Siebel 7.8, CEO Shaheen Debut at EMEA User Week

New CEO George Shaheen says the company is "back with a vengeance," ready to overtake competitors in the hosted CRM space and changing its focus from software to "solutions."

Siebel launched Version 7.8 of its namesake suite Monday at its EMEA User Week conference in Barcelona, but the star of the show was new CEO George Shaheen, who spoke to the public and took questions from the media for the first time.

The new version of the software extends Siebel Systems Inc.s capabilities in advanced order management and embedded analytics.

At a press conference at the show, Siebel Executive vice president David Schmaier said Version 7.8 was designed to manage the "perfect order," one thats configured and tailored to customer needs and shows up at the right place and at the right time.

"It takes a [customers] needs assessment and delivers the right products at the right prices through the right channel," said Schmaier.

But the news of the version 7.8 release was overshadowed by the appearance of Shaheen, who was named to replace Michael Lawrie as Siebels new CEO last Wednesday. Most of the questions at the press conference went to Shaheen and involved the future direction of the company.

/zimages/6/28571.gifClick here to read more about former Siebel CEO Michael Lawries departure.

"We intend to be here next year and for years beyond that," said Shaheen, vowing that Siebel would not rest on its laurels, even as the company announced at the conference that it had surpassed the 3-million-users mark.

"Should anybody think this is a company sliding down a hill, its not," Shaheen continued. "We have much more going for us than someone standing on the sideline might realize. I think we can do better, I think our board thinks we can do better, and we are going to do better."

When asked if Siebel would be acquired, Shaheen gave the standard reply that he had a responsibility to do whatever was in the best interests of the companys shareholders.

As he did in a conference call with analysts last week, Shaheen said that Siebels board of directors would decide what to do with the companys $2.2-billion cash horde, listing acquisitions and continued investments in products and services among the possibilities. He also spoke again of the need to align the companys infrastructure with the size of its business, without giving any specifics of what that might entail. He did say however that layoffs and deep cutbacks in spending were not necessarily in store for Siebel.

"I never saw companies slash their way to better performance," he said.

Shaheen and other Siebel executives at the press conference vowed to catch and surpass Inc. in the hosted-CRM applications space.

"I think we took our eye off the ball and let a competitor get entrenched in our space when we were focused on our traditional business," said Shaheen. "And I would say shame on us for that. But were back with a vengeance, so stay tuned. We take that space very seriously, its an integral strategic part of our success. Somebody has our attention, but our act is getting together. Im pleasantly surprised at the increased speed at which were making up lost ground."

Shaheen restated a theme that Lawrie frequently sounded off on: that Siebel is again focused on ensuring its customers success.

"In the past, we didnt step up as demonstrably as we could or should; our commitment is much more actively involved and more focused on that message today," Shaheen said. "In my mindset, thats what the new Siebel is all about."

/zimages/6/28571.gifRead more here about customer reaction to the changes in Siebels strategy begun under former CEO Michael Lawrie.

Shaheen seemed less impressed with Lawries vision of this phase of Siebels existence being "Chapter 2" and bristled at suggestions that he would start a "Chapter 3" at the company.

"I dont look at this in terms of chapters, I look at this in terms of, Is this company evolving?" he said. "This company was founded on a vision—that an IT platform could be built to serve customers, serve relationships. It was very product focused, and the result was the development of clearly the widest, deepest set of customer relationship solutions in the marketplace. This evolution is taking that product and augmenting it with other skill sets and domain expertise with hopefully a more predictable level of success."

Shaheen said that Siebel was evolving from a software company to a "solutions" company, but said that the companys efforts to provide more services wouldnt replace its current relationships with service providers like IBM Global Services, Accenture Ltd. and Deloitte & Touche USA LLP.

"We want to make sure our service offerings are deep, effective and involved in projects to deliver success," he said.

Shaheen dismissed enterprise-software suite vendors like SAP AG as competitors and said most of Siebels competition was still from custom-built projects. He said Siebel needs to offer more customization itself to be more attractive to customers.

"We have to offer the ability to componentize features and functions so customers can build applications on a platform thats sustainable and upgradeable over time," Shaheen said.

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