Siebel to launch version 7.5 of CRM package in Q4

Siebel Systems Inc. will ship the latest version of its customer relationship management (CRM) eBusiness applications globally in the fourth quarter, the company announced Wednesday.

Siebel 7.5 will include new functionality for multi-channel sales, marketing, service, and partner and employee relationship management, the San Mateo, Calif., vendor said in a statement. Siebel has also documented hundreds of industry-specific CRM “best practices” and embedded them into the functionality of Siebel 7.5, said Neil Morgan, vice-president marketing, EMEA (Europe, Middle East and Africa).

“We have tried to expand within the customer base from CRM towards ERM (employee relationship management) and analytics,” he said. “Siebel 7.5 is the beginning in a very big change shift for us, a shift towards focusing on a broader CRM approach, and bringing in the best practices approach is a big part of that.”

Siebel already supported Web Services to some degree, as well as standards-based integration through Universal Application Network, but Siebel 7.5 adds support for the Web services standards Simple Object Access Protocol (SOAP) and Web Services Description Language (WSDL). Users will be able to publish business services and workflow processes as Web Services while also being able to generate WSDL documents for business services and business processes. External tools will in turn be able to use the WSDL file to develop applications that interact with Siebel Web Services, the company said.

The upgraded product will also allow for interoperability in Siebel eBusiness applications between J2EE (Java 2 Enterprise Edition) and Microsoft Corp.’s .Net. “I think that it will be a coexistence world with both J2EE and .Net,” said John Simpson, director, sales consulting, Siebel Systems U.K.

Though companies such as SAP AG and PeopleSoft Inc. are focusing on open standards, Siebel believes demand for interoperability with .Net is important to its customer base. “We are doing what our customers ask us to do and they are saying that they want to bring Siebel into their .Net environment,” Morgan said.

Since Siebel announced the 7.0 version of its CRM suite last November, 70 customers have gone live with it and 700 customers are in the process of implementing the software, Morgan said. The company has 3,500 customers for the suite worldwide, he added, and the proportion who have upgraded is fairly “standard” for the industry, he said.

News and technology company Reuters Group PLC is one of the customers in the process of implementing Siebel 7.0 and plans to take on parts of 7.5 as it rolls out the system across the company. “We tell people well in advance when upgrades are coming along. Reuters knew about 7.5 and planned for that transition. There will most likely be some additional charges to Reuters for going to certain aspects of 7.5,” Simpson said.

Other highlights of Siebel 7.5, according to the company, include: Siebel Sales for global account management; Siebel Interactive Selling with improved customer order management, product catalogue and pricing management; Siebel Marketing, which includes budgeting and objectives management as well as enhanced customer and promotion analytics, and Siebel Call Center, with real-time service analytics.

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