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The Way Business Is Moving

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Issue Date: November 2005

Second wave of CRM

November 2005

The CRM market is very much alive as can be seen from attendance at Siebel CustomerWorld. Adrian Wainwright reports.

The CRM market is very much alive as can be seen from attendance at Siebel CustomerWorld. Adrian Wainwright reports.
Customer relationship management, business intelligence and analytic applications have had limitations to date, resulting in relatively low rates of adoption. They need to deliver more than the capability to store customer contacts, automate sales activities and create trend reports in historical data.
That does not sound like the kind of message that 2500 customers and partners of the world's largest CRM company would expect to hear at the annual corporate get-together. But that is exactly the message that people in Boston got when the CEO of Siebel Systems, George Shaheen, and products senior VP, Bruce Cleveland, stepped on stage for their keynote addresses at Siebel CustomerWorld in the middle of October.
CEO of Siebel Systems, George Shaheen
CEO of Siebel Systems, George Shaheen
Cleveland said that it was high time that companies were able to change, adapt and tweak their systems in response to specific customer needs. To date, this had not really been possible.
Senior VP, Bruce Cleveland
Senior VP, Bruce Cleveland
"What we are talking about here is giving a company the ability to align the way it does business with the way its customers do business," he said. "Right now, gaining a single view of a customer is a serious challenge.
"Companies have structured and unstructured information spread out across multiple systems. Current CRM solutions have not really addressed this ... I believe this is the root cause of the low rate of CRM adoption."
So where to from here? Shaheen based his comments about the future on the old premise of the customer being king. While this was rather predictable, given the nature of Siebel's products, what was unpredictable was the unveiling of a solution architecture and strategy that makes this cliché a reality.
If current generation CRM solutions help companies be more efficient in selling, marketing and providing services, next-generation solutions need to give 'knowledge workers' tools to analyse a situation and act on it immediately - preferably at the time they are interacting with the customer.
Siebel therefore announced its 'customer-adaptive solution' architecture - a roadmap to up the integration between its core CRM platform and the analytics, business intelligence and customer data integration applications that make up the rest of its offerings.
The company has expanded its software stack to give companies the information they need right at the time they are interacting with their customers. New products launched include Siebel Component Assembly - a series of open standards-based building blocks that allow large companies to build their own CRM solutions; a realtime decision module that adds a predictive capability to its business analytics offering; and a new version of its core business intelligence application.
Siebel is also providing companies with the tools they need to refine and realign their business processes to respond to specific - and general - customer demands.
Siebel has been enjoying its fair share of the limelight recently - but not primarily because of its products, its strategy or its value proposition.
The company is the latest to be targeted by database developer and long-time CRM rival, Oracle, as part of an acquisition strategy that has seen Oracle take over several companies during the last few years.
Larry Ellison, the CEO of Oracle, tabled a $5,8bn bid for Siebel in early September. The deal has yet to be approved by US corporate authorities and regulators. As a result, Siebel executives were somewhat restricted as to light they could shed on the deal.
On the issue of continuity in the product space, Ellison appeared via video clip during the keynote to confirm statements made in previous public forums. He said that Siebel technology 'would be the foundation' of the Oracle CRM suite for the future and that Siebel's service-orientated architecture dovetailed 'beautifully' with Oracle's overall software strategy.
On the issue of the future of Siebel's 5000 staff around the world, Shaheen was clear: "Larry [Ellison] has already said that he did not buy this company to fire people."
In one of Siebel's markets, that of hosted CRM, Salesforce.com is a staunch competitor, with Marc Benioff - Salesforce.com's chief executive - wasting no time in predicting the demise of Siebel's hosted product, OnDemand, following the news of Oracle's bid. Hosted CRM provides online, pay-as-you-go access to a CRM application, without the need to buy the application, deploy it and support it in-house.
Siebel and Oracle executives reiterated the fact that Oracle was committed to all current Siebel products, including OnDemand. They were also bullish about the company's potential to remain solid in the hosted space. The GM of Siebel in South Africa, Graham Mansfield, said that local adoption was gaining serious momentum, especially in the telecommunications space.


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