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Siebel Releases On-Demand Software For Vertical Markets

New features include a "sales process coach" designed to feed salespeople with content relevant to their sales efforts.
Siebel Systems Inc. on Tuesday released the latest version of its on-demand customer-relationship-management software, highlighted by the first wave of editions customized for vertical industries, albeit several months behind schedule.

The company introduced on-demand versions for the financial-services and insurance, high-tech, life sciences, and automotive markets. Last year, Siebel's announced plans for release of those editions ranged between summer and fall of 2004.

Siebel executives offered no explanation for the delays during a conference call, but they did detail a variety of other new features and capabilities that were warmly received by customers and analysts on the call.

Primary among these is a "sales process coach" designed to feed salespeople with content relevant to their sales efforts. The company also has beefed up its on-demand analytics, offering 50% more subject areas than previous versions, and touts a sevenfold increase in business analysis capabilities.

Rounding out the latest release are four additional languages (Japanese, Chinese, Korean, and Portuguese) to complement the existing support for French, German, Italian and Spanish. "This isn't lipstick at the user-interface level," Bruce Cleveland, senior VP and general manager of Siebel's On-Demand and small-business units, said of the foreign-language capabilities. "This is deep functionality."

Cendant Corp.'s travel distribution services unit plans to take immediate advantage of the enhanced analytics and new territory-management and role-assignment capabilities, said Nigel Watson, CRM program manager for the Cendant unit, during the conference call.

Watson equated Siebel's on-demand analytics with a full-blown business-intelligence application and said the ability to be more specific in identifying the sales staffers' needs provides much-needed flexibility in supporting the company's 700-plus Siebel users.

"Having more granular control over the roles allows us to peel that back to what they really need to do their jobs," Watson said. The sales process coach is intriguing, but it will be awhile before the company figures out how to best make use of it, he said.

But Yankee Group analyst Sheryl Kingstone says the sales process coach is the most important part of the new release. She's been waiting for Siebel--and competitor Inc., for that matter--to get sales reps the information they need during the sales cycle, in the form of analyst reports, case studies, and other documents. "That's actually helping the sales rep, instead of management," Kingstone says.

Not to be outdone, Siebel rival Salesforce said Tuesday that its on-demand CRM app now has about 214,000 subscribers, which Kingstone says is tops in the market.