Siebel looks to Web services for CRM ties

Siebel Systems Inc. has announced a Web services-based method for tying its customer relationship management (CRM) software in with other business applications.

The San Mateo, Calif.-based firm will release its Universal Applications Network this summer. Using an IBM-created standard called Web Services Flow Language (WSFL), Siebel will let users model business processes as reusable objects that plug into any enterprise application integration system.

“This could take one major level of effort and worry out of bringing something new into our infrastructure,” said Alan Grometstein, vice-president of technology at New York-based brokerage Quick & Reilly Inc.

Many vendors have been making noise recently about such easy-to-integrate products. Last month, Novell Inc. executive Chris Stone promised that his company would migrate its product line to XML-based interfaces. Enterprise resource planning giant SAP AG already publishes many application program interfaces in XML and is working with Commerce One Inc. in Pleasanton, Calif., on a common business library for external transactions.

“Everyone’s trying to do it; at least they say they are,” said Shawn Willett, an analyst at Current Analysis Inc. in Sterling, Va. Willett said that many IT development projects have fallen short because they don’t necessarily plug into a user’s architecture.

“That’s why you have this whole integration industry that’s developed by building adapters to all these applications,” Willett said.”

Competing Standards

Grometstein said that he plans to upgrade later this year to Siebel 7, which will handle order management and trade order entry for his retail brokerage and call centre. He said he would also like to tie it in with a new PeopleSoft Inc. human resources system.

However, Willett noted that it’s hard for any one vendor to offer standardized approaches to integration without support from other vendors. He added that WSFL faces a competing standard called Business Process Modeling Language (BPML), whose supporters include Hewlett-Packard Co. and Sun Microsystems Inc.

“There’s been talk of merging the two, and hopefully that will happen,” said Willett.

However, Tyler McDaniel, an analyst at Hurwitz Group Inc. in Framingham, Mass., warned that WSFL and BPML “are really too young to be considered standards at all.”