Siebel Systems is bringing out a new version of its hosted CRM software that adds integration with IBM's Lotus Notes collaboration software and lets users offer the system under their own brand names.
The software vendor is expected to unveil Siebel CRM OnDemand Release 9 in the midst of its effort to gain momentum against hosted CRM sales leader Salesforce.com.
Salesforce.com is expected to preview the next release of its hosted system next week at its Dreamforce user conference in San Francisco.
Siebel will likely face further competition in the coming months: Microsoft this week hinted that it plans to enter the hosted CRM fray.
Hosted CRM sales grew 105 per cent in 2004 to US$403 million, up from US$196 million a year earlier, according to a note published last month by AMR Research in Boston.
At the same time, AMR said, SAP's US$1.6 billion in overall revenue from CRM sales surpassed Siebel's in 2004 by US$300 million.
Keith Raffel, Siebel group vice president of products for OnDemand, said the Notes integration in OnDemand 9 will let users do things like slip customer e-mails directly into the Siebel application to help speed up quote generation. The company already supports Microsoft Outlook.
The new version also offers integration between Siebel's packaged CRM software and the hosted offering's Contact OnDemand component, Raffel said.
The ability to place a company logo on the software is "strong stuff" for branding purposes, said Jim Fetherman, chief operating officer at Continental Dispatch.
The company uses Siebel Contact OnDemand to provide roadside dispatching services to customers. Fetherman said he will use the branding feature in the new version as Continental diversifies its business.
Bruce Daley, an independent analyst in Denver, said that while Siebel's hosted CRM sales totals won't easily reach Salesforce.com's numbers, "the fact that the company is doing the difficult work of constantly releasing new product should serve it well when competing with vendors like SAP or Microsoft, which seem to be just toying with the on-demand model."