To some users of Siebel Systems Inc.'s customer relationship management software, a "Chapter 2" strategy that the company unveiled this week in an attempt to revitalize its sagging fortunes is no big deal. But others said they were buoyed by the new approach that Siebel outlined. At the Siebel User Week conference , executives from the CRM vendor said the new direction includes adding a comprehensive set of analytical applications, breaking its technology into components, providing users with more guidance on deployments and better aligning the company's services units. Siebel said it ultimately wants to move beyond being seen as just a technology vendor and become more of a partner to its users.
"The first generation of CRM was about a product," Siebel CEO J. Michael Lawrie said. "It was about the technology. And the second generation, Chapter 2, is about value." He added that the company's new strategy is built around the concept of "helping the customer get closer with their customer," instead of focusing on CRM as a technology.
A Step Forward
Siebel's sales have declined sharply over the past few years, partly as a result of stiffer competition from high-end rivals such as SAP AG and smaller vendors such as Salesforce.com Inc. But for several users who were interviewed at last week's conference, the changes made by Lawrie since he took over the reins from co-founder Thomas Siebel in May are a big step forward.
"There is a clarity of vision and strategy there now that was not present before," said Richard Napier, business development manager at InFact Group, a software consulting firm and systems integrator in Plano, Texas. InFact uses Siebel's hosted CRM OnDemand service to support its internal operations and does Siebel-related consulting.
Napier said that Siebel's global services organization has offered more than 100 types of educational or consulting services, and no one at the software vendor appeared to be tracking which particular services were being proposed to which customers. Now Siebel seems to be getting more of a grip on "how a software house should deliver services," he said.
"I still don't think they'll be 100 percent there, but they're on the right track," said Roger Morrell, vice president of IT at Infonet Services Corp., an El Segundo, Calif.-based network services firm that runs Siebel 7.5 to support its order entry and management processes. "I'm more comfortable (with Siebel's direction) than I was a year ago," Morrell added.
To users at Pitney Bowes Inc., though, Chapter 2 isn't so new. "This is more evolutionary than revolutionary," said Mark Davis, vice president of customer service at Pitney Bowes. The Stamford, Conn.-based maker of mailing and document management systems runs Siebel's customer service, call center and sales force automation software.
Kathleen Banashak, director of customer service operations at Pitney Bowes, added that Siebel had already proved itself a worthwhile partner and developed a strong relationship with people inside Pitney Bowes before the company even decided to buy the applications.
But Ian Jacobs, an analyst at Current Analysis Inc. in Sterling, Va., said the plans outlined by Siebel are a definite change in direction. Jacobs said the company essentially issued a mea culpa, acknowledging that for many users, its portfolio of applications is either "too complicated to implement, too complicated to use or too far beyond what their actual needs are."
Siebel Expands Its Business Intelligence Apps
In addition to its other Chapter 2 initiatives, Siebel is rolling out a more extensive set of business intelligence offerings.
At a Business Intelligence Summit that was held concurrently with Siebel User Week, the software vendor announced the release of 20 analytical applications. The offerings include a tool that will deliver industry-specific customer analysis functions spanning call center, sales and marketing operations. Also being added is financial analysis software for optimizing the use of corporate assets, a tool to help evaluate suppliers and another product for measuring employee performance.
Siebel said the business intelligence applications will use data integration technology from Informatica Corp. to pull in data from multiple systems and deliver it in real time to end users.
Larry Barbetta, general manager of Siebel analytics, said the new software will let IT managers "democratically" distribute information throughout their companies. For example, call center workers might not need to run complex reports but could use the business intelligence tools to quickly see whether a caller is a valued customer and then treat him accordingly.
The customer analysis software sounds "cool," said Debra Domeyer, chief technology officer at CarsDirect.com Inc., an online automobile retailer in Sherman Oaks, Calif., that uses Siebel's call center and sales applications.
The analysis tool could make it easier to deliver real-time information to vehicle makers about the configurations that shoppers are seeking when they order cars online, Domeyer said, adding that such a capability could help the manufacturers improve their inventory management processes. She said the software could also make it possible for CarsDirect.com staffers to rapidly analyze the results of sales promotions and assess variables such as regional factors. -- Computerworld (US)
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