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Siebel improves 'critical' piece of its portfolio

In the 7.7 release, Siebel says it made some important updates to customer order management.

When it comes to Siebel Systems Inc.'s product strategy, the customer order management piece is "critical," in the words of one analyst.

Order management connects Siebel software to legacy and ERP applications while giving businesses a customer-centric view of a transaction.

"A lot of companies are trying to provide the seamless, customer-centric lifecycle," said Sheryl Kingstone, CRM program manager with the Boston-based Yankee Group. "Without integration of order management, you're not able to gain as much actual insight."

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The San Mateo, Calif.-based company's Customer Order Management 7.7 has been shipping since the launch of Siebel 7.7 in April.

Enhancements to quote and order lifecycle management include efficiencies in processing new orders, updates, returns and cancellations. In product and catalog management, 7.7 supports defining and classifying products, as well as visibility rules. It also creates sales bundles. The new pricing and contract management application supports account-specific, bundled and contract pricing, while allowing companies to monitor customer contracts and entitlements.

Traditionally, Siebel's customer order management systems have focused on the telecommunications, high-tech and discreet manufacturing industries, said Laurent Pacalin, vice president and general manager for Siebel's Customer Order Management. Companies in these industries have as many as five order management systems.

"The significant enhancement between 7.5 and 7.7 is around performance, scalability and the service-oriented aspect," Pacalin said.

Infonet Services Corp., in El Segundo, Calif., has been using Siebel's order management for a year and a half. The company, which sells business networking products, recently upgraded from version 7 to version 7.5.3.

With complicated orders that can take up to three months to complete, Infonet wants to track and manage orders throughout the process, according to Roger Morrell, vice president of information technology.

Additionally, Infonet measures customer satisfaction based on fulfilling orders on time. That means there's often a last-minute scramble to eliminate glitches. In conjunction with Siebel, Infonet streamlined its order-to-bill process with a standardized "wizard" that reduced the time to bill by 20 days, a 23% improvement.

"We are pretty happy with how it's working," added Morrell. "For us, it's a worldwide deployment, and it's worked pretty well."

Infonet uses the order management system in conjunction with analytics for troubleshooting reports, Morrell said. That combination lets it quickly identify a product or geography that is having delivery problems.

Infonet has worked with Siebel on adapting the product and is currently addressing the issue of customers changing orders in the midst of the process. That remains a challenge for Infonet, Morrell said.

Siebel needs to continue to improve its order management capabilities to compete with best-of-breed and suite vendors like SAP AG and Oracle Corp., Kingstone said.

"A lot of the back-office providers have order management that's usually internally focused, rather than with a focus on the customers," Kingstone warned. "What Siebel is really trying to do is leverage XML and Web services infrastructures for seamless integration."

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