But Lawrie has his work cut out for him. While the company returned to profitability at the end of 2003, its total revenues still have dropped year-over-year for 11 straight quarters.
Demand for Siebels on-site installation of its enterprise CRM applications developed over the past decade has declined as companies look for less expensive alternatives that dont require huge upfront investments for installation, development and training.
Growth in the future will come in the area of hosted CRM products sold by application service providers (ASPs). Siebel knows this and has responded with its own CRM OnDemand service, built in part with technology acquired from its recent acquisition and assimilation of UpShot Corp. Another area that is going to continue to grow is sales and business analytics, which Siebel is urgently building up.
But Siebel faces intense competition in these areas from Oracle Corp., Salesforce.com, PeopleSoft Inc. and a swarm of others. Its not going to be easy for Siebel to grow fast enough to fend them off.
Lawrie is going to have to move quickly and use his industry connections and management expertise to direct growth toward the hosted CRM and analytics sweet spots.
He knows hell have to overcome intense resistance to long product-installation and return-on-investment cycles. Companies these days are more likely to expect to work productively with their new software in a matter of a few weeks, or two to three months at most.
"We also know what is expected of software companies and applications software companies is shifting," Lawrie said this week while discussing the challenges Siebel Systems faces. "Customers are demanding more value, demanding more expertise and demanding more return on investment ... in a shorter period of time."
Siebels task, Lawrie said, is to stay focused on delivering value quickly so it can "separate from the pack" of competitors and be a part of a new generation of leadership that emerges in the technology industry.
With Lawries hiring, Siebel has found an executive who has the best chance of anyone to lead the company into a new period of growth. But in the current market environment, there is no guarantee that even the best available manager in the industry can keep the competition at bay.