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Connecting data islands ranks high on Siebel agenda

Siebel Systems lays out its multi-channel e-business strategy to connect data islands and shows off its new Siebel 7 suite of products at a gathering of executives and consultants.

Eliminating disparate data islands is a goal a company must achieve if it hopes to avoid a fate as an e-business castaway.

Siebel Systems Inc. says its technology is what an enterprise needs to create a causeway to connect those data islands.

Five tips for a successful Siebel implementation

Warren Schuman, eastern region sales manager for Mountain View, Calif.-based Satmetrix Systems, offers these five top tips to companies taking on a Siebel implementation:

  • Have a full-time implementation manager. The implementation manager serves as a point of contact between Siebel and company employees, and also has the implementation as their sole focus.
  • Phase the launch by group. Get one department up and running, then move on to the next. "If you do everything at once, it's hard to determine where the bottlenecks are," he said.
  • Stabilize fundamental data and basic functionality first.
  • Resist the urge to do multiple workflows until the system is stable.
  • Hold off with the dot-com server for customer interactions until the system is stable and well accepted internally.

The CRM software maker outlined its multi-channel e-business software strategy and showed off the features of its new Siebel 7 release for a group of executives and consultants during its recent eBusiness Symposium in Boston.

San Mateo, Calif.-based Siebel said it wants companies to "take these islands of information and create a single repository," said John Kelly, vice president of Siebel's North America East unit. He said Siebel's software platform can perform many roles, including functioning as a single repository for analyzing information, which in turn better serves the customer.

In listening to its own customers, Siebel said it has found that many are weary of long implementation processes. To address this problem, Siebel introduced applications tailored to specific vertical industries that are faster to install, Kelly said. While he admitted these packages aren't perfect, they do allow a starting point for companies, he said.

Employee relationship management

Siebel also took the opportunity to push its employee relationship management (ERM) product, demonstrating how each employee in an organization can have a portal personalized with company and external news, training, time and expense reports and help desk functions.

"ERM ... gives employees one-stop shopping," Kelly said.

Siebel representatives walked attendees through six scenarios using Siebel 7. The demo ranged from changing a marketing campaign in real-time to ordering products from a portal. They also gave a call center demonstration, where a representative was able to schedule a service call for a customer in the portal.

Some attendees interviewed seemed keen on learning more about Siebel.

Bruce Howard, senior IT manager at Cambridge, Mass.-based Polaroid Corp., was interested in learning how Siebel can integrate customer touch points to help his struggling company -- whether the touch points were call centers, Internet-based or dealers.

Polaroid is trying to decide how to proceed with an e-business software package. Howard attended for the customer sessions, and is interested in Siebel because "Siebel is the industry leader," he said.

Integration concerns

If Polaroid does choose Siebel, however, Howard is concerned about the integration with his company's enterprise resource planning (ERP) system from SAP. One reason why he -- not a business-end executive -- attended the event is because "if (the business end) decides on one product, (the IT department) is left dealing with the integration issue," he said.

Another forum attendee, a consultant, said he too wanted to learn more about Siebel.

"I'm here because I like Siebel's approach. It seems to be versatile," said Jim Thivierge, principal at IT2K+, an Amesbury, Mass.-based consulting firm. He said Siebel seems to represent the cultures of both the public and private sectors. Thivierge said he is fresh from public sector work.

Gary Langenwalter, president of Stow, Mass.-based Manufacturing Consulting Partners, said stories of companies seeing a return on investment for CRM projects intrigued him.

Langenwalter said he only wished that one of his clients could have attended, because the call center portion could have been helpful. He found the demos more interesting than "talking heads," and Siebel demonstrated solutions to real business problems, he said.

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