Everything Siebel Systems Inc said during the opening day of its CustomerWorld conference was inevitably overshadowed by its pending acquisition by Oracle Corp, despite brave words from Siebel CEO George Shaheen about the company’s vision and progress on its SOA framework and analytics platform.
There is a whole new generation of CRM solutions on the horizon and we are pleased to say we’ll be bringing them to you, said Shaheen.
The new generation is driven by the need for organizations to focus on their customers because that is when the end game changes big time, he said. There is still an element of irony that the leading CRM company has to stress the importance of the customer, a theme that was kicked off as a tag line as recently as this year.
Siebel is working on a SOA framework, which it calls the Customer Adaptive Architecture. In common with the approach adopted by SAP and Oracle, it is being designed to support Siebel’s current offerings while also enabling customers to use new technology and applications as they appear. The objective is to use component technology to enable customers and partners to rapidly adapt their applications. The CAA also provides the foundation for Siebel’s analytics applications.
As far as the technology and applications needed to enable the framework, the company announced the availability of Siebel Component Assembly, previously known as Project Nexus.
Designed in collaboration with BEA Systems, IBM and Microsoft, it runs natively on .NET and J2EE application server platforms and provides a way for organization to build and customize CRM applications based on standards and modules.
It consists of the Foundation Workbench, a repository and editing environment for creating and modifying declarative meta data components, and five pre-built Component Sets that provide a starting point for developers, covering Foundations, Sales, Service, B2B for partner operations and B2C for customer operations.
The company also announced additions to the Siebel Analytics portfolio, Siebel Real Time Decisions. These are prebuilt analytic applications designed to address requirements for offer generation, cross-selling and customer retention management, as well as real time decision support and predictive analytics products offered as part as part of the Siebel infrastructure.
At the heart of Siebel’s analytics strategy is the plan to integrate real time predictive analytics and decision into operation applications and process, so that they are available with the right information, in the moment, as various Siebel executives described it.
This would mean, for example, that during a live interaction a call center agent would be being presented with a range of offers and action points to present to the customer, which would have been selected based on a combination of historical information and information garnered during the interaction.
This approach is not new, it was basis of what CRM provider Epiphany offered, for instance. But what Siebel hopes to do is marry the analytical with the operational so analytics is a core part of the operational system and business process, ensuring there is no need to switch out of the Siebel environment to access the analytics. By making it an infrastructure-level service it will also enable capabilities such as real time operation and event driven actions.
As far as time lines are concerned the first parts of the CAA are emerging now, which will form the foundation for all forthcoming Siebel products. Next year Siebel also plans to launch a series of CAA Solution Sets, which will package various new and existing technology components, applications and implementation methodologies to address industry specific needs or partner or customer requirements. Eventually, all Siebel’s offerings will form part of such solution sets.
In 2006, interoperability will be the core consideration, and the company plans to fuse its on-demand, on-premise and component offerings to create a single base. 2006 will also see a new interface emerge that will replace the three interfaces offered today, based on a role or tasks based metaphor with embedded analytics.
Significantly, Siebel also plans to integrate its user interface into Microsoft Office which would mean Office could serve as the primary interface for users. There are several reasons for this, it would meet Siebel’s ambition to make analytics available to all types of users and expand its potential customer base and would also provide a means of binging operational and analytical CRM together and link together the largely separate worlds of transactions with processes.
This is an area of growing interest. Earlier this year SAP and Microsoft announced their joint Mendocino project, which aims to do exactly that.
Of course, vision and product roadmaps are one thing but they are mean nothing if they cannot be executed and that is the problem as far as Siebel is concerned because there is no way of knowing how much of Siebel’s technology and vision will remain once Oracle has ingested the company, despite a complete about-turn in Oracle’s view of Siebel’s SOA strategy.
During George Shaheen’s keynote session, the company played a brief video in which Oracle’s Larry Ellison applauded the company and effused about its SOA architecture and how well it will dovetail into Oracle’s Fusion work which contrasts with its historic position.