Coffee, Comissions, & CPQ: Why Xactly Connect?

Coffee, Comissions, & CPQ: Why Xactly Connect?

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Author: Canidium Podcast

Coffee, Commissions, and CPQ is a podcast by Canidium that will cover topics about all things sales, sales operations, sales enablement, and SPM! In the tenth episode of our series, Chris Pickens explains the importance of Xactly Connect in relation to your other sales tools. Tune into our podcast by clicking the link below, or read the transcripts on this blog!

Rick Roberts:
 Hello and welcome to Coffee, Commissions, and CPQ, a podcast where we talk about all things related to increasing the effectiveness of your sales organization. My name is Rick Roberts and I'm your host in this episode. Today, Chris Pickens, a consultant in our dedicated Xactly practice is going to be answering the question 'why Xactly Connect? So, Chris, welcome to your very first podcast.

Chris Pickens  Hi, thanks for having me.

Rick Roberts:  Yeah any time. Hopefully, we can get you back on here some more. So, before we jump into answering 'why Xactly Connect', why don't you tell the audience a little bit about yourself? What are you into, where you're from? Things like that.

Chris Pickens:  Sure. So I live in Houston, Texas right now. I'm originally from New Orleans. Before I started working in commissions, I was in law enforcement and firefighting. And after that, I went and got my bachelor's degree in computer information systems at the University of Houston. And now I'm doing consulting!

Rick Roberts:  Got it. That seems like a pretty big change from law enforcement and firefighting to getting a degree in that. What made you want to make the switch?

Chris Pickens:  Certainly was, I've always been very into computers and I like just the atmosphere of consulting because it's kind of a change every day whereas law enforcement and firefighting, it's kind of repetitive.

Rick Roberts:  Okay, see, actually, I would think that it would be very different. But I'm assuming based on maybe where you're working out of it, could be pretty monotonous or something like that. So, what do you enjoy doing in your free time?

Chris Pickens:  So I recently got into brewing. I brew my own craft beers, wines, meads, and ciders. 

Chris Pickens:  And outside of that,  I enjoyed dancing, paintball, and I've gotten into Krav Maga very recently. And all of those are kind of great for exercising and camaraderie between a whole bunch of different people.

Rick Roberts:  Yeah, definitely. So I'm into a few of those things as well. So as far as meads go have you, because when I remember doing the research for it. My last one, which was, it's almost a year old now, I did an open air fermentation. So I didn't use the lock or anything like that. I was trying to get all the natural yeasts from Colorado to react to a blackberry and honey mix. What have you been doing? 

Chris Pickens:  That's interesting. I have not done an open air fermentation. I pretty well stuck to the traditional meads. I did a little bit of experimenting with other flavors. They just didn't come out quite the way that I wanted. I kind of like the wines a little bit better. It's a little bit easier, I think. And they don't take quite as long.

Rick Roberts:  Yeah. I mean, technically I guess what I make is called like a mala mel or something like that. Because it uses fruit. It could be terrible. I've been letting it sit in the basement and age for about a year now. But actually, I come from a small town outside of New York City, which was mostly Italian. And I do remember in the fall, you know when you say wine, there was always like crates, empty crates where the grapes came to the end of everybody's driveway. And during like a humid night, you could actually smell the wine in the air sometimes. And then you could also, you know, depending on your neighborhood, sometimes you hear people speaking Italian. So I've never made wine, I've always wanted to. And Krav maga, how long have you been doing that for?

Chris Pickens: I only just started that. I've probably been in it for six months or less.

Rick Roberts:  Okay. Got it got it. Yeah. Is there a belt system with that?

Chris Pickens:  They do have a belt system. They also have like a card system. It really depends on the agency that you associate with.

Rick Roberts:  Got it. Okay. Yeah, I've been doing Brazilian Jiu Jitsu and I did it for a little while when I was back on the East Coast. and then I decided to get back into it, because I missed it. But started off with a white belt, I got to climb my way back up. But it is great to really, you know, make a lot of friends and there is a strong sense of camaraderie. You know, the guys that you're rolling around with every single day. You know, they quickly become friends. And there's different kind of respect, I think then you get, meeting people in other circumstances.

Chris Pickens:  Absolutely, and it's interesting. I know most of the traditional martial arts do start out in white belt. That was one thing that kind of shocked me about krav was they start out you're not a student until you prove that you're going to be dedicated in this and then you receive your first belt.

Rick Roberts:  Oh, really? And is that what's the color of that belt?

Chris Pickens:  It would be white on the belt system. And I, I don't remember the other, it's a letter number combination. But you would start out with the lowest value there.

