Microsoft buys sales-gamification startup with eye to CRM combo

Microsoft has acquired Incent Games and plans to integrate the Texas startup's FantasySalesTeam sales-gamification software into Dynamics CRM.

Terms of the deal were not disclosed.

Adding the fantasy sports component to its CRM offering will give companies a tool to make incentive programs for sales staff more engaging, according to Bob Stutz, corporate vice president for Microsoft Dynamics CRM, in a who discussed the news in a blog post.

Microsoft will integrate the platform into its own Dynamics CRM software in the coming months, Stutz said. It will also continue to support customers using FantasySalesTeam with other CRM products.

However, the move drew some derisive commentary from at least one analyst.

"Are they kidding?" said Denis Pombriant, managing principal at Beagle Research Group, via email. "Let's see, for many years and even centuries, we have incentivized sales people with money (the carrot) and job loss (the stick). That wasn't enough? Really?"

The real problem with incentives is the difficulty in individualizing and applying them across a product line that contains more than one product, and that can't be solved with gamification, Pombriant said.

Rather, it's a big data problem, he suggested, and it can be solved by comprehensive compensation-management systems such as what's offered by companies like Xactly and Callidus.

"We spend all kinds of effort and resources trying to squeeze more productivity out of sales reps," Pombriant said. "It makes little sense to me to introduce a game system that takes their attention away from the business at hand rather than pursuing results."

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