Companies that have found CRM implementations frustrating and costly may get some relief from Siebel Systems Inc. and SAP AG upgrades that promise new business process mapping capabilities.
Version 7.5 of Siebels namesake customer relationship management suite, which will be announced this week, features a platform for integrating Siebel applications with other vendors software and defining and executing shared business processes among disparate applications. The platform, called UAN (Universal Application Network), also transforms the processes into Web services using XML-based technologies.
As described by Siebel Chairman and CEO Tom Siebel in a keynote address at the DCI CRM Conference here last week, UAN supports Universal Markup Language, a visual language for describing business processes, and Business Process Execution Language, for executing business processes. The San Mateo, Calif., companys upgrade also supports XML and XML Schema Documents, for representing these business processes as Component Object Models. In addition, it supports Extensible Stylesheet Language Transformations, for transforming the COMs into Web services.
Web services are a key component in connecting business processes and integrating applications.
"Companies who survive and prosper by the end of the decade are the companies who will have solved the [application integration] problem," Siebel said.
The Siebel upgrade will include increased support for business processes unique to vertical industries, a Siebel official said.
Siebels business-processes-based vision also raises the specter of software that will require companies to change their business processes to fit the software, rather than the other way around.
"If [Siebel] is saying that companies will have to conform to certain business processes in order to make use of the software, thats kind of messed up," said a consultant who works on Siebel implementations and spoke on the condition of anonymity. "Good luck getting more than a handful of customers to do that or even making such a dream work in the real world."
Enterprises are also apprehensive about adding new business processes, since they make implementations of software more complicated. When implementing new back-office applications from SAP three years ago, Ray Warren, customer service manager at manufacturing company DanFoss A/S, faced this conundrum.
"If we were not using the processes in our old system, we did not try to overcomplicate the issue by bringing in extra SAP functionalities that were out of our normal business processes at a time when things were difficult enough already," said Warren, in Cheshire, England.
For SAPs part, MySAP CRM 3.1, which will be introduced this week, looks to help users take advantage of business processes defined in Version 3.0 of the software by letting administrators pre-configure user roles, including managerial and transactional users, according to sources familiar with SAPs plans. Companies that want to take advantage of this MySAP 3.1 functionality, called PeopleCentric CRM, must also use Version 5 of SAPs Enterprise Portal.
Officials at SAP, of Walldorf, Germany, declined to comment.