Rick Roberts:  Sure. That's interesting that they don't give it to you until you prove you're committed. You know, sign this 12 month contract and then you can get your belt. So those are all great things you definitely have a lot of comments sounds like but let's kind of jump into your role here at Canadian is start answering the question why exactly connects our listener? So why don't you describe, you know? What's your role acting idiom, maybe what a day to day looks like?

Chris Pickens:  Sure. So that can any of my consultant and I'm introduced to new clients and some of them already have system implemented some of them are looking to do a new integration. Some of them are are looking to do year to year updates or even add the integration. So we typically go through a waterfall methodology of collecting requirements, documenting building and and then testing and pushing into production.

Rick Roberts:  Got it okay. And how long have you been in the industry?

Chris Pickens:  I started consulting about four years ago and since then I've worked on a variety of different companies and industries and it's always kind of fascinating to me to see all those similarities and differences and quirks within each industry, and also between different companies within the same industry.

Rick Roberts:  I think that's a good thing to point out too, is that, you know, you're working across multiple industries. And, there's a lot of firms or consultancies out there that will, they're quote, unquote, specialists. Right. So if, let's just say retailers are looking for someone to help with SPM. They're going to want an SPM consultancy that specializes retail. However, you know, even coming from the advertising world, I think cross industry is the way to go because you may see challenges that industry hasn't really seen before. And you'll know how to address that because, look, it's not going to be the same exact thing but there are some parallels across industries. And allows you to think outside the box or bring a different point of view, to the table to address these issues and come up with a solution.

Chris Pickens:  Certainly, and I think it adds a lot of versatility too. Just to have that additional bag of tricks that you've gotten from experience in other areas. And it doesn't necessarily always work with every company. But, it's interesting to see how you can slip something in that helps a lot that no one had thought of before. 

Rick Roberts:  Sure, yeah. And there's actually a term for it that I'm blanking on. But essentially, the term is well, to explain it in more than just one word. It's the fact that specialists sometimes are blind or they're a little overconfident based on what they think they know. Because they've seen this so many times it was so used to implementing solutions or dealing with the issues in an industry. But, it's just assuming that they have the know how and they always have the right answer. Whereas somebody who is cross industry might actually be better suited.

Chris Pickens:  Yeah, I think maybe a good analogy there would be the difference between a cookie cutter solution and multiple ways to skin a cat.

Rick Roberts: Yes. Yep. Good way to answer that. So what is Xactly Connect? Because we've had Tim Bensman the practice lead for Xactly come on here. And he's talked about why SPM, he's gotten a little into it since. But what is Xactly connected?

Chris Pickens:  Sure. So at its base, Connect is Xactly's ETL tool. Which stands for extract, transform and load. And essentially what that does is we take data from other sources like Salesforce or a report from a home-brew software, and we convert it into what we need, for instance, such as a people upload or a position upload or even just orders. And then we load into the system, of course. And we can generate all of our stuff from Xactly Incent. But, it also works both ways. So, we can actually take the data that's in Incent and pull that out and push it over to the other systems or create a custom report from that.

Rick Roberts:  Got it. Okay, so let's talk the end user view, how does connect play into the sales organization?

Chris Pickens:  So, from an end user point of view, it's actually kind of very mysterious. So, Connect is completely behind the scenes. And if done right, the end user wouldn't even know that it was there. One of the primary benefits from them is just the frequency of updating. So, if I sold something today, if the company was doing manual uploads, maybe I wouldn't see that commission for 2, 3, 4 weeks. But with Connect, we're able to automate this process and I'll see it the very next day. So I don't have to keep the log under my keyboard to know how much I should be getting, and then compare that later.

Rick Roberts:  Got it, okay, and you've already touched upon a few of these, as far as the benefits go, but if you could just give maybe a list of the benefits of Connect for our listeners.

Chris Pickens:  So, certainly one of the benefits of speed is speed, as I previously discussed, but another one is accuracy. So, a lot of times we see manual processes with, we're all prone to human error, and with the automation and processes that we create, using Connect, we're able to vet that out in a standardized process. And we don't see those manual errors as much or ever. And I think one of the other big ones is that it's an open platform, a lot of other companies and even Xactly at one time, use kind of, home brewed, behind the scenes stuff that only they really had access to. And all you would really see was the result. Whereas, Connect is completely open and any admin can jump in and with enough SQL knowledge could build their own or edit any process that's already in Connect.

Rick Roberts:  Got. Yeah. So, thanks for listing out all those benefits for our listeners, why don't we answer probably the next question in their mind and that is, what is the typical Connect implementation look like? What's maybe the timeline on that? What's the process? What should somebody maybe be ready with when they want to begin an implementation or at least start discussing one?

