Siebel Pushes New Products, But Stays Quiet On Oracle Integration

Siebel execs talked of big ideas like "customer-adaptive solutions" at the company's user conference. But many customers just want to know what Oracle's plans are for the CRM vendor.
It appears Siebel Systems' latest technology investments will survive once Oracle finishes swallowing the customer-relationship-management software pioneer.

Oracle is acquiring Siebel, but Siebel executives says they've been assured that new technology Siebel has been working on will be included in future Oracle product lines. So Siebel executives told customers gathered at its CustomerWorld conference in Boston on Monday to expect a new-look suite of products that will feature a rejiggered architecture and a common role-based user interface shared by its core on-premises software and its growing on-demand offering.

It also unveiled a key piece of the new architecture -- its "assembly component workbench," formerly known by the code-name "Project Nexus" -- that's a set of services-based application development tools that run on .Net and J2EE app servers.

In his brief comments to open the conference, Siebel CEO George Shaheen made it clear that Siebel expects to continue being a CRM pioneer after it becomes part of Oracle. "The CRM space has been defined," said Shaheen. "But what's next? What's the next phase of CRM? Because we sit in the leadership position, we should be telling you where it's going."

Shaheen is pitching the idea of "customer-adaptive solutions"--his name for technologies that are equipped to provide real-time decision-support to people working with customers. So, employees can tap customer and operational data to help companies trigger business decisions to head off problems and meet customer needs. That requires more nimble access to data, and to that end, the company also is rolling out new business analytics products designed to provide the kind of insight needed to anticipate--and act on--expected customer needs.

Siebel's touting the business-intelligence tools as having simpler user interfaces that allow more employees to build their own role-specific reports. IT people should be "doing more high-value things than being in the report-of-the-minute club," Larry Barbetta, senior VP and general manager of Siebel Business Analytics, said during his opening keynote for Siebel's simultaneous BI Summit.

While it all sounds logical, Siebel customers weren't exactly doing back flips over the emerging roadmap. Attendees greeted the larger product strategy, described during the main conference keynote session, with modest applause. Clearly they were expecting more from Siebel execs, who were addressing customers for the first time since Oracle's $5.9 billion acquisition of Siebel was announced last month. "What did I get for my two hours?" asked Mark Chauvin, a former Siebel employee who's now an IT project manager at Honeywell. Chauvin expressed disappointment that Siebel didn't provide more perspective on the Oracle deal beyond a 30-second video clip of Larry Ellison welcoming Siebel customers into the Oracle fold.

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