Siebel looks to return to its roots, focus

Hoping for a return to revenue growth, Siebel Systems officials are looking to roll out a new set of componentized technologies, continue cutting operational costs and even pursue new acquisitions. The once high-flying CRM software vendor has been beset by sluggish sales, and it recently ousted CEO Mike Lawrie -- largely over issues with the company's execution. He had been on the job less than a year.

During a webcast for analysts Thursday, newly installed CEO George Shaheen said the company is poised for growth but acknowledged that Siebel isn't as nimble or focused as it once was. However, he argued that "software investments are moving from the back office to the front office," and he said customer-driven issues will "lead the parade" in where companies move their resources.

Siebel also announced a new branch of technologies to be offered this year as industry-standard prefabricated components based on a service-oriented architecture that customers can use to craft their own business processes. The component software will not replace the flagship Siebel 7 eBusiness Application Suite, according to Ed Abbo, the company's chief technology officer, but will instead be a complementary offering. Customers will be able to buy technology components from Siebel's library and "glue" them together with components they build themselves or buy from third-party vendors.

Using the components, he said, a customer could craft a workflow to correlate data from one system to another.

Siebel plans to offer hundreds of components and processes out of the box, as well as analytical capabilities and, for consistency, the company's user interface. The component-based systems would run on a variety of server hardware, portals and database platforms --- including mainframe-based hardware. The time to build end-to-end processes would be just days rather than months, said Abbo.

He estimated the market for such technology is worth some US$80 billion.

"One point that is potentially interesting: These components could help companies create microvertical versions of the Siebel suite," said analyst Ian Jacobs at Current Analysis in a note. "Instead of the financial services industry edition, a regional bank could create a 'consumer lending in a nonbank retail outlet' version of the software by creating processes that mirror the business flow in an unusual environment.

"If Siebel pushed such a marketing message," he said, "it would be more in line with, a company that avoids talking about prebuilt industry editions, preferring to allow customers to customize their own."

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