Chris Pickens:  Sure. So we typically find that it's best to do this in a waterfall methodology. Where we would kind of gather the requirements, document what we're going to do and how we're going to do it, then go in and actually build all the processes necessary. Then we would perform some internal testing to make sure that the systems are talking with each other properly. And then we would hand it over to the user for their own unique testing to make sure that there aren't any bugs. And then we'll push this into production. So, you would typically see this happen in a few weeks. And that's definitely depending on how many different processes you have or custom reports that you want. And the volume of data that we would be handling and, and mapping.

Rick Roberts:  Sure, that's actually that's, that's pretty quick, right? If you think about it, just just a few weeks, I mean, potentially more depending on the situation. But I mean, just some of the manual errors and things like that can can add a lot of hours, not just to your day, but really have to be spread across, you know, a few for sure. And having to backtrack, and then that's just not even considering some of the effects that having an error could have right? Maybe on the morale of the reps and things like that. Maybe what they're pushing or whatever, you know, just the the mindset that comes about from these errors and the lack of speed and the lack of transparency and things like that. There's just a overall lack of motivation. And we've discussed this, on other episodes as well, which I encourage listeners to tune into, but you know, why somebody needs an SPM solution in the first place? And what are the benefits of these solutions versus maybe an in house or legacy system or Excel or something like that. So thanks for, you know, not just fulling us in on the the process but also giving you a sense of that timeline. So, let's jump into, Xactly Connect and how it impacts the bottom line revenue, right? Why should people in sales operations even care about Connect?

Chris Pickens:  Sure, so like we were just discussing, if we have this manual process, that's taking weeks to put together to get data into the system. And we can spend that same time creating an automated process or semi automated process to do that. Now we've reduced the amount of time that these admins are spending, doing kind of these repetitive tasks and cut it down two hours if not less. So, I mean, bottom line, there is time saved is money earned, right?

Rick Roberts:  Sure, good way of simplifying that. Where do you see the world of Connect moving in the future? Why is it important to have these foundations set up today?

Chris Pickens:  Sure, so I mean, the foundations are definitely key to moving forward in anything. And the sooner you get it put in place, the sooner you're going to realize the return on your investment. Moving forward, that's kind of difficult to say. Xactly has moved from this, was now the Delta team, it used to be its own internal ETL into Connect. And every month they're making improvements and changes to it. In fact, they have their own open community where anyone who has the tool can put in suggestions, and they take those into consideration when they're making updates. And so you actually have control over where this goes.

Rick Roberts:  Great. And I think maybe the last question that we should go into for our listeners that a lot of people probably have been asking throughout this podcast is, you know, the cost of Connect. Right, so the cost of Connect, it comes with incent. It's free?

Chris Pickens:  Yeah, that's correct. With every implementation of incent you get Connect for free from Xactly.

Rick Roberts:  Got it. But obviously, when we're talking about number of processes and things like that, we're talking about hours when it does come to the implementation. And so, the cost of the product itself is free. However, depending on the number of hours during the implementations, that's where you might see a cost.

Chris Pickens:  That's correct. And if you have a simple process, of course, that's going to be less costly for implementation. And the more complex it gets, the more testing is required, the more coding is required. And, again, it's an open platform. So if you actually have internalized people who understand basic SQL and can pick up a few additional commands, it can still be free.

Rick Roberts:  Sure, awesome. And I want to, I don't want to plug Canidium too much. But I would just say, you know, for our listeners, it's important to consider that, you know, our dedicated Xactly practice does have consultants that have come from the customer side. Right, so they understand the pain points on the customer side. But when it comes to trying to reduce the cost of implementing something like Connect, you want to make sure that you're working with a consultancy that has done this time and time again. And it's going to lay out a roadmap for you so that everything is gathered ahead of time you know exactly what you need, so that you're not looking at an elongated path to finally going live and deploying the solution. So thank you, everybody, for joining us today. Chris, thank you as well hopefully can get you back on here.

Chris Pickens:  Yeah, thanks for having me.

Rick Roberts: Yeah, and definitely, you know, save a little bit of that mead for me or wine or something like that. Would love to taste it.

Chris Pickens:  Absolutely. You too.

Rick Roberts:  Yeah. No, I definitely will. We'll see, you know how it comes out and if it goes down the drain or if everybody gets to share some good libations. But, again, everybody if you want to learn more about Canidium or Xactly or even speak with Chris or myself just go to Again, it's Just reach out to us, put it in the notes there that you would like to speak with the team or what you're interested in. It doesn't have to be Xactly related, it could be really anything SPM or CPQ related. So thanks again, everybody and look forward to having another podcast soon where you can all listen in again.

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