Siebel Systems, leading provider of industry-specific CRM software, plans to further enhance the functionality and value of its vertical market solutions with the spring release of Siebel's 7.7 CRM software. Curt Lockton,
But for a customer planning to purchase CRM software for his own particular industry, the overriding question remains: Is Siebel 7.7 the right investment for my company? The answer, of course, depends both on the industry and on the customer's unique priorities.
With vertical packages for over 20 different industries from automotive to telecommunications, the odds are high you'll find a Siebel solution to meet your needs, no matter what the industry. However, analysts caution that Siebel's success in the vertical marketplace doesn't translate to equal levels of functionality across the board.
"They certainly have breadth and, in some cases, depth. I'd say a good number of their vertical solutions are fairly deep products dedicated to specific verticals, whereas others are more veneer on top of a horizontal platform and require more development from Siebel," says Steve Bonadio, senior program director, technology research services, Meta Group.
According to Siebel's Lockton, Siebel's vertical solutions function well across most industries including financial services, communications, energy, manufacturing and automotive, hospitality, life sciences, and consumer and public sectors. Since discrete manufacturing was one of Siebel's original markets, Siebel has been able to build strong horizontal CRM functionality as well -- providing software for customers in high tech, medical devices and automotive industries. Bonadio, among other experts, agree -- Siebel offers effective CRM software both vertically and horizontally. Still, obtaining ROI from a Siebel solution is contingent upon several factors, including an organization's primary business strategy.
Sheryl Kingstone, CRM analyst with the Yankee Group, points out that Siebel isn't always the most effective CRM product every company. Kingston sites the insurance industry as an example. It is a top vertical for Siebel because it is very sales driven, notes Kingstone, and it depends heavily on insurance brokers and direct selling agents. Not every insurance company considers sales to be a top priority for investing in a CRM package and therein lies cause for caution.
"If a company cares more about lead and opportunity management, territory management and analytics, then Siebel wins," she says. "But if a company cares more about integrated sales workflow around the policy lifecycle in order to streamline data entry and operations and enable straight-through processing, then they will lead with a more vertical solution built from an operations or back-office approach, which includes some sales and marketing. NaviSys, for example, has integrated sales and marketing based on workflow around critical insurance issues like policy administration, illustrations and quotations and underwriting."
In 7.7, Siebel has announced plans to enhance the functionality of several of its vertical packages. Some of the key additions include:
Automotive: One new feature is the capability to manage the lifecycle of auto leases. "When the lease comes up, it can generate a campaign to extend it," explains Lockton. The package will also offer better integration between the discounting and collection processes, dealer showroom management functionality, and collaborative marketing capabilities between brand and dealer partners.
Banking: Siebel is adding a customer console for branch bank representatives to access an enhanced profile of customers, making it easier for reps to up sell customers and introduce them to new products, for instance. "It's a quick look at a screen, which can capture referrals, display servicing requests for specific customers, cross sell and give you all the details of the customer's account, including the customer's photograph," says Lockton. The company is also adding functions for asset financing and targeted call-list management.
Communications and media: This segment will see new ATM, frame release and network-ordering functionality, as well as enhanced order management, order integration and billing procedures. Other improvements include integrated data mining and analytics capabilities to enable customer churn management.
Consumer sector/retail: Enhancements in sales volume planning, trade promotions and customer loyalty management are among the new features slated for Siebel's retail solution.
Energy (oil, gas and chemicals): The energy package will offer billing integration with SAP IS-U and legacy applications, one-contact service resolution, oil field service enhancements, and pricing and contract management features.
Hospitality, transportation and travel: One key addition is a group sales and events management module that will enable hotel managers to track space usage associated with a specific event, and conduct profitability analysis on each event. "You can tie an entire event to all the assets in your properties, whether it's the rooms people are sleeping in, conference rooms, ballrooms, etc., and understand the profit threshold of an event," explains Lockton. Users will also find a loyalty program feature for managing "frequent flier" customers.
Life sciences: This industry vertical will see improvements in sales planning and analysis, contract compliance management, and clinical study execution.
Public Sector: Government agencies upgrading to 7.7 will find improvements in electronic case management, Section 508 accessibility compliance and Homeland Security analytics.
Siebel is also focusing on its Universal Application Network (UAN) to assist its vertical push by providing integration with legacy and back-office applications. UAN currently contains more than 120 industry-specific business processes, including those for the automotive, communications, energy, financial services, healthcare, high-tech manufacturing, insurance, media and public-sector markets.
"UAN is going to be a major component of their strategy going forward, as it has for the past couple of years," notes Denis Pombriant, managing principal of Beagle Research Group, a CRM research firm based in Stoughton, MA. "In areas such as manufacturing, for instance, where there is a strong ERP component, UAN gives Siebel the ability to compete on a level playing field by allowing the customer to configure a best-of-breed solution with the best ERP product for their needs and the best CRM product for their needs."
This was first published in January 2004