Corporate sales organization are placing more and more emphasis on variable compensation programs -- sales commissions, bonus plans, and the like -- as a way of motivating sales teams and keeping them focused on corporate goals. Unfortunately, these plans are typically complex and subject to frequent change, and are hard to administer, track, and evaluate. As a result, they often fail to support the very goals they are meant to support, and leave companies exposed to unexpected charges or surpluses throughout the year.

A small company had the vision of a software tool able to help corporate finance officers design, plan, and track these variable compensation plans, and so improve their companies' fiscal performance. We worked with them to structure the many requirements of this system into a desktop application suitable for use by the corporate executives who design these plans, the mid-level finance staff who manage them, and the sales force that monitors them.

The critical parts of this design addressed the creation of the basic components of a compensation plan as objects in the application, the creation of a plan from those components and the business strategy that the plan is meant to implement, the assignment of a completed plan to an individual, and the estimation of the financial impact of the plan on the company's bottom line. We worked through several iterative designs of the interface with the engineering team, tested simple paper prototype evaluations on local staff and potential customers, carried out usability tests of preliminary system implementations, and fed results and recommendations from these tests back into the engineering process.