Adaptive program management

March 14, 2019
3171 Cambodia Mis Img 4904
iDE Global WASH

The development approach should be adapted over time to find the most effective way to reach objectives based on experience.

Before iDE began sanitation marketing in Cambodia, market development for sanitation typically took the form of market facilitation: development partners built capacity of private enterprises to stimulate demand and satisfy it without becoming directly involved in market transactions. However—despite being independent, sustainable businesses in their own right—the latrine businesses iDE worked with showed inconsistent capacity and enthusiasm for conducting their own active sales management.

iDE’s experience shows that pure market facilitation is not necessarily the best model for reaching the public health goal of rapid and widespread latrine uptake. To achieve this goal, iDE explored alternative approaches of market engagement, such as a direct sales model.

Experiments in Kandal and Koh Kong showed that a dedicated sales force managed by the project stimulated high levels of demand.

As such, iDE shifted the focal point of intervention from latrine businesses to sales agents, building up a full-time sales force to reduce turnover, with dedicated management by project staff.

In 2015, iDE noticed that order volatility was making it difficult for latrine businesses to stay engaged. Some were frustrated because they had too many orders, creating a backlog that delayed installation and increased cancellations (e.g., clients may have had the ready funds at the time of order, but not weeks later). At the same time, other latrine businesses sat idle, waiting for orders to materialize. To address this, iDE disassociated the sales agents from businesses. Prior to this decision, sales agents were tied to a business so that any sales a particular agent made was fulfilled by the business they were associated with. This made sense if the sales agent had been an employee of that business, but sales agents were independent actors who received a commission on each sale. Splitting the sales from the delivery and installation enabled iDE to better balance the workload across multiple latrine businesses, improving the efficiency of the supply chain.

3171 20170327 Cambodia Smsu2 Bun Phors Lbo Photo By Chris Nicoletti Dsc 1691
Photo by Chris Nicoletti/iDE/2017

Management also reviewed how sales agents were paid. During the early years, agents were strictly commission-based (typically $3-5 for a $50 latrine sale). This structure led to a high turnover in sales agents, depending on how successful the agent was and the assigned territory they worked in. Turnover increased program costs due to the need to constantly train new agents. In 2016, as market saturation made it harder for agents to sell toilets, iDE introduced a base pay/per diem for agents (also known as an “allowance”) that, combined with flexible hours, helped encourage staff retention, and in 2017 the decision was made to convert the majority of the sales force (in terms of FTE) to a fixed salary and changed the commission structure to be paid on deliveries, not sales.

3171 Idecam St Turnover Source 2