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This chapter is from the book

Lessons Learned

The effort is still going on at the time of this writing, but the team has already learned several lessons:

Not all problems require a technical solution. The team found that simplifying the commission rules helped reduce the amount of time required to process commissions a great deal and confirmed their suspicions that unique rules did not have a large impact on sales agent behavior. Even so, the team decided it would be good to consolidate all the processing on a single system.

You may not realize how good you have it on your side of the fence. As the team started their search for a new commission system, they decided to include the five purchased systems they were already using to administer parts of their commissions. They found that as a result of simplifying commission rules, one of the systems they already had fit the bill nicely for what they were trying to do. They had to upgrade that commission system several versions, but once they did, they found that their work mainly consisted of creating new interfaces for any data they didn’t have in that system already.

Commercial off-the-shelf (COTS) systems often contain good industry practices. When the team picked the commission system, they found they could use that unit’s commission process for all the other units as well. That process was one suggested by the developers of the existing commission system. Switching to that process for all the units provided even more improvement in overall commissions processing and eased the transition effort since the team didn’t have to come up with new processes for each unit.

Don’t forget change management. Just because the team didn’t have to come up with new processes didn’t make the change completely turnkey. The commissions team did not have much trouble with the change, since over half of the team was involved on the project to switch commission systems, but they had a bit of change management to do with the agents. When they found out that commission structures were changing, most of the agents complained. Loudly. The team found that the best way to help the agents adapt to the change was to give them examples of their own commissions under both the old and the new structures. Most of the agents found that their commissions would stay consistent, or even increase. The only agents whose commissions decreased were those few who had studied the old plans enough to use loopholes to maximize their revenue. These agents were among the highest compensated but were only middle of the pack in terms of actual sales.

Don’t overlook interdependencies with other efforts. The team originally thought they would have to do a lot of work to interface with a new set of systems for each unit they brought onto the new commission system. Shortly into the project, the team caught wind that the accounting and new business systems were also undergoing projects to make things more uniform. The commissions team got together with the other two teams and synced their rollout plans so they affected the same units in the same order, though not necessarily at the same time. That meant that the commissions team did not have to build new interfaces for every additional unit; they just had to revise the ones they had already built.

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