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At Comdex, Siebel hails hosted CRM

Tom Siebel used his Comdex keynote to tout his company's return to hosted CRM and give attendees a look at the forthcoming Siebel CRM OnDemand.

LAS VEGAS -- Thomas Siebel may have underestimated hosted CRM's potential once, but he's not likely to do it again.

During a Tuesday keynote at Comdex Las Vegas 2003, the chairman and CEO of business software powerhouse Siebel Systems Inc, San Mateo, Calif., reaffirmed his company's commitment to delivering CRM software via the Web.

Instead of presenting a traditional keynote, Siebel used his time to boast about the merits of his company, specifically its new joint CRM OnDemand initiative with IBM.

"Hosted CRM is an emerging market that offers a great deal of utility going forward," Siebel said, also referring to it as a "Siebel-meets-Google idea, where you take your [software] through the Internet cloud."

Siebel said CRM OnDemand is the result of a $300 million joint development effort with IBM. He said the offering is intended to provide midsize firms and divisions of large enterprises with top-of-the-line CRM software without the need for new hardware, training or an up-front investment.

Siebel said the hosted offering was also designed to enable enterprises to implement a hybrid-application model, in which both on-premise and hosted applications are used.

For example, he said IBM has expressed interest in providing CRM capabilities to as many as 60,000 reseller employees. Since those workers are not based in IBM offices, offering them access to a hosted application that works in tandem with the on-premise software that IBM employees use would save the company money.

"The utility model not only allows companies to grow," Siebel said, but also provides a seamless migration path for companies if they choose to move to the non-hosted software.

During a demo of the software, a Siebel employee showed CRM OnDemand's features, including robust lead profile and status tracking capabilities; sales views that display an individual's sales performance and the performance of his or her team; tracking and status reports on customer service requests; dashboard graphics that display sales projections and long-standing customer issues; and built-in analytics to drill down into potential sales problems.

"This is indicative of what enterprise software will look like in the future," Siebel added, noting that CRM OnDemand will enable his company to reach more of the estimated 109 million potential enterprise CRM users.

Siebel abandoned its original hosted CRM venture,, in 2001 amid the collapse of the application service provider (ASP) industry. Its new offering, announced last month, leverages IBM's hosting infrastructure to provide a Web-based CRM application for $70 per user per month. In beta testing now, it will be available by year's end.

Siebel expressed confidence that the new offering will soon be the benchmark for his company's competitors. "We would not enter a market unless we were sure that we could get a 50% market share," he said.

He mentioned that an important part of gaining traction will come from Siebel's recent acquisition of hosted CRM provider UpShot Corp. He said the company will support UpShot users indefinitely, as well as offer them a free upgrade to the software that is being developed jointly by Siebel and the former UpShot team.

Attendee Arthur Neufeld, a systems administrator for Longmont, Colo.-based e-mail firewall company Junkwall Inc., said Siebel's presentation was "sales pitchy" and that the $70 monthly cost is too pricey for smaller companies like his. Though his company doesn't use CRM software today, he said that he would consider Siebel if the need ever arose to manage hundreds of potential sales leads.

Sanjeev Bhai, president of ARS International Consulting, an Irvine, Calif.-based IT recruiting firm, said he was interested in Siebel's overall strategy. Though follows the CRM market, he said demand is currently much stronger for IT professionals with knowledge of data warehousing, business intelligence and Cognos technology than it is for CRM know-how.


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