BOSTON -- Siebel CEO George Shaheen threw some cold water on the idea that he was brought in just to sell the company this week.
In April, Shaheen, a longtime Siebel board member, was named CEO of the San Mateo, Calif.-based CRM vendor, replacing Mike Lawrie, a man who had been on the job less than a year.
At the time, many industry analysts believed Shaheen had been brought aboard simply to sell the company after a run of difficult quarters. IBM, Microsoft and Oracle Corp. were considered potential buyers.
"I knew it was on the short list of alternatives," Shaheen told a group of reporters at Siebel CustomerWorld being held here this week. "The top order of preference would have been to get Siebel back on track in terms of growth and profitability in a reasonable amount of time. That's what we as a management team were trying to do."
At the heart of Shaheen's onetime confidence was Siebel's analytics business, a division that was experiencing growth while others were struggling.
"I believe this company is able to get back a couple of billion dollars in revenue, and business intelligence was our ticket to do that," Shaheen said. "That is an absolutely sleeping giant in our portfolio. That's a $15 billion to 18 billion market where there's no one clear market leader. I had very high expectations for the role of business analytics."
Customers at the conference were also pleased with the direction and promise of the analytics business and held out hope Oracle would agree.
"I really think both companies have a lot to learn from each other," said Rob Martens, global director of front office technology for Bermuda-based Ingersoll Rand, an Oracle and Siebel customer. "I really want to see the analytics take off. The sheer growth of the analytics platform is going to benefit Oracle incredibly."
This week, Siebel released the next version of its analytics software, Siebel Business Analytics 7.8. With the release, Siebel is adding new distributed query optimization and multi-dimensional access to data sources. Siebel Business Analytics 7.8 is built on a service-oriented architecture (SOA) and includes a prebuilt portlet for the IBM WebSphere Portal. It has also improved integration with Microsoft Office to allow users direct access to Office applications like Excel to improve usability. Increased usability was a theme as the new release also includes personalized dashboards, ad hoc access and improved workflows.
"It's beyond intuitive, it's obvious," said Larry Barbetta, senior vice president and general manager of Siebel business analytics. "That's what the goal needs to be."
Oracle's plans for the future of Siebel's Business Analytics application has yet to be determined, as does its interoperability.
"We have a stated mission to interact with all systems," Barbetta said. "You want to know about Oracle, there's another Larry [Ellison] you need to talk to."
However, Bob Blumstein, director of research for CRM analytics and marketing applications at Framingham, Mass.-based IDC, agrees that the analytics are an attractive part of Oracle's pending purchase.
"It's absolutely the right direction for Siebel to go in," he said. "The next logical step is to go deeper. I think it should fit quite well with Oracle. The applications are designed to, at their best, be embedded in sales and marketing. That is what makes them so successful. Oracle is buying not just the software but the entire approach."
Meanwhile, Siebel's competitors are circling in to capitalize on the pending acquisition. On Monday, Walldorf, Germany-based SAP AG extended its Oracle migration program to Siebel users, offering investment protection of up to 75% of customer's original software license fees, conversion tools and end-user training. Last month, Seattle-based Onyx Software Corp. offered not only Siebel, but former PeopleSoft, J.D. Edwards and Vantive customers, a $500,000 professional services credit to switch to its applications.
A communal experience
In other news from CustomerWorld, Siebel has released an online assessment tool to help businesses follow its Customer Experience Blueprint, announced at last year's User Week, a six-step process for building a customer-centric business based on Siebel's experience with customers. In addition, Siebel has launched the Siebel Online Community, a forum for customers to discuss processes and technology. The site can be found at siebelcommunity.com.