Forecasting the dollars to be delivered by a sales pipeline, especially in technology or a business-to-business context, is an exercise fraught with uncertainty. It provides an excellent example of the interplay of business intelligence (BI) automation and business process management. It also provides a valuable example of the risks of relying on technology alone. Without a business process that supports the integrity of the prediction, no amount of sophisticated customer relationship management (CRM) software will avoid the issue of chronically inaccurate sales forecasts. Of course, without technology, the sales team will continue to thrash in a morass of what is still a labor-intensive, manual process.

The BI goal is to obtain visibility into the sales pipeline so that an estimate can be made of the likelihood of attaining the revenue goal for the quarter. In turn, this drives the need for other defined sales activities, such as the ratio of cold calling to renewals or upgrades, proposal writing and delivery, travel and meeting scheduling. For example, if the pipeline lacks prospects, then more cold calling is needed.

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