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For Ivanti, Strategic Planning Starts With Sales Planning

A modern sales planning environment that allows all your sales leaders to be a part of the planning process, that uses actual data rather than best guesses, that lets you model whatever scenario you can think of, and that puts people at the center of every plan—that’s what CROs like me should be seeking out.

Ivanti unifies IT and security operations to better manage and secure the digital workplace. The company employs 2,000 people who work in 36 offices across 23 countries around the world. With more than 25,000 customers, Ivanti powers the IT behind some of the biggest and best companies in the world.

Recently, Ivanti’s fast-growing global sales organization deployed Adaptive Insights for Sales, a purpose-built planning and analytics solution aimed at driving performance and predictability. An extension of the Adaptive Insights Business Planning Cloud, the new solution modernizes sales capacity, quota, and territory planning.

I sat down with Mark Chamberlain, vice president of sales operations at Ivanti, to get his take on what modern sales planning means for a company on the move.

Tom: You guys are on a real growth curve.

Mark: Definitely. Over the last five years, Ivanti has tripled its employee count. With that has come a lot of complexity. So it’s important that we have accurate and reasonable targets for our sales organization to support our growth and not to limit it.

Tom: That sounds like a challenge.

Mark: We have multiple sales operation sites around the world, and they were all using spreadsheets. They all did the typical Excel thing: modify formulas and make changes, so when you try to consolidate it, you’re never sure exactly what you’re looking at.

Tom: You had similar challenges with other parts of your planning in the past.

Mark: We first deployed Adaptive Insights six or seven years ago for headcount and expense planning. It was a huge improvement over the Excel spreadsheets we had been using. Most recently, we implemented the sales planning solution, and we’ve had similar results. In fact, we were trying to come up with some kind of sales planning solution beyond Excel for years. We worked with several major vendors and consultants, but collectively we weren’t able to come up with a solution like the one Adaptive Insights has built. So when we heard that this new sales planning solution was in the works, we were really excited about it.

Tom: What kind of early impact have you seen on your sales planning?

Mark: We’ve been able to churn and turn the model and manipulate the variables really, really quickly, and then see the results. It’s just sped up our planning process and reduced errors.

Tom: And for Ivanti especially, speed and accuracy are key when it comes to sales planning, because the strategic plan begins with you, correct?

Mark: Absolutely. In our company planning process, the sales plan comes first. We begin by figuring out what we think the demand for our solutions is in the market and what we think we can drive. Based on the results of that planning, the rest of the business scales around that. So the sales planning has to be very, very accurate to determine our R&D investment and a host of other plan requirements and targets.

Tom: With 36 offices in about two dozen countries, you must see some challenges with planning across the geographies.

Mark: You bet. Our sales force is about 500 people spread throughout the world. Each major site in every geography operates pretty autonomously. They all have different product lines that they’re stronger in and that are growing faster in their areas. So bringing the sales planning process together requires an amazing amount of data input from all the different sites, and it’s just too hard to try to do that centrally.

Tom: Clearly, you needed a planning solution that scaled better than Excel.

Mark: You know, even in big companies, Excel works great for some things. The problem is when you try to use Excel in a really distributed fashion. Then the assumptions get modified without you understanding what modifications have occurred.

Tom: What stands out to you as a key differentiator of this new solution?

Mark: The biggest differentiator is ease of use. You want to have all the horsepower of spreadsheets and sophisticated databases on the back end, but you need the user interface to be simple and very intuitive. That’s what we’ve experienced with Adaptive Insights. When we went to train the managers on headcount and expense planning, it literally took five minutes. It was a super-fast ramp-up time then, and we’ve had similar results with the sales planning solution now.

Tom: With this new solution, you can immediately see the impact of changes you’re making to models and assumptions. How has that been helpful to you?

Mark: The dashboard is one of the major additions to Adaptive Insights for Sales. It allows you to really quickly receive feedback on the fly as you’re making changes, whether that be to attainment assumptions or quota assumptions, attrition, adding or subtracting headcount, or manipulating quotas. You can really quickly manipulate your model without having to look at different data points.

Tom: And no planning tug-of-wars between sales operations and finance?

Mark: Over the years, one of the biggest challenges we’ve run into with either Excel or other planning products is the integration of the sales model and the finance model. The problem is they typically don’t speak to each other well, and so ultimately the tool is ineffective. Nobody will use it. But with Adaptive Insights, the two systems talk to each other. In fact, sales and finance are so well integrated you don’t even realize there are two systems.

Tom: Can you talk about the data involved in sales planning and any back-end systems you’ve connected to?

Mark: Yes, on the data source side, we pull from SAP, which is our enterprise resource planning system, with some of that data coming from a data warehouse. And we also look to Salesforce for territory planning so we can understand what the pipeline looks like as we start in on quota planning.

Tom: You mentioned quota planning. That’s a big one.

Mark: One thing we’ve noticed is that quotas are really sensitive. If you set quotas too high, it’s a demotivator for the sales team and you experience higher attrition. If you set it too low, you may not experience the type of growth that you need. So it’s important that those quotas are within the tight range of what’s realistic for a rep to achieve so they can make the money that they need to make and should make. Adaptive Insights for Sales has allowed us to do that, and do it faster. Overall, we can get more precise and granular in our planning.

Tom: This new sales planning solution is an extension of the Adaptive Insights Business Planning Cloud. Are you seeing benefits of the companywide integrated planning it enables?

Mark: Financial planning involves so many elements of the business—R&D, general and administrative, sales, marketing. And everything has to come together. We see this in the Adaptive Insights platform. Especially in those final stages of planning when you’re just trying to tweak a model to eke out an additional amount of EBITDA or revenue growth. And whatever you change, even a single variable, you need to see the impact that change will have on other parts of the business. Having an integrated tool that allows you to do that speeds up the planning process. And that’s what we get with Adaptive Insights.

Learn more about Adaptive Insights for Sales.

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