Siebel readies Web-based CRM suite

Siebel Systems is expected to showcase a fully Web-enabled version of its flagship customer relationship management (CRM)...

Siebel Systems is expected to showcase a fully Web-enabled version of its flagship customer relationship management (CRM) software at its annual user conference.

Users and analysts said the Siebel 7 technology would take centre stage at the Siebel Worldwide User Week 2001 conference. Siebel officials could not be reached for comment this week, but the vendor has said that the new release would not require client-level software and will add several features not available in the current Siebel 2000 suite.

While some Siebel users said they see the potential advantages of upgrading their CRM systems to Siebel 7, they also expressed a degree of caution about making the move.

Just how the new version will integrate with back-end systems and other business applications is of particular interest to Greg Augustine, director of e-commerce at TidalWire, a maker of storage hardware. TidalWire uses the Siebel 2000 sales application to handle account management, customer leads and other functions.

Augustine said there would be benefits to using the new release, such as easier maintenance for IT workers and the availability of enhanced reporting tools for end users who want to review customer records. But there are also "costs associated with migrating from one version to another," he added. "And this is a major upgrade, so we'll be doing lots of changes." For example, he said, changes in business processes would be needed.

It is likely that Siebel will offer special upgrade programmes and technical help in an effort to migrate Siebel 2000 client/server customers to the new Web-based architecture, said Erin Kinikin, an analyst at Giga Information Group.

But companies should not be too hasty to jump to Siebel 7, no matter how hard the vendor pushes the product, Kinikin said. Users "need to be cautious ... before kicking off large Web CRM deployment projects," she said.

Another user looking at Siebel 7 is Ken Casey, vice-president of operations at Alberta Treasury Branches, a bank that went live with a Siebel 2000 call centre application for the financial industry in July.

The bank now wants to roll out the call centre package to its branch offices but is looking to avoid the cost of installing client software on every desktop, Casey said. Instead, the company hopes to rely on a central server that offers browser-based access to the application for remote users.

"We decided the next level of the roll-out wouldn't have the same thick-client technology," Casey said.

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