Operations research improves sales force productivity at IBM

Rick Lawrence, Claudia Perlich, Saharon Rosset, Ildar Khabibrakhmanov, Shilpa Mahatma, Sholom Weiss, Matt Callahan, Matt Collins, Alexey Ershov, Shiva Kumar

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


In 2004, IBM introduced a set of broad operations research-based initiatives designed to improve the efficiency and productivity of its global sales force. The first solution, OnTARGET, provides a set of analytical models designed to identify new sales opportunities at existing IBM accounts and at noncustomer companies. The second solution, the Market Alignment Program (MAP), optimally allocates sales resources based on field-validated analytical estimates of future revenue opportunities in operational market segments. IBM Research developed the operations research models and initial internal websites for both solutions. The IBM Software Group initially implemented OnTARGET, which was subsequently made available to over 13,000 sales representatives across IBM sales organizations worldwide. The IBM Sales and Distribution organization deployed MAP as an integral part of its sales model to better align sales resources with the best market opportunities. We describe the development of both analytical models, and the underlying data models and websites used to deliver the solutions. We conclude with a discussion of the business impact, which we estimate as hundreds of millions of dollars annually for the combined initiatives.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)33-46
Number of pages14
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jan 2010
Externally publishedYes


  • Buyer behavior
  • Customer relationship management
  • Customer targeting
  • Data mining
  • Wallet estimation


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