Cultural Differences

By eweek  |  Posted 2005-04-05 Print this article Print

What was the biggest cultural difference you found coming to Siebel from IBM?

In some respects, the culture was similar. Siebel has a very strong sales culture; IBM has a very strong sales culture. IBM is very professional; Siebel is very professional. IBM is very disciplined, a very process-driven company. In many ways, Siebel is very process-oriented and -driven.

Where the culture was different was that Siebel had really never gone through any kind of a downturn. They didnt have the experience of what thats like—how to deal with that, what are the managerial and leadership moves and changes that you need to make. So it was a culture that had only been used to being on a very rapid growth curve.

The culture associated with growth is different than the culture that needs to be associated with how you transform your business.

When you need to transform your business, you need to listen very carefully to your customers. You need to take that customer input and drive that into your future development, future products. You need to think about your partners, how your partner community—weve already talked about it—needs to be reoriented. You need to hold a mirror to your face and say, "Gee, what am I doing thats no longer relevant to the marketplace that I am competing in? Whats no longer relevant that Im doing in terms of what my customers now expect of me?"

In IBM, that is a normal way of thinking and approaching the business. Siebel had no experience in their culture of doing that.

The other big thing was Siebel was highly, highly centralized in that decisions were made by just a few people. Now IBM is also reasonably centralized, but much of the decision making and much of the innovation comes at the point of contact with customers and point of contact with the markets at IBM, and [at Siebel] not as much of that innovation came in the organization and came up through the organization. So it was a very top-down organization and culture as opposed to a bidirectional culture.

What is it now?

We are beginning to build more of that culture. That culture is not something that you turn a light switch on and off at night. Thats measured in years. Its affected by people that you bring in to your senior leadership teams. Half our senior leadership team is new over the last six or eight months. Its brought about by how decisions are made and how people are expected to behave. Its about core values.

We completely redid our core values in what we call Siebel Chapter 2. So our core values are geared toward [the idea that] our success is our customers success. Things like our commitment to our employees, to develop them and train them. So the culture becomes one of Siebel as an area, a company, an institution you can work for when you want to build and grow your skills and grow as a businessperson, as opposed to just a place that you want to go to sell software to make a couple bucks.

Its all about how we treat our customers—teamwork—so building a culture where we share ideas, a culture that we feed on each others strengths, as opposed to a culture that doesnt work in a cross-functional, across-team kind of way.

Next Page: Biggest challenge.


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