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Siebel's hosted software to go vertical

By the fall, the product will be tailored for four markets and more industry-specific versions are also planned.

Siebel System Inc.'s hosted CRM software will take on a vertical flavor this summer when the company adds specialized capabilities for four industries.

The San Mateo, Calif.-based vendor will roll out industry-specific versions for the insurance, high technology, automobile and communications and media markets, said Ken Rudin, vice president and general manager for Siebel CRM OnDemand.

The new versions will contain more than just a new name for a tab or field, Rudin promised, vowing that the applications will include built-in business processes for each industry. 

For example, the automotive vertical software will include fields for multiple contacts such as the buyer, owner and other users of the vehicle. Additionally, it will let businesses track information associated with a vehicle, such as service contracts. Should a company conduct a product recall and a customer call in on an unrelated matter, the system could alert agents of the situation and allow them to handle both matters at once, Rudin said.

Four more vertical versions serving other industries will be released next winter, though Rudin declined to say which markets Siebel would tackle.

Also unclear is whether Siebel will eventually develop hosted software for the nearly two dozen different markets it has targeted with its on-premise software. In a recent interview with SearchCRM.com, Kevin Nix, Siebel's group vice president of industry applications, hinted that the company would be taking OnDemand in a vertical direction, and said that since the on-premise and hosted products are built on a common architecture, doing so is relatively simple.

"We've done significant work over the past six years optimizing the UI, the data model and business processes for 23 different verticals," Rudin said. "If there is demand, we have the capability to roll out all 23 [markets in OnDemand] and that's the hardest thing. You really need to understand the business first."

Hosted CRM is beginning to follow on-premise applications in its vertical move. Different providers, however, are taking different approaches, said Denis Pombriant, managing principal of Beagle Research Group in Stoughton, Mass.

Boston-based Salesnet has announced plans to offer vertical offerings in financial services, business services and high tech during the second quarter of this year. San Francisco's Salesforce.com is letting third parties build applications that can be easily integrated through its sforce customization tool. Meantime, NetSuite Inc. in San Mateo, Calif., offers powerful integration between front- and back-office systems, while relying on partners for added vertical expertise, Pombriant said.

"I think it's very important to offer vertical solutions, especially for any company trying to be credible in hosted CRM or selling into the smaller or medium-sized business," Pombriant said. "I've always said one of the things that gives Siebel a big push is the tight integration of its analytics. I would expect companies using hosted verticals are going to find the same kind of benefits."

According to Rudin, Siebel is trying to simplify things for customers.

"We've already done the work for you," he said. "Then [we] give you the tools that can be customized beyond what we're providing."

The vertical versions of OnDemand will cost $100 per user per month, but during an introductory period, customers signing a one-year agreement will pay $70. That's the same price Siebel charges for the horizontal flavor of its hosted software.

Next Steps

Since Siebel re-entered the hosted arena, the company has: 

Acquired hosted CRM provider UpShot Corp.

Upgraded UpShot's software

Bought out hosted telephony firm Ineto Services Inc.

Launched its OnDemand offering in Europe

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