Research First Look: Survey of SPM and ICM Solution Providers

Recently, OpenSymmetry and Sales Management Association compiled the results of an ongoing research initiative that offers a comprehensive look at sales performance management (SPM) and incentive compensation management (ICM) technology providers. In this round of surveys, over 150+ practitioners across industries responded to questions about each solution’s offerings, capabilities, and effectiveness. These survey results were collected during the first half of 2020 and will continued to be collected and shared on an annual basis.

For this round, Bob Kelly of Sales Management Association and Robert Blohm of OpenSymmetry discussed some of the key findings:

What platform are SPM and ICM technology users on?

The findings showed that the majority of SPM/ICM technology users were using tools from Xactly, SAP, Varicent, Oracle, or Optymyze, the “Big Five” vendors who are marked leaders in the Gartner Magic Quadrant for Sales Performance Management year after year.

  • 59% use one of the Big Five tools:
    • Xactly: 34%
    • SAP: 25%
    • Varicent: 20%
    • Oracle: 15%
    • Optymyze: 5%
  • 21% use spreadsheets and databases
  • 12% use in-house or mainframe solutions
  • 6% use another SPM/ICM platform (not Big Five)
  • 1% outsource SPM to a third party

Interestingly, 43% of Xactly users are small firms, whereas more than half of users of SAP, Varicent, Oracle, and Optymyze are large firms with at least 1000 payees.

One explanation may be that Xactly has out-of-the-box solutions specifically tailored for smaller firms, including Xactly Xpress and, more recently, Xactly SimplyComp.

How do vendor-led implementations compare to third party-led implementations?

Most SPM/ICM technology vendors, with the exception of Optymyze, give users the option of implementing directly with their support staff or purchasing the technology licenses only and implementing the tool with in-house or third-party resources. Comparing implementations done by vendors and by third-party firms showed the following results:

  • Implemented on time
    • Vendor – 57%
    • Third-party firms – 55%
  • Implemented on budget
    • Vendor – 77%
    • Third-party firms – 69%
  • Overall satisfaction post-implementation
    • Vendor – 56%
    • Third-party firms – 75%

Third-party implementations are slightly more likely to be over budget and late – but yield substantially better satisfaction overall. One explanation may be that vendors have a more standard approach to implementing their tools, so there is an expectation of time and budget. However, third-party implementers may have a more holistic and tailored approach to the implementation, which results in more time and money upfront but a higher satisfaction rating after go-live. Third-party implementers also provide more services to optimize technology capabilities, such as more thorough testing requirements, business process change management, and more advanced training and mentorship.

How satisfied are practitioners with Big Five SPM capabilities?

When comparing satisfaction with SPM technology capabilities, the survey found that users were most satisfied with payment administration functionalities – including calculation logic and payee crediting – and less satisfied with reporting, forecasting, and analytics:

  • Satisfaction with SPM capabilities
    • Calculation logic – 89%
    • Payee crediting – 82%
    • Platform integration – 77%
    • Workflow – 66%
    • Forecasting – 64%
    • Reporting – 62%
    • Analytics – 51%

Significant differences in satisfaction were apparent at the vendor level.

How much do SPM/ICM tools impact business outcomes?

Overall, out of all survey respondents, 75% of Big Five SPM users reported positive ROI.

  • Ratings of Big Five SPM’s impact on business outcomes
    • 87% say more accurate payments
    • 83% increased auditing capability
    • 83% improved adjustment administration, tracking

As you can see, the Big Five vendor technologies had the most impactful outcomes related to pay administration, including payment accuracy (87%), improved auditing (83%), and adjustment administration (83%).


From the survey, it was clear that there were substantial differences in vendor ratings in terms of capabilities, ongoing management of the tool, and implementation success. Additionally, the differences in vendors seemed to increase with the increase in number of payees for the practitioner firm.

The full survey brief will be available on Monday, July 27 this week upon request from OpenSymmetry. The detailed report will be available to survey participants only, which includes detailed vendor ratings, user satisfaction statistics, and other vendor comparisons. Visit SMA’s Open Research Initiatives page to participate. This survey will be open to practitioners only.

To walk through vendor ratings and discuss a vendor evaluation or selection process, please reach out to

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