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Arnab Mishra, CEO of Xactly – Interview Series

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Arnab Mishra is the CEO of Xactly, and is a seasoned cloud software executive with an extensive history in leading and collaborating with all departments to drive corporate strategy and execution. Xactly's AI-powered Intelligent Revenue Platform provides Revenue Operations and Finance teams with the data and tools necessary to plan with agility, motivate with intention, and predict with conviction. Xactly is committed to transforming the sales industry through AI, empowering representatives and leaders to deliver results under any circumstances.

Your journey at Xactly from Senior Vice President of Products to CEO is both impressive and inspiring. Reflecting on your ascent through the ranks, can you share how the experiences and challenges you've faced have shaped your vision for the company?

At the beginning of my career, I was exposed to founders and entrepreneurs of high tech companies through my work in banking and private equity. These leaders inspired me, and I quickly realized I similarly wanted to spend my career scaling companies and working hands-on with these teams. I then went on to pursue product development where my main focus became combining a market and customer-facing perspective with the technical aspects of product management.

Throughout my time as SVP of Product to CEO of Xactly, I always strived to keep a broader worldview that combined both the technical, as well as the commercial. This perspective contributed to me being selected to Vista’s Pinnacle Program, which taught me what it takes to operate a world-class SaaS organization and be a more effective leader.

In August 2023, the Xactly AI Copilot was introduced. How does the introduction of Xactly AI Copilot align with Xactly's long-term vision for intelligent revenue management, and what specific impact do you anticipate it will have on the industry?

Since our inception, Xactly has led the market through bold strategies and transformation. We are always questioning the status-quo and thinking beyond traditional solutions to make our customers’ lives easier and deliver more value. This is why we began our data and AI journey over 18 years ago, leveraging data from our earliest customers to help deliver informed decisions. This has allowed Xactly to be the leader in pay and performance data, which feeds our ability to build robust AI solutions. Now with the introduction of Xactly AI Copilot, we can more readily surface insights in a contextual manner, ensuring information is consumed in the most intuitive way for each individual user. As organizations face the challenge of accomplishing more with fewer resources and minimal guidance, we pride ourselves on continuing to find innovative opportunities for the industry to work more effectively through AI and that is a big focus on our roadmap this year.

With 18+ years of proprietary and empirical performance data underpinning Xactly AI Copilot, how do you ensure the quality and relevance of this data as it continues to grow and evolve?

This is a commonly overlooked challenge; many organizations look at AI as a silver bullet to solve many complex challenges. However, when we talk to our customers, the analyst community, and other senior leaders, they find that the conversation ultimately returns back to the data that’s fed into the AI capabilities. When you can’t trust the data, can you trust the AI? So when we think about the data question, we’re confident in our ability to serve targeted data that meets the needs of our customers, and with AI Copilot, we’re able to empower customers to use AI more effectively in their strategic processes, or to accelerate the completion of daily tasks. This effectiveness relies on gathering the appropriate data from relevant sources to offer context and detailed insights about an organization. Without trustworthy data, the ability to pivot, anticipate new challenges, and recover from market disruptions is limited.

Could you elaborate on the specific ways Xactly AI Copilot enhances the roles and workflows of sales professionals, compensation administrators, finance professionals, and revenue operations leaders?

Utilizing Xactly AI Copilot and its 18+ years of data, finance professionals gain visibility and can detect financial risks, strategically course-correct, and make decisions faster. Sales professionals can uncover hidden opportunities and risks through simplified performance insights and analysis. The platform can improve sales team productivity and overall health with timely insights to motivate or drive optimal behaviors.

Additionally, this proactive, AI-driven tool will identify potential problems, like calculation errors, and take action for compensation administrators, increasing operational efficiencies. These actions can include automated reports, reminders, and alerts. Revenue operations leaders can leverage insights and industry trends to optimize pay-for-performance. They can also design motivating compensation plans that are aligned with strategic objectives and uncover performance indicators that identify ineffective plans.

Following multiple consecutive wins as the “Best Predictive Analytics Solution,” what are the next frontiers for AI-driven innovation at Xactly, particularly in areas like forecasting and planning?

In addition to continuing to advance our existing AI solutions, we’re deploying AI to serve three fundamental user experiences: Data Exploration, Solution Configuration, and Task Automation. We believe these experiences will accelerate customer value, while also unlocking new efficiencies and will be applicable to key use cases across our solution portfolio. In terms of Planning, we’re developing generative planning solutions that leverage our rich empirical data, accumulated over 18+ years, to recommend optimal sales plans. Our AI-powered forecasting solutions are focused on driving optimal sales outcomes by leveraging the combination of robust deal intelligence, syncing in real-time with extensive performance details.

Implementing AI can come with its set of challenges, from data privacy concerns to ensuring the accuracy of machine learning models. How is Xactly addressing these challenges to maintain trust and deliver value to your clients?

Privacy and Accuracy are critical pillars of our AI strategy. To address these important elements of our AI strategy, we train our models via anonymized data in a secure and segmented environment. This approach prevents our training data from being used beyond the original intent. Additionally, we’ve built a series of prompt preprocessing and categorization methodologies to identify irrelevant prompts and gracefully handle negative use cases. We also anonymize relevant queries prior to submitting them to the LLM. Finally, we run a post-processing step after retrieving the answer from the LLM to ensure it is properly formatted and presented to our customers. In the event the output is not as anticipated, we will serve an alternative message to the customer. We believe this approach provides the layers needed to alleviate potential privacy concerns while maintaining the intended value these innovative solutions deliver.

How does Xactly approach the ethical considerations of using AI, particularly in terms of bias in AI algorithms?

Despite the importance of implementing AI, stakeholders must ensure there are appropriate guardrails to promote responsible use across the business. This includes developing datasets with potential biases in mind, staying compliant with regulations, and safeguarding customer data from malicious intent. Additionally, investing in education and training programs is crucial to teach customers how to use AI responsibly, while aligning to values and ethical standards.

To avoid bias and ensure fairness in our AI algorithms, we leverage a diverse dataset that spans many years, segments, and verticals. Beyond this, we leverage extensive preprocessing and fairness techniques. Finally, we have a robust set of ethical guidelines and an AI Council that assists with monitoring and improvement techniques post-deployment.

Leaders can also prioritize collaboration with stakeholders, like academia or the government, to establish best practices and standards for the responsible development and application of AI. This collaborative effort will help ensure that generative AI benefits society as a whole.

As AI becomes more prevalent in SaaS solutions, how is Xactly maintaining its competitive edge?

Xactly is constantly pushing the boundaries of what's possible, and Xactly AI Copilot serves as a testament to our dedication to empower organizations with cutting-edge technologies. As the industry's first generative AI engine of its kind, Xactly AI Copilot is boosting revenue organizations productivity increases and streamlining the workflows between stakeholders invested in the end-to-end revenue process.

What are the next big developments in AI and machine learning that Xactly is exploring?

Xactly AI Copilot for compensation is currently in its pilot phase, with plans to expand to Xactly's other key revenue processes in the near future, including forecasting and planning. With 70% of sales professionals agreeing that AI tools will make them more productive at work, Xactly looks to continue leveraging AI to enable sales reps to optimize sales execution and coaching, and finance and operations leaders to effectively model go-to-market strategies.

Thank you for the great interview, readers who wish to learn more should visit Xactly.

A founding partner of unite.AI & a member of the Forbes Technology Council, Antoine is a futurist who is passionate about the future of AI & robotics.

He is also the Founder of Securities.io, a website that focuses on investing in disruptive technology.