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Users wonder whether Siebel buy is too much for Oracle

Users wonder whether Siebel buy is too much for Oracle

Some users are wondering whether Oracle, with its ambitious US$5.85 billion buyout of onetime CRM software rival Siebel Systems, may be gorging on more acquisitions than it can digest.

Already in the process of integrating several earlier buyouts, including that of PeopleSoft, Oracle now must get its arms around another major software company with an extensive, feature-rich software portfolio, 3.4 million end users, US$1.3 billion in revenue and 5,000 employees. While a number of Oracle and Siebel users said this week that they see technological cross-fertilization resulting from the move, others remain concerned about what happens to users if Oracle has bitten off more than it can swallow.

"I don't see any benefit of Siebel products over Oracle E-Business Suite CRM offerings," said Patrick Harris, director of IT at seals and gaskets maker Sealing Devices. The company runs Oracle E-Business Suite 11i, including the company's CRM and supply chain applications. "The screens have some different layouts, but the core functionality is the same."

He agrees with the old Oracle philosophy -- that companies shouldn't waste time and money integrating applications from different vendors. "Are we losing focus?" he asked rhetorically. "What is the message? Does Oracle even care about quality product, or is it only a matter of making money?"

He's not alone in having misgivings. Adding Siebel's applications to the mix of existing Oracle products -- which now include PeopleSoft Enterprise and J.D. Edwards' EnterpriseOne and World lines -- is a cause of concern, said Fred Pond, director of information services at Schnitzer Steel Industries. The company runs Enterprise and EnterpriseOne ERP software.

Pond said he doesn't know how Oracle can develop and deliver its next-generation set of applications, dubbed Fusion, in a way that will both meet customers' functional needs and offer a conversion path. "If they pull this [Fusion] off, it will without a doubt be many years late and way overbudget. But the [planned long-term] support for EnterpriseOne should let me and my company sit back and wait and watch," he said.

Pond, who said he has no interest in installing CRM, is also president of the Quest International Users Group, which is made up of J.D. Edwards users.

Having an integrated suite is ideal, said Jesper Andersen, senior vice president of applications strategy at Oracle. However, over the past several years, customers have shown that they want fewer vendors. And the recent proliferation of service-oriented architecture technologies "now makes it possible to integrate these solutions into orchestrated business processes."

With the Siebel buyout now waiting in the wings, some analysts remain unsure whether Oracle has put its PeopleSoft acquisition behind it -- and fear the latest deal may stretch the company's resources.

"It has emphatically not digested all the prior acquisitions," said analyst David Dobrin at consultancy B2B Analysts. "As far as having a clear product direction and a clear understanding that everybody in development shares, forget it."

"This has got to be stressful," said Joshua Greenbaum, an analyst at Enterprise Applications Consulting in Berkeley. "It's not easy to do this, and it puts strain on resources."

"How many acquisitions can Oracle make before [it has] created a behemoth which is unresponsive to the needs of its users and changes in the software industry?" said Robert Robinson, business systems supervisor at Plymouth, Mich.-based Durr Systems Inc., which runs EnterpriseOne. He is concerned that the acquisitions will ultimately be paid for by higher maintenance fees for Oracle users.

Even so, the acquisitions don't worry Barry Libenson, CIO at Ingersoll-Rand Co., a provider of services and products to the transportation, manufacturing and agriculture industries. Ingersoll-Rand runs both Oracle and Siebel software.

"I can't think of anything else they would buy, so I'm happy where things are at," Libenson said. "If I see additional acquisitions, I might get concerned. It's not a concern yet."

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More about AndersenAndersenEnterprise Applications ConsultingOraclePeopleSoftQuest InternationalRandSchnitzer Steel IndustriesSiebel SystemsTransportation

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