Customer 360 panel bashes Siebel, touts ERM

WASHINGTON -- Employee relationship management (ERM) may be the next step up from CRM and has already caught the eye of Siebel Systems as the next strategic move, according to a panel of industry analysts here at Customer 360.

However, what started out as a discussion of ERM, the process of planning, organizing, leading and controlling the activities of an organization to minimize the effects of risk on capital and earnings, quickly moved into a Siebel-bashing session. Panelists did admit that other companies are guilty of not being able to support the extreme customization of their software suites, as well.

Siebel sees companies like BroadVision moving into the ERM space, and Siebel wants a piece of that action, according to Tim Schmidt, managing partner at Encore Consulting Group. Yet this isn't a very good strategic move, and the company should focus more on its CRM software, he said.

Siebel's CRM package and its ERM effort are lacking in functionality, said Aaron Zornes, executive vice president and director, application delivery strategies, Meta Group. Yet Siebel does have the money to acquire smaller vendors with the technology that can make up for the fact that it does not have the functionality for true electronic human resources capabilities, he said.

"For Siebel to go into an area that's not their's puts it at a disadvantage," said Chris Fletcher, vice president and managing director, CRM, Aberdeen Group.

ERM is definitely a well-staged proposition, according to Zornes. The fact that Siebel is introducing it as part of their product suite isn't necessarily a bad thing because companies are buying Siebel products "regardless of the rationale. It's an overkill product for most of us," he said. For most companies, software from vendors like Remedy has sufficient functionality, he added.

Other alternatives to Siebel include products from Onyx and Pivotal.

According to Schmidt, only 22% of purchased Siebel software suites are installed. He thought Siebel should be focused on upping those numbers before undertaking ERM.

"A CRM application does not dictate CRM strategy," said Mary Wardley, director, e-commerce software, IDC. Automating processes that haven't been defined and installing Siebel on top of these processes "is like paving a cow path," she said, waving her hand in the air in sharp turns.

Other vendors also have problems when it comes to implementation, according to Schmidt. Companies do need to ask hard questions of themselves, evaluating whether they have the skill sets in their own company to implement and support the software and whether the vendor can support their efforts.

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