Customers: Project management key to Siebel CRM success

Australian users of Siebel customer relationship management (CRM) software have rejected survey results claiming it is difficult to get a return on investment.

While the Nucleus Research of 23 Siebel-referenced customers found implementations went over budget and over time and cited difficulty in training staff to use the software, local users such as AMP Financial Services have found success.

Now 18 months into a three-year, multimillion dollar e-business program and progressively implementing CRM applications from Siebel's eBusiness suite, such as Siebel call centre, marketing, analytics and e-channel (an integrated portal application), all of those rollouts have run smoothly, said Peter Lalor, AMP's head of relationship management services.

"We're seeing good results like cost reduction and revenue benefits due to a disciplined, incremental approach to our CRM projects; this helps manage the budget, scope and expectations rather than taking a big-bang approach," Lalor said.

More than 2000 users from AMP's financial planning community and some 300 AMP employees use the company's Siebel CRM applications day to day, making the software mission-critical for client-facing staff.

The company has experienced very few technical problems installing Siebel CRM tools and user take-up has been positive, Lalor said.

"AMP's experience with Siebel software has been pretty good, no surprises.

"We haven't required any real training to get users up and running on Siebel products. And a lot of this [ease] comes down to our business and the fact that the organisation makes sure the software is used in the context of critical business processes.

"For instance, we've completely automated our sales-lead management process through Siebel CRM and achieved a 500 per cent productivity gain in this particular process," he said.

Lalor also attributes AMP's success in installing Siebel CRM tools to good communication at all stages of an implementation.

"Our projects are a success because we sit down and talk about business issues as well as technology issues from the start and as they come up. So we're able to get an understanding of our business, the business processes that require change, how to ride with this and how it can get us closer to the customer."

Meanwhile, he said he was not surprised that even clients of one of the world's largest CRM software firms questioned their ability to achieve returns from its software within their desired timeframe, saying any enterprise software project should be approached with caution as success always lies in the users' approach.

"In any CRM project, the real problems come down to people. You take away the technology, and it's things like the way the project is led, how change within the business is managed, whether you have realistic expectations and whether you can really change the business that determine the returns."

He added the CRM buyer should have a healthy scepticism towards any software vendor, saying: "They're all in the business to sell, and they'll take any opportunity to do this."

Jay Gardner, CIO of BMC Software, said the IT management software firm is finally getting something of a return for the money it has invested in Siebel software. But it took a trial-and-error process to learn the right techniques for successfully rolling out the applications, he said.

In fact, it took three tries to get it right.

"We learned a few lessons during the first couple of tries and then did it right the third time," Gardner said. Houston-based BMC currently has 3500 employees using Siebel's sales force automation software, and Gardner said it has improved productivity.

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