ABOUT THE VENDOR
Siebel Systems, Inc. provides an integrated family of eBusiness applications software, enabling multichannel sales, marketing, and customer service systems to be deployed over the Web, in call centers, in the field, through reseller channels, and across retail and dealer networks. Siebel Systems' sales and service facilities are located in more than 37 countries.
ABOUT THE CUSTOMER
TidalWire Inc. is a technical distributor specializing in storage networking connectivity products, information, and support. TidalWire Inc. became an independent corporation in April, 2001. TidalWire and its sister company, Akibia, Inc., a total service provider for eCRM applications and infrastructure, originated within the former Polaris Service company, which was founded in 1988 to provide infrastructure management solutions for mission-critical UNIX environments. Through its relationship with EMC as an authorized distributor for "E-Lab Tested" Storage Area Networking (SAN) interconnect products, Polaris Service in 1997 expanded into the storage networking market. As steady growth and SAN specialization continued, the TidalWire entity was formed.
ABOUT THE TECHNOLOGY
Siebel Systems' seventh major release of Siebel eBusiness Applications, Siebel 7, provides a suite of packaged applications for customer relationship management and employee relationship management. The Siebel 7
TidalWire had to decide between implementing the standard application provided by Siebel versus customizing the implementation to totally reflect TidalWire's specific CRM needs, utilizing Akibia as its implementation partner. The decision was made to implement the standard application quickly, learn the benefits of CRM, and customize as necessary on an ongoing basis. SearchCRM spoke with Greg Augustine, VP of information systems at TidalWire, about the project.
SearchCRM: Why did TidalWire decide to evaluate CRM solutions?
Augustine: We didn't have a system in place to do things like tracking customers in an efficient manner. To use an analogy, we were basically working out of notebooks. The problem is, when you turn the page in a notebook, you rarely turn backwards. So unless it's a customer who's ordering a lot from you, you don't understand the whole breadth and scope of your relationship with them.
SearchCRM: Why did you choose Siebel?
Augustine: We had other options with what we were trying to do, but we knew that Siebel was the system for tracking accounts and orders and quotes and contacts. We also had a vision at the time to do something on the Web. We could have gone out and built a separate Web site with an e-commerce engine, which would have required us to integrate multiple systems. But Siebel had an up-and-coming e-commerce piece to it, and that would allow us to have everything on one system.
SearchCRM: How did the implementation go?
Augustine: The implementation is never done -- in other words, we're always enhancing the system. But thus far, it's gone very well. We've completed three major phases. The first one was in the fall of 2000, where we brought up the basic vanilla Siebel. In December of that year we brought on the order capability as well as the e-sales component, and made a bunch of minor changes. Then last summer we used that e-sales piece on our Web site. Now we're in the midst of doing two things: We're beefing up our Extranet and integrating our Siebel CRM system with our logistics partner system.
Integrating Siebel with our Web projects was a big challenge. Siebel's e-sales product at the time was not as mature as some other Web products on the market. Getting it to do some of the things we needed it to do -- which included not only functionality, but also some look and feel navigation -- was a major challenge for us.
SearchCRM: How did you overcome that challenge?
Augustine: The credit there goes to Akibia. They're our integration partner, and they took the time to be creative and think out of the box on how we could get Siebel to do some of the things we wanted it to do. And we were very, very successful at it.
SearchCRM: Can you give me an overview of the CRM solution?
Augustine: From a sales perspective, our customers can contact us in multiple ways. When they contact us via phone, our sales reps go into the system and create an account and hopefully a quote to try and satisfy the prospect. Customers can also request quotes from us via the Internet. That generates a transaction, and we use Siebel to generate workflow, which notifies our different sales representatives of an online request for a quote. We usually follow up with a phone call to that person. The third part is our Extranet. We have some strategic customers who we have really good partnerships with, where we'll allow them to actually go in and create orders online. There's not as much interaction with the sales reps unless they have questions.
From a marketing and a business development standpoint, we like to use the system because we have all our contacts in there. It might be vendors that we want to work with, or our customers and companies that we work with.
We use the system to generate a lot of e-mails. We're able to segment who we send them out to based on how we've categorized them in Siebel. We approach them differently, so it's a little bit more customized.
We also use Siebel to report and view the information. While it used to take a matter of days to gather information about a customer, we're now able to get that information relatively quickly out of Siebel because it's all right there.
SearchCRM: What kind of training did you have?
Augustine: When the system went live in October and when it went live again in December with the orders piece, the Akibia team helped put together some training. They delivered it because they were the experts in the system, but as we moved further down the line we started having them teach one of our sales associates the functionality -- sort of the train the trainer approach. So they were there to answer questions and help, but we wanted to eventually be able to do the training ourselves.
SearchCRM: Did you experience any internal resistance?
Augustine: Whenever you're entering in new ideas and processes, you're going to get a little bit of pushback from people, specifically on the sales team as they struggle to get used to some of the constraints put on them. Siebel is a very flexible system, but when you go from letting people track things however they want, with notebooks and files, to actually forcing them to use the system, it's going to seem more rigid.
A lot of it became a question of teaching them the value that the system had. You have to get them to see what's in it for them as well as what their customers are going to see as a result in terms of values.
SearchCRM: Have you seen ROI?
Augustine: I think so. When you look at some of the ability of reps to follow up on quotes and the consistency that we're able to apply in terms of pricing and price lists, all that leads to a tremendous amount of ROI, even if it's just in cutting down the amount of manual time that you're spending on things.
SearchCRM: What advice would you give to companies thinking of starting a similar project?
Augustine: I would say that it's definitely been advantageous to us to use an outside integration partner. Make sure you choose them wisely and that they're familiar with the system.
Linda Formichelli's writing has appeared in Woman's Day, Wired, Writer's Digest, Family Circle, Psychology Today. Contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org, or check out her Web site http://www.twowriters.net
This was first published in April 2002