Users: Project management key to Siebel CRM success

Although a survey released this week called into question companies’ ability to achieve return on investment after they have installed Siebel Systems Inc. customer relationship management (CRM) software, some users have had success.

Jay Gardner, CIO at BMC Software Inc., said the IT management software company is finally getting something of a return for the money it has invested in Siebel software. But it took a trial-and-error process to learn the right techniques for successfully rolling out the applications, he said.

In fact, it took three tries to get it right.

“We learned a few lessons during the first couple of tries and then did it right the third time,” Gardner said this week. Houston-based BMC currently has about 3,500 employees using Siebel’s sales force automation software, and it will add the San Mateo, Calif.-based CRM vendor’s customer support application this April.

In that survey, released by Wellesley, Mass.-based Nucleus Research Inc., Siebel customers said they had a tough time seeing a return on the multimillion-dollar investments they had made in the company’s CRM software. They also cited difficulty training employees to use the software and problems with implementations going over budget and over time.

The study was conducted in June through interviews with 23 referenced customers from the Siebel Web site; it found that 61 per cent of the customers were convinced that they had yet to achieve return on investment (ROI) after two years with the Siebel applications.

According to Gardner, the key to success at his company lay in making sure the CRM software implementation was aligned with internal business processes at BMC. To achieve that, BMC took steps such as bringing in a field sales director to work as a project manager on the rollout and building a cross-functional team from both sales and IT.

The project team also recruited end users in different cities to communicate comments from the sales force back to the team.

Gardner didn’t specify how much the three rollout attempts cost, but he said the third one was a multimillion-dollar effort. While BMC officials are still working to develop formal ROI numbers, Gardner said Siebel’s software has helped improve sales force productivity. For example, it once took 90 minutes to process a sales order. That can now be done instantaneously, he said.

Tim Arnold, IT manager at Bose Corp., said the audio system maker has been running Siebel’s sales force software since July 2000 and its call centre and e-mail response applications since last September. A successful CRM implementation requires solid change management procedures and the right mix of IT workers and end users working together on the project, Arnold said.