, we’ll start from the high-level approach to reporting, then delve into formatting and visual best practices in Part 2. In the final installment, we’ll dissect the ways to bring in end user feedback before, during, and after the build phase for maximum engagement and impact.

Reporting Rules of Thumb

Ultimately, successful reporting drives behavior and accelerates sales team performance. Some key rules of thumb to keep in mind include:

Cater to the standard user, not the exception. Rather than taking into consideration every possible role on the sales team and each potential scenario for payees, consider the key data points that every end user will want to see (“What am I getting paid? When am I getting paid?”). Be committed to not overcomplicating reports.

Tell a story. Reports should be intuitive and easy to understand. How does the comp plan work, what’s the data, and how was the data used to evaluate performance and derive a payment? Consider the end user perspective and tell the story behind their performance stats and pay information.

Help users take immediate action. Drive behaviors in a timely way that helps payees take immediate action and elevate their performance, not giving them information that they needed five months ago. Consider data structures that give reports as close to real-time as possible.

Be proactive. When designing your report, imagine that payees will be able to get in and out of the portal so they can go back to what they do best, which is to sell or to manage. You don’t want them to reverse engineer or click around. Ultimately, if you can provide the reps and managers with information that they want (even if they don’t know they want it yet), giving the answers you think they would want to have, then you’ll preempt their emails. Even five fewer emails a week means time gained.

As sales and incentive comp systems are being built, reporting may be an afterthought. However, if you are getting off an old system and building one from the ground up, taking the time up front to consider what will be included in the reports will save months, even years of headache and heartache. In a successful project, the elements needed in your reports will dictate how the system will ultimately be built out, including determining where the stopping point of your calculations will be.

For example, a system engineer may say it only takes 10 steps to get to a certain calculation to get the result you need. However if, say, HR wants one of the points that was skipped over in that calculation to be displayed in the ultimate report, you’ll need to build a workaround or a band-aid calculation later, wasting time and effort that could have been preempted. Take the time upfront to make mockups and get feedback from the field about the report requirements that will ultimately be needed when building out the sales comp system.

Join us next week for the second installment on our insider’s view of best-in-class reporting as we focus on the visual best practices, starting with effective formatting as well as navigation basics. Have a specific question about reporting? Email me at or subscribe to the OS blog to keep up-to-date with latest industry news and best practices.



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