Users mixed on Siebel's 'Chapter 2' direction

Users of Siebel Systems's customer relationship management software offered mixed views on the company's new "Chapter 2" strategy, which the software vendor unveiled this week as a way to revitalize its sagging fortunes.

The once high-flying Siebel has seen declining revenue and fierce competition from high-end rivals such as SAP as well as from smaller companies such as Salesforce.com. And earlier this year, CEO and co-founder Tom Siebel stepped down, handing over the reins to IBM veteran Mike Lawrie.

This week at the Siebel User Week event in Los Angeles, executives outlined the company's new direction, which involves pushing comprehensive analytics, breaking the technology into components, promoting end-user education and adoption, and aligning the company's far-flung services organization. Ultimately, Siebel said it wants to move beyond being just a technology vendor and become a partner that helps customers by devising metrics, offering methodologies and promoting the long-term success of a rollout.

"The first generation of CRM was about a product," Lawrie said. "It was about the technology. And the second generation, Chapter 2, is about value." He said the strategy involves promoting CRM as something more than a technology or single event, "helping the customer get closer with their customer."

Siebel's planned remake drew mixed reviews from users at the event. "There is a clarity of vision and strategy there now that was not present before, and that can only be a good thing," said Richard Napier, business development manager at InFact Group, a computer services and systems integrator. The company uses Siebel's hosted CRM OnDemand service.

Napier said that until now, Siebel's global services organization has offered more than 100 different services, and no one appeared to be tracking which particular service was being proposed to which customer. Now Siebel appears to be getting a grip on "how a software house should deliver services," he said.

"I still don't think they'll be 100 percent there, but they're on the right track," said Roger Morrell, vice president of IT at Infonet Services, an El global telecommunications provider that runs Siebel 7.5 to support order-entry and management processes. "I'm more comfortable (with their direction) than I was a year ago."

At Pitney Bowes Inc., users believe the approach Siebel is taking isn't so new. "This is more evolutionary than revolutionary," said Mark Davis, vice president of customer service. The mailing systems vendor runs Siebel service, call center and sales force automation software.

In fact, Siebel had already proved itself a worthwhile partner and developed a strong relationship with Pitney Bowes before the company decided to buy Siebel software, said Kathleen Banashak, director of customer service operations.

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