Search past winners/finalists

IBM - Sales Automation Solution


Gold Stevie Award Winner 2019, Click to Enter The 2020 Stevie® Awards for Sales & Customer Service

Company: IBM, Armonk, NY
Company Description: IBM is a values-based enterprise of individuals who create & apply technology to make the world work better. Today, more than 400,000 IBM employees around the world invent and integrate hardware, software and services to help forward-thinking enterprises, institutions and people succeed on a smarter planet.
Nomination Category: New Product & Service Awards Categories
Nomination Sub Category: Sales Automation Solution – New

Nomination Title: Specialty Quota Module (SQM)

Tell the story about this nominated product or service (up to 650 words). Describe its function, features, benefits, and sales to date:

Business problem

At IBM, seller quotas are calculated every six months prior to the upcoming sales cycle and deployed on the first month of each cycle. In 2016, only 52% of seller quotas were deployed on time. The two main causes of late quota deployment were: 1) manual process to calculate quotas across multiple IBM organizations resulting in initial low quota calculation accuracy, and 2) multiple changes in data complicated the ability to timely execute changes due to lack of data linkage to the trusted source.


Management’s goal was not only to improve quota planning operations to calculate quotas on-time, but also to alleviate sellers’ quota calculations concerns which resulted in poor sales performance and increased attrition.

Partnering with multiple IBM teams across various organizations and functions, the project team was able to design, develop and deploy a one of a kind Quota Automation solution: The Specialty Quota Module (SQM). The idea was to develop an automated, easy-to-use, and scalable system that incorporates the “plan as we pay” concept, meaning to plan quotas the same way seller payments are calculated.

The SQM was created to simplify, automate and alleviate the complexity of IBM’s quota planning process. By designing a standardized process, the local modeling teams use the same business rules, worldwide measurements, and calculations. Before the automated solution, every geography calculated quotas using its own local process and interpretation, leading to potential inconsistent implementation of measurement design.

Furthermore, the module incorporates new features to help quickly cascade updates and eliminate data discrepancies due to late changes. The SQM was built to have a direct linkage with the trusted source to maintain data integrity throughout the quota planning process. It is an automated tool that uses a variety of math algorithms and analytical models to ensure there is consistent execution down to every geography, brand, sales plan and measurement. It was created for end users to have an easy-to-use Web interface where all the inputs are automatically pre-populated, and with just a few clicks, quotas can be generated and/or modified real-time.

Lastly, the SQM was built with a building-blocks approach which allows scalability of the automation solution. The rollout started in November 2017 with the IBM Software Units which represent ~30% of IBM’s total revenue and salesforce. During first half of 2019 quota deployment cycle, this automated process will be expanded to the Business Partners organization.


During the first SQM release, the team faced a couple of difficulties that were mitigated in subsequent cycles: 1) expanded quota calculation, specifically for markets with multiple countries such as Middle East and Africa (~70 countries), and 2) updated baseline modeling capability to easily adjust for historical anomalies.


Consistency: Everyone worldwide uses the same quota planning platform, uses the same trusted source and follows the same business rules. As a result, initial quota calculation accuracy increased from 70% in 2016 to 95% in 2018.

Productivity: During the last deployment cycle, quotas were set on schedule and 97% of Software quotas were deployed on time. Also, SQM has reduced manual work to calculate quotas by eliminating 4 weeks out of 6 weeks of work per cycle (approximately 5,600 hours per year).

Cost Savings: The financial benefits include over $200K in productivity alone per year; but with consistent analytical approach to assigning quotas, while difficult to quantify, a more accurate quota-setting process will save IBM multi-millions over time.

Simplification: a standardized process and automated calculations is requiring fewer steps end-to-end to create quotas.

Transparency: Sales managers can have a clear line of sight between the financial goals and the quotas given. The integration of Cognos Analytics and robotics solutions allow users to have real-time access to data through dashboards.

Streamlining: Full Quota Assignment Certification is enhanced due to the full documentation found from the direct linkage to the Trusted Source Budgets along with the implementation of the documented commission driven items.