Biggest Challenge

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

What was the biggest challenge when you got here? Siebels biggest challenge was to get growing again. So from a business standpoint, the biggest challenge we had was to grow again. In order to grow again, we needed to help ensure that all of our customers were successful in the use of our technology and products to help them solve business problems, in short, to provide business value to our customers. The third biggest challenge was to get a strategy and a leadership team in place that could get the growth engine going and begin to help deliver the business value to our customers.
Let me ask that question another way: What was the biggest thing holding Siebel back?
I think in many ways the biggest thing holding Siebel back was Siebel. Clearly the economic environment has been more difficult since the dot-com implosion, theres no question about that. Customers through that period of time have continued to spend money, but theyve wanted different things. Theyve wanted help in figuring out how to solve business problems; theyve wanted help in integrating and making less complex many of their application infrastructures. Siebel, because it had been so successful, continued basically down the same path of doing what had gotten them to be so successful. But in fact what customers were looking for had changed. And they needed to change with those changes in the customers. If somebody were to really get inside Siebel and look at how things have changed since youve been here, what do you think would be the most important things that would stand out as different? A: From my perspective, I think the biggest thing has been to open the environment up where people can express their thinking as to what needs to be done. Much more teamwork, much more empowerment, more respect for a larger number of peoples opinions and thoughts. And more of a focus on what do our customers really need from Siebel Systems. Tom Siebels still the chairman. How much do you consult with him, or has he pretty much stepped back and let you run the show?

I consult with Tom. Toms got a wealth of knowledge, and I leverage that and tap into that knowledge frequently. Tom doesnt run the business anymore; I run the business. But when you have someone of that knowledge around, you want to try to tap into that knowledge as much as possible. Some of that input I get from Tom I use— its very valuable—and other [input] I dont use.

How important is the hosted application services business—such as Siebel CRM OnDemand—to Siebels future? Is it the future of software?

I think its important to Siebels future for sure. Do I think its going to take over the software industry? No, I dont. ... Its important to Siebel because its important to our customers. Our customers want multiple ways of acquiring and deploying technology. They dont want just on demand. So my experience has been that our particularly large customers want a combination of things.

So in certain departments or certain geographies or certain functional areas, the on-demand model fits very well. Others, they want a traditional packaged application. And still others, they may want a highly customized application. So we think that the benefit of Siebel is that we can provide that capability in whatever format the customer wants for their business.

The most important thing is listening to what your customers want. And Im listening, and what theyre saying is, "I want a spectrum or wide variety of ways that I can acquire and deploy and maintain these applications." I just think its good business to be able to provide all three of those.

How big one is relative to the other two years from now, I dont know. I dont want to be flippant and say I dont care, but my view is the customer will decide that. Our job at Siebel is to ensure that we can deliver that capability the way they want it. So I am not a big evangelist saying, "You know, the rotation of the Earth is going to change here, and the suns going to come up in the west"—Im not into that. What Im into is, here are the requirements the customers have and Siebel as a company; their responsibility is to develop capabilities to help customers with those needs and solve those problems.

What is the current status of the next-generation platform development efforts?

We have been working on this for over two years. Tom and I did sort of the initial investment around J2EE [Java 2 Platform, Enterprise Edition]. Weve been working with Microsoft [Corp.] for almost as long a period of time. This is a fairly involved project to basically build out a services-oriented-architected set of products. The development effort there is proceeding; were investing more people in that. So Id say things are moving along.

What about availability?

We havent even gotten to availability. The only thing I can tell you is that as we begin to bring this capability to the market over the next several years—I underscore the words "several years"—this will not be one thing. It will be some big things. Its a capability we will develop over time—[it] will be compatible with our existing product lines, one; and, two, were going to continue to invest in the product lines that we have out there, our 7x product line.

I think theres only a couple of companies that are making this-size investment—SAP [AG]s making a big investment here, as you know, and Siebels making a big investment. PeopleSoft [Inc.] had started there; remember they did the big announcement with IBM last fall? Basically, thats what Siebel did two years ago with IBM. So we have been working on this for several years.

Next Page: "Project Green" comparison.


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