Lawrie Rewrites the Siebel Book

CEO makes smaller businesses a priority and institutes cultural changes to address customer, partner and leadership needs.

/zimages/2/102236.jpgIts been nearly a year since longtime IBM executive Michael Lawrie replaced founder Tom Siebel as CEO at Siebel Systems Inc. In that time, Lawrie has increased Siebels focus on small and midsize businesses, made customer success a bigger priority, and sought to change the top-down culture at the company. So far, so good: Siebel reversed a 13-quarter trend of falling revenues in the fourth quarter of last year. Recently, Lawrie sat down with eWEEK Senior Writer Dennis Callaghan at the companys San Mateo, Calif., headquarters to discuss his authorship of "Siebel Chapter 2."

Youve made the SMB space a priority for Siebel. Is that something you learned at IBM, or is that just the market reality for all companies right now?

I was responsible for SMB at IBM, so, yes, I have a long history in that marketplace. But, fundamentally, it is a marketplace that has enormous potential, its highly fragmented and many of Siebels offerings fit the needs of the customers in that marketplace.

But we had to rethink our distribution strategy; we had to rethink the products that we built so that the products were applicable to the requirements of that marketplace; we had to put an organization together to go focus on that, a financial model appropriate to the small- and medium-business marketplace. So, yes, all those things I was very familiar with and certainly have used some of that knowledge to help us begin to build the organization and products necessary for Siebel to compete successfully in the marketplace.

In the late 1990s, IBM did a lot to build out the extensive partner program they have today. Its been a very successful program since then. How much has that or is that going to affect the way Siebel deals with partners?

I think of partners the way I think of customers. Thats No. 1. Its a two-way relationship. They have needs. If Siebels going to be a good partner, IBMs going to be a good partner, we have to satisfy those needs. IBM or Siebel has needs, and our partners have to help us fulfill those needs. So its about listening, its about creating a win-win, so business partners business can grow and prosper, and so Siebel or an IBM can grow and prosper. As long as you keep those things in mind, then you approach business issues and business problems in a way that can be very positive and helpful to both organizations.

/zimages/2/28571.gifMichael Lawries attempts to make over Siebel are winning praise from inside and outside Siebel. Click here to read more.

Will Siebels partner program start to resemble IBMs in any way?

Along those two criteria where we treat partners like customers and we listen to them and we respond to their needs, you bet.

Is that something you found had been neglected when you got here?

I think because of the shift in the marketplace and the emerging requirements of our customers, it required an update to the relationships that we have with our business partners, yes.

Next Page: Cultural differences between Siebel and IBM.