Siebel swan song: the

It wasn’t exactly the message mix you would expect from a company that’s on the verge of being acquired.

But Siebel CustomerWorld and Siebel Business Intelligence (BI) Summit opened simultaneously in Boston on Monday with a bunch of exec keynotes that were short on flashy product announcements, but noticeably long on strategy.

The highpoint was the unveiling of Siebel’s Customer Adaptive Solutions (CAS) strategy that the company says “defines the next wave of CRM.”

On the products front, a key announcement related to the general availability of Siebel Real-Time Decisions (RTD), a class of analytic apps that are part of the Siebel Business Analytics product family.

Many of these announcements, of course, have to be assessed in the context of one overarching issue – the imminent acquisition of San Mateo, Calif.-based Siebel by software behemoth Oracle Corp. in Redwood Shores, Calif. (The deal is expected to close early next year).

What sort of impact will that acquisition have on the Siebel strategies announced today, and on the company’s CRM product stack, in general?

In his conference keynote, Siebel CEO George Shaheen did address the latter half of that question. Shaheen reminded CustomerWorld attendees of Oracle’s commitment to making Siebel apps the “centerpiece” of the Oracle CRM suite. For the benefit of any remaining cynics he even played a short video message by Oracle CEO Larry Ellison that reiterated that promise.

The issue of the impact of the acquisition on Siebel’s new CAS strategy may not be as clearcut. But it was discussed by Bruce Cleveland, Siebel’s senior vice-president and general manager, products, in an exclusive interview with IT World Canada.

“I use the transitive argument here,” Cleveland told IT World Canada. “If A equals B, then B equals C. Oracle says Siebel is its CRM strategy; Siebel says its strategy is these customer adaptive solutions; ergo Oracle’s strategy is CAS.”

He said with Siebel 8 product suite – the next version after Siebel 7.8.2 – Siebel would be making all of its apps enabled through Web services. “As a direct result, they will be consumable by any system that’s SOA (service-oriented architecture) based.”

Cleveland believes Siebel apps will fit easily into Fusion (Oracle’s proposed integrated product suite that blends the best features of all its own, and its acquired companies’ products). “That’s because has Fusion (will have) Metadata driven, SOA-based, declarative applications.”

He noted that Siebel apps such as Order Management or Pricer or Configurator are currently built on C++ architecture. “By architecting them so they can be consumed in an SOA environment, they will have a very long life span. And we can decide when and whether we want to rewrite them…or not. Under an Oracle umbrella we will have an opportunity to make those kinds of decisions.”

Likewise, Cleveland said he was confident post-merger Siebel would also be able to deliver on the other key strategy-level concepts he articulated during his keynote – Outcome Modeling, Predictive Insight, Informed Action and Rapid Realignment.

Process work vs. knowledge work

These concepts, he said, are key to an effective CRM strategy – one that encompasses process as well as knowledge work.

According to Cleveland, until now companies have focused on CRM apps to improve process work. “This can be defined as a set of relatively straightforward, repeatable steps taken to complete a well understood task – for example a call centre agent who addresses a standard inquiry, a sales rep who files an expense report, a field service rep who closes out a service request, or maybe even a marketing manager who sets up a direct mail campaign.”

Current generation CRM systems, he said, have done an outstanding job in optimizing such customer-facing process work. However, while these apps help employees work faster and at a reduced cost, they don’t enable or support situation analyses – which is the hallmark of knowledge work, Cleveland added.

Knowledge work, the Siebel exec said, requires employees to rapidly perform situation analysis – based on a bunch of disparate data – and then to directly act on that analysis, making the best decision possible at that specific moment of customer interaction.

The hallmark of Siebel’s Customer Adaptive Solutions, he said, is that they enable both process and knowledge work.

Four pillars of “next generation” CRM

According to Cleveland, products and services that are part of an effective CAS architecture provide four key deliverables.

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