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PeopleSoft: Strategy key to climbing past Siebel, SAP

PeopleSoft still has a long way to go to catch CRM giant Siebel. Yet three years ago the Pleasanton, Calif.-based company wasn't even in the race. Now it's preparing yet another iteration of its CRM software -- PeopleSoft 8.8

Twelve months from now, what market figures would you like to see in order to deem this a successful year for PeopleSoft CRM?

It is hard for me to tell you a number. I don't want to duck the question, though. I'd like to see us at least triple our number of accounts, but this last year has been great. I told (new PeopleSoft CRM vice president and general manager) Joe Davis that in 12 months we've gone from new to number two. There are a few ways where we focused too much on the technology in the product and not the overall solution and that's very easy for us to fix. It seems like you've been grabbing some customers who are scared off by the expense of upgrading to Siebel 7. How are you getting them to make the switch?

I think we have sufficient brand recognition now to be considered in most deals. We'll get a chance -- even with the Siebel install base. You probably aren't unaware that the pace of upgrades from Siebel's client-server application to Siebel 7 is the slowest in their history. You're looking at a cliff; you've got to re-implement the thing. There's no commonality in what was there and what is there now. If you look at having to redo it, you may say is there a plan b? Some people put Siebel in four years ago and in four years realize that back-office integration really matters. Plus, Siebel hasn't always been the best customer to do business with from a contractual basis or to partner with. If you've been under the lash for a while and facing a tough upgrade, you may look around a little while. Last year at this time one of your executives said a primary PeopleSoft goal was to become the clear CRM alternative to Siebel. Yet, a year later you still trail SAP, not to mention Siebel.

SAP has a large installed base. They have 14,000 accounts they can sell to. Are they selling outside their installed base? We are. Also, a lot of folks will buy whatever SAP sells, even if it's not on the cutting edge of CRM. There are not a lot of early adopter technology users among their customers. We're going to focus more on service industries, as well as high technology and manufacturing. We haven't heard much here at the conference about PeopleSoft 8.8 and it's due out in three months. What should customers expect you to deliver in the upgrade?

PeopleSoft 8.8 will have a lot more usability enhancements. It'll go from 12 clicks to three to open up a service case. Siebel requires seven different screens. That's just silly. We required 12 clicks and that was silly. We basically built out all the functionality and now the focus is not just on efficiency. We need to look at effectiveness. Take the call center; the agents can work, work, work, but they can't talk or click any faster. So how do we move a phone call onto the Web or let people help themselves? On the marketing side (in PeopleSoft 8.8) you'll see a lot of things around dialogue, linking single interactions into dialogs. It'll also come with three new vertical market solutions -- energy, insurance and high technology. Have you done a cost-benefit analysis to try to prove the value in switching to PeopleSoft?

Not so much. People will look at it and say we're going to do an objective evaluation of the effort involved of going from the old version of Siebel to Siebel 7 versus going to PeopleSoft. What we don't do is provide an out-of-the-box ROI evaluation on dumping Siebel and going with PeopleSoft, but that is a pretty darn good idea. So you do think Microsoft's move to the enterprise space is inevitable.
I don't know. Certainly I do think that Outlook-based things for sales and other things at the low end of the market will make sense. I have a ton of respect for Microsoft, but I don't think they're signaling any near-term intention to go after the enterprise. I don't think most people think about buying enterprise software from Microsoft. How many bugs in IE are there? How many security holes and viruses? (laughs) They do a great job rolling out technology and if that happens in five years that's great, but three to five years in technology is like dog years. It'll feel like 50 years.

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CLICK to sound off: What will it take for PeopleSoft to catch Siebel?

CLICK for our  Best Web Links on CRM vendors I'd guess CRM vendors are sort of looking over their shoulders these days. Do you hear Microsoft's footsteps?

I don't worry about that. That's down the road. What I worry about is Siebel and SAP.

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