Siebel pushes simplification and cost-savings

Trying to rebound in a sinking market, customer relationship management software giant Siebel Systems Inc. is looking to keep its installed base happy by slashing integration and installation costs and simplifying its feature-rich software for its end users.

At its Siebel Worldwide User Week 2002 here yesterday, executives outlined the company's integration strategy, which also includes an extensive technology sharing and joint sales partnership with Microsoft Corp. Just last week, the San Mateo, Calif.-based company announced a US$92 million loss for the third quarter. But CEO Tom Siebel, in a keynote address, assured the audience that the company is "financially rock solid," with $2 billion in cash on hand and another $2 billion in equity.

He highlighted the company's integration strategy, which involves its XML and Web services based Universal Application Network (UAN) technology. That technology is designed to allow a customer to handle business tasks, such as changes of address, that may span multiple software systems.

Siebel also acknowledged the "mind-numbing" complexity of Siebel software and assured users that during the next few years the company will be actively working to "dramatically simplify the presentation to the end user."

The company also touted a partnership with Microsoft that will allow Siebel's applications to exploit more fully Microsoft's desktop and .Net-related products, among others. This will include having joint product development teams to test and certify the interoperability of the products.

According to Edward Abbo, senior vice president of technology at Siebel, benefits will include a tighter integration with Microsoft's SQL Server database product and the ability to extract more data from its Office software. Users will also be able to craft UAN-based business processes using Microsoft's BizTalk Server and design tools.

Although it's just been announced, the alliance could be promising to companies already running Microsoft products, said Timothy Pizak, vice president of enterprise technologies at Safelite Glass Corp., in Columbus, Ohio. In particular, it will help Siebel applications extract data from Microsoft desktop products without the need for intermediary pieces of software to do the extracting and reporting. That could save companies from the costs of extra license fees and additional employee training.

Safelite, which has a retail auto glass and insurance claims processing business, is looking to gradually retire its mainframe-based customized call center and transactional systems in favor of Siebel CRM software. Pizak noted that the UAN initiative is key to the company's rollout plans because "the process-centric view is critical to us."

In other news, Siebel announced it will ship its UAN offering this quarter. That product includes a best practices business process library and a set of design tools.

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