Siebel bids to broaden use of its CRM software

Faced with a continuing decline in revenue, CRM software vendor Siebel Systems Inc. last week tried to soothe users by announcing a planned upgrade of its applications and further moves to simplify the process of integrating its products with other systems.

At its Siebel User Week conference, Siebel detailed a new product strategy dubbed CRM for Everyone that's aimed at encouraging more pervasive use of its software throughout companies. The plan includes added industry-specific functionality that will be part of the Siebel 7.7 upgrade, expanded customer analysis tools and a set of hosted CRM applications that Siebel announced with IBM Corp. earlier this month.

CEO Thomas Siebel said during a keynote speech that Siebel 7.7 is designed "to get us where we need to go" to meet the needs of users. The upgrade, which is due next spring, will include a role-based user interface and other new features. Siebel also is promising improvements in areas such as installation, configuration and testing in order to lower total cost of ownership for customers.

Easier Upgrade

Burlington Northern and Santa Fe Railway Corp., which now runs the vendor's Siebel 7 applications, plans to move to Version 7.7 in the future, said Bonnie Henn-Pritchard, assistant vice president of technology services at the Fort Worth, Texas-based company. But she added that Burlington Northern may first migrate to the current release, Siebel 7.5, to make the upgrade less complicated.

Henn-Pritchard said she is also interested in Siebel's Universal Application Network (UAN) integration technology if it proves to be the panacea for connecting to other systems that the company claims it is. In addition, Burlington Northern is eyeing Siebel's new hosted applications as a way to extend CRM capabilities to more end users. But Siebel needs to demonstrate exactly how all the pieces of its strategy fit together, Henn-Pritchard said.

Siebel continued its UAN push at the conference by announcing an upgrade of its Business Integration Applications software, a set of prebuilt routines for connecting CRM applications to other systems.

The company also said that by year's end, the software will become available for use with IBM's WebSphere Business Integration Platform technology and Microsoft Corp.'s BizTalk Server business-to-business tools.

Different Needs

Cindy Minter, assistant general manager of IT at the Modesto Irrigation District, a water and electric utility in Modesto, Calif., said Siebel is taking the right direction with UAN, as long as it ensures that the packaged integration code will allow flexibility for the unique needs of different users. "No two power companies are the same," she noted.

Siebel's biggest challenge with UAN is to show widespread adoption, said Erin Kinikin, an analyst at Giga Information Group Inc. in Cambridge, Mass. Most users still view UAN as being in the experimental phase, she said.

Siebel currently has about 35 UAN customers, company officials said. Nimish Mehta, group vice president of UAN, said Siebel has been building up its consulting and technical support capabilities for the technology and is "delighted" with the progress it's making on sales.

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