Senior vice-president & general manager, products, Siebel Systems

Listen to interview with Bruce Cleveland

Length: 11 minutes. File type: mp3. File size” 4.40 MB

Hello. Welcome again to “Voices” – a special program, featuring interviews with thought leaders and trend setters in the IT industry. I’m Joaquim Menezes, Web editor of IT World Canada, and my guest for this interview is Bruce Cleveland, senior vice-president, and general manager, products at Siebel Systems. Cleveland, who joined Siebel in 1996, has more than 25 years of industry experience, and has held senior technical and marketing management positions at AT&T, Oracle, and Apple Computer. In this exclusive interview with IT World Canada, conducted at Siebel’s recent CustomerWorld conference in Boston, he talks about Siebel’s new Customer Adaptive Solutions Strategy, initiatives to integrate Siebel and Oracle applications, some of the big focus areas of Siebel CRM moving forward, and much more.

I use the transitive property here: if A equals B, B equals C [then A equals C]. So if Oracle says its strategy is Siebel CRM and Siebel says its strategy is these customer adaptive solutions, ergo Oracle’s strategy is customer adaptive solutions. Bruce Cleveland>Bruce in your keynote this morning you outlined Siebel’s strategy moving forward: a focus on Customer Adaptive solutions, and on ensuring Siebel apps support what you called “next generation” CRM capabilities such as: outcome modeling, predictive insight, informed action and rapid realignment. However, with the imminent acquisition of Siebel by Oracle, to what extent will Siebel actually be able to deliver on thes strategies and priorities?

With Siebel 8 – the next generation of Siebel 7.8.2, we are making all of our applications enabled through Web services. So as a direct result of that they will be consumable by any architecture that is SOA based. So the fact that Fusion (Oracle’s future product suite that includes the best of its own and its acquired companies apps) is going to have Metadata-driven, SOA-based, declarative applications means that the existing apps can fit into there. So we don’t necessarily have to re-write them, unless we want to. So, for example, Order Management or Pricer or Configurator…these are all deeply rich technology engines that are currently built upon a C++ architecture. But by [architecting] them such that they can be consumed in an SOA environment, it makes them have a very long lifespan. Under an Oracle umbrella we will have an opportunity to make those decisions then. With respect to any of the other concepts we talked about – outcome modeling, predictive insights, informed action and rapid realignment… really those are concepts that are being driven through flexibility of user interface, flexibility of an SOA environment that enables predictive analytics. All of these re things – as we discussed before – (as the centrepiece of Oracle’s CRM strategy) I am very confident we will still be able to deliver within their larger framework. This is one of the reasons we went very long describing each and every one of these things, that we spent a lot of time giving specific examples and even [citing] specific products that supported those things. But with the recognition that even if at some point we decided to move one product out and another product in, the concepts are still the strategy for the company. So I use the transitive property here: if A equals B, B equals C. So if Oracle says its strategy is Siebel CRM and Siebel says its strategy is these customer adaptive solutions, ergo Oracle’s strategy is customer adaptive solutions.

At Oracle OpenWorld last month several joint Oracle-Siebel customers expressed the need for tighter integration between Oracle back office and Siebel CRM applications, and asked that this be accomplished even before Project Fusion becomes a reality in 2007. Are there any initiatives to make this happen?

We will be deeply engaged with Oracle, beginning next Monday on in-depth product reviews and technology directions so that way we can get beyond some of the overarching statements and get into actual code. And I believe that one of the key initiatives we are looking at here is immediate integration between Siebel applications and Oracle applications, as they currently exist. Now you know we already have a set or Oracle connectors and adaptors, which gives us a significant lead. But we want to do even more than that. We want to put transformation, semantic relationships etc. and for that you need to have more indepth technology than just a pure EAI-type of integration. The strategy there is to take a look at what Oracle has, take a look at what’s in our tool chest and through these deep technical reviews we will come up with – at least we may not make them public – but we will know prior to when the final merger has been approved what customers can do in terms of complete integration between the current Siebel applications and Oracle’s current applications. And that covers off what people can expect in the next one to two years. Above that I would have to refer, because I have yet to go through these meetings. I have to hear what some of the more high level initiatives are. I do know that they will be metadata driven, declarative and and built off of SOA. Therefore I have to believe that since this is our direction that we are both philosophically aligned. And the fact that we are making all of our products consumable by that type of technology means that we should have very strong alignment.

Larry Ellison has emphasized the value Oracle is placing on Siebel’s OnDemand offering. However, your OnDemand apps are currently hosted out of IBMs data centres on a DB2 database. Will this continue post merger, or will IBM be left out of Siebel’s OnDemand future?

I think that’s a fair question. So my point of view on this – and in our conversations with IBM [indicate] that they are they are a good partner of Oracle’s and a great partner of ours. They’ve built a multi-billion dollar business on consulting services, and hardware and software working with our technology. And that will continue to be the case according to all the conversations I’ve had with the folks at IBM and with Oracle. So the issue then really comes down to business financials. And remember…it’s kinda like Google and Yahoo. I don’t actually know what powers those particular Web sites. I think at the end of the day our customers don’t really know either. So I think this is going to come about as what is the lowest cost, highest performing most reliable, scalable environment that we can provide to them. And currently we build on top of WebSphere, we use a DB2 database, we’re at the IBM data centre and I think that to the degree that they are alternatives to that rock solid environment that we have that are less expensive, that can provide equal or better reliability and scalability, then we will consider them. But in the foreseeable future we are still running on the IBM platform.

For Siebel, Order Management has recently been a big focus area (as reflected in the big investmest made in Order Management in Siebel 7.8); Web self-service looks like another big focus area, and Siebel elected to buy itself into this space with the purchase of E-Docs. Will the acquisition change some of these focus areas?

I don’t think so…again since we own the strategy. One of the big things is (I think we alluded to that in the demo) is a lot of companies really don’t want to [acquire] more call centre agents. What they are trying to do is figure out how to, in fact, divest themselves of expense; and expense comes throu

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