Oracle’s Phillips outlines Siebel strategy

Oracle Corp. President Charles Phillips laid out the welcome mat Thursday to the users his company will soon inherit from CRM software vendor Siebel Systems Inc., assuring them lifetime support for their applications and the benefits of integration with his company’s back-end software.

Oracle has agreed to purchase Siebel for US$5.85 billion, adding to a string of acquisitions whose technologies will be incorporated into its next-generation “Fusion” set of applications. Phillips’ comments during a keynote address at the Siebel CustomerWorld in Boston were meant to assuage fears of any forced-march application migrations — and to explain Oracle’s thinking behind the buyout.

A key to the merger was the fact that it offers Oracle greater resources as well as the CRM expertise that only Siebel, as market leader, could provide, said Phillips.

He acknowledged that Oracle had been lagging in the CRM market and needed Siebel’s deep understanding of that market as well as its vertical expertise. Additionally, Siebel also excelled in selling analytical applications, another area in which Oracle was underperforming, said Phillips. Oracle intends to promote Siebel’s analytics.

Phillips said the earliest the deal will close is early 2006, depending on the regulatory processes. Oracle officials expect that Siebel will retain key personnel, while Oracle intends to accelerate development of both its Fusion suite and the existing Siebel portfolio. As Oracle has done with other recent acquisitions such as its PeopleSoft Inc. takeover, it’s extending a lifetime support policy to Siebel customers.

“The only reason to move is if we give you a reason to move,” said Phillips. “We’ll protect your investment with lifetime support.”

He explained that with Fusion, end users will be able to abstract workflows out of underlying application code to quickly reconfigure a given business process. To integrate Fusion with non-Oracle applications, the company will rely on standard Web services technologies, such as the Business Process Execution Language (BPEL), which delivers set protocols to define business processes and integration. Oracle intends to publish a set of standard interfaces that will become part of a Fusion service registry.

He noted that Siebel was working on a similar project to Fusion, which will make it easier for Oracle to proceed with its plans.

Seeking to dispel fears that Oracle intends to kill of Siebel’s budding OnDemand hosted offering, Phillips noted that Oracle already had about 500 hosted customers for its software. “Together with Siebel, we’re the largest applications hosting business in the world, and we’re excited about that business.”

Ultimately, Oracle’s strong back-end financial, human resources and supply chain systems — combined with Siebel’s strong front-end software — will provide a “360-degree view of the customer,” Phillips said.

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