First of all, from my direct experience in helping hundreds of companies with the evaluation and selection of CRM software, I have come to the conclusion that most small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) tend to focus their attention far too quickly on completing software function and feature comparisons.
To be successful with a CRM on demand initiative, you should be to ask yourself:
- What are my business goals and objectives for the initiative?
- Do we need to improve our ability to get new customers?
- Is customer retention the issue?
- What can we do to keep customers from going elsewhere and even better, grow the business that they're doing with us?
Answering questions like these will accomplish two very important things:
- If you really want to profit from your CRM on demand investment, then developing plans that are specifically designed to improve your company's ability to get, keep and grow profitable customers must absolutely be your starting point.
- Get you thinking about the three key synergistic elements that affect the overall performance of your business; people (and their behavior), process and technology.
Your people and their behavior is the most critical element with regard to CRM success. Look at your own experience. Isn't it true that if you were to have a bad experience with a customer service agent or sales person, it could definitely influence your decision to stop doing (or not doing) business with a company? How about the CRM or call center software they were using? Does it matter to you if the person you were dealing with was using Siebel or Salesforce.com? Of course not! It's all about how you are being treated.
Evaluating your business processes is the next most important step to uncovering opportunities for profiting from CRM on demand. Sure, improving productivity can reduce costs, but the big bangs don't always come from just using technology to save some time, they come from more dramatic changes in the way things are done.
Finally, it's critical to remember that technology is nothing more then an enabler for improving behavior and process. If you don't know the specific behaviors and processes that your trying to address, and specifically how your planned changes in these areas will improve the company's profitability, then there's really no way to pick the best CRM on demand vendor for your company.
So, here's the bottom line:
- Start by defining the overall goals for your CRM initiative.
- Based on your goals, figure out what behaviors and processes will need to be improved upon to achieve your goals; and
- Look for CRM software that will be the "best" at helping you to make your desired changes.
Now, let's move on to your specific question regarding Siebel CRM OnDemand and Salesforce.com.
The CRM marketplace is fairly mature. So to effectively compete in this space, the feature set and functionality offered by any CRM software application must not be lacking in any significant way.
So it shouldn't be a surprise to learn that, as two of the industry leaders in B2B CRM marketplace, that although there are a few differences (that may or may not matter to any given company) between the features and functionality included in Siebel On Demand and Salesforce.com, they share many functions and features in common.
So, to do an effective comparison between Salesforce.com and Siebel On Demand, you'll need to go beyond looking for function and feature differences; you're going to have to examine how these two products compare with regard to their ability to help you to make the behavioral and process changes that you have determined are most in need of an overhaul.
Let's look at an example. Say that you are looking to improve on your customer service's handling of service requests and technical issues. Both products can help with this; they contain similar data views (screens) and fields; and offer similar reports and analytics. The differences will not begin to reveal themselves until you look at the work process flows that are embedded into each solution. In other words, you've got to look at what each product will be like for your customer service people to actually use.
You may find that one product seems to be better suited to help companies that are much larger then yours; because they seem to assume that maybe three or four different people (at different levels of an organization) are going to be involved in handling the customer service process. Whereas, the other product may be better suited for a smaller company; a company that maybe only has two types/levels of people involved in the process.
With regard to Siebel and Salesforce.com as companies, there are also several differences in their strategic direction that you may want to take into consideration.
Siebel seems to be focusing on offering a variety of pre-designed, pre-configured industry-specific versions of their solution; whereas, Salesforce.com is focusing on making their horizontal CRM solution extremely easy to configure and customize so that it can be made to meet any of their customers' specific needs. Which approach is better? Sorry, I can't answer that. It depends on a number of factors that are going to be different for each company.
Secondly, Siebel is on a mission to fully integrate and combine their On Demand offering and their on-premise software. In other words a large company will be able to pick and choose where it would like to provide on-demand access to Siebel and where it would like to have on-premise software; all while allowing everyone in the company to share a common database; whereas, Salesforce.com is sticking with its "No software" mantra. Again, there's no right or wrong here, either approach can be the "best" approach for a given company.
I hope I haven't frustrated you with my answer to your question. But, when it comes down to evaluating and picking between the two products you're inquiring about, you can take a lot of shortcuts, but by doing so, you'll definitely increase the risk of picking the wrong one.
For more on evaulating Siebel CRM On Demand and Salesforce.com
This was first published in March 2005