Chris Cabrera, CEO, Xactly

Chris Cabrera
Converts — ex-smokers and former on-premise software vendors — are the
most zealous of proselytizers, which is one reason wanted to talk to Chris Cabrera about two topics he is intimately familiar: the
rise of on-demand applications and sales compensation.

Cabrera, CEO of on-demand compensation application vendor Xactly, is well-placed to talk about both of those subjects.

Prior to taking this position, Cabrera was senior vice president of
operations for Callidus Software  ,which is a leader
in on-premise sales-force compensation software.

This type of application allows companies to create more targeted incentives
for their sales forces and, because it is delivered through the Web, also
lets sales people see what their commissions will be in real time.

It can also help public companies comply with regulations like
Sarbanes-Oxley because it gets compensation plans out of manual spreadsheet
applications and into a more automated solution.

Xactly has taken off since it was launched in March 2005.

Admittedly riding the coattails of on-demand CRM leader,
Xactly is one of the top-three most-requested applications on’s AppExchange, a marketplace for software-as-a-service (SaaS)

Cabrera would not reveal sales figures for the privately held company, but
said the company is well ahead of schedule in terms of number of customers,
subscribers and revenues, and noted that the company has grown to 60

Q: Why do you say that sales compensation is the next big thing?

It is the next big thing because companies, just like athletes, are looking
for that edge to give them a competitive advantage that is unfair.

Unfortunately, some athletes do illegal things like take steroids to get
that edge. Our customers can use compensation to get that advantage.

Compensation done correctly and provided with Web-based visibility can give
an unfair advantage to these companies.

The big homerun here is that with an on-demand compensation application,
you can create better plans, and you can pay based on different things that
drive better behavior.

When you combine that with Web-based visibility, you can get your reps to
sell more stuff, sell fries with the shake, cross-sell, up-sell — all those
kind of things that they’re less likely to do today because they’re not
being driven by their comp.

They’re just selling whatever they can sell, as opposed to selling what you
want them to sell and the right mixes of what you want them to sell.

Q: Analysts have noted that SaaS is sneaking into the enterprise through the
backdoor as a means of getting around IT. What role should IT play with
regards to SaaS? Should they stay out of the way?

Not at all. IT should be concerned that on-demand companies are providing
secure access and are taking care of the data.

I’m not a proponent of some of these fly-by-night kind of on-demand things
where they’re using it as a moniker and they’re hosting it in their closet.

That’s a danger, and there should be IT there to say “don’t do that.”

The good companies are all SAS70-approved and doing it the right way. In
most cases where we keep peoples’ data, it is way more secure than where
they keep it themselves.

The good news is IT doesn’t have to baby sit the thing anymore. They don’t
have to buy hardware and install it and do upgrades.

That part of it they can walk away from, but they still need to be

Q: Another issue people have raised is that on-demand applications don’t
work off-line.

The only place right now I can’t be connected to the Web is on an airplane. The world is changing and the thing about being tethered is going away.

That’s why I don’t see that as a big hurdle over time. Ten years from now,
am I going to be carrying my laptop around worried about do I have Microsoft
or PowerPoint on there?

Or am I going to walk into a prospect’s office and get on a dumb terminal
and access Google or something and with some security just have all my stuff
on there and give a presentation and then log off?

I think it’s going to be more the latter, rather than carrying around this
little box everywhere I go.

Q: SaaS is all about a multi-tenancy and a single instance of the
application. But that stops people from customizing to their needs, doesn’t

Customization of software means a lot of different things to a lot of

What customers really want is configuration. They want to be able to have
the software talk to them in terms they understand.

If they call them reps, then it should say reps; if they call them
salespeople it should say salespeople.

They want to be able to change the labels and make them look and feel the way
they’re used to and they want to.

All of this can be done with these applications without changing any core

What customers should not want and what companies like us don’t let them doing
is customizing the code level — because the crux of an on-demand application is multi-tenancy, a one-to-many model.

That one-to-many model is what allows me as a vendor to provide my customers
a better service.

I don’t have to maintain multiple disparate versions of my software. I don’t have to develop my application to run on all different types of databases.

I don’t have to worry that half my installed base is on an old version and
half on a different version.

As soon as you want to get a vendor to customize their code, you’re asking
them to do that. I think that’s a bad thing.

Q: How crucial is a healthy ecosystem to the development of SaaS?

SaaS doesn’t require a huge ecosystem. You can take a point application like
Xactly and get an immediate return on your investment.

Having said that, will you get more value out of it because it’s fully
integrated with an ecosystem and you have single sign-on and a rep can be
working with their contact management or leads or opportunities one minute,
and then look at their com plan through the same screen?

Absolutely that’s better. It’s a question of degrees of goodness.

Right now, the lowest degree of goodness is we can install this as a point
product with no ecosystem, and our customers will be happy and they will be
paying people accurately. They will have that unfair advantage we talked

Once they tap into the ecosystem piece of it, the degrees of goodness will
go through the roof.

I’ll be the first to admit that the market’s not there yet. But this is
where, again, let’s look five years from now.

I think you’ll see an incredible ecosystem of on-demand players that are all
inter-linked and that are working together and the beneficiary will be the
customer who can tap into the ones they want inexpensively and quickly and
receive major ROI benefits.

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