Siebel quietly crossed 20 years recently! In the software product industry someone may say it’s enough. I also feel the same.

Siebel came to the world in an arguably controversial way in the early 90’s– precisely in 1993 but took the world by storm by end of 90’s. It became the career builder of many IT professionals across sales, services, alliances and engineering. It enlightened the sky of customer facing professionals, challenged their behaviours, changed them yet died unknown.

In the late 90’s I had institutional sales experience under my belt. I was thinking of getting into the ERP ladder. Got a chance to work with SAP too and implemented it in my then company which was manufacturing industrial batteries. But yet again I started thinking if the back end work would be good enough or should I dive into something where I would have customer touch points.

As I was scanning the market, Siebel came on my way end 90’s and early 2000. At that time, IT services were abuzz with CRM as the next big thing after ERP. I could see that Siebel was the bright rising star on the horizon of CRM. I decided to join the bandwagon in no time as I could see the gap and with a huge desire to fill the gap with my sales expertise. Out of curiosity, I also took training on Siebel SFA, in Hyderabad, India in 2000.

It was a great journey after that with Siebel for the next few years. Siebel emerged from simple Sales Force Automation (SFA) to Services, contact centre, analytics and then as marketing tool. It transformed itself from simple Chart server with jazzy graphs on the Siebel SFA screen to a complete analytics engine. Siebel also worked on its functionality and technical components. In all senses, Siebel became a great product to work on. People around the solution loved it as a career builder! Finally, Siebel was sold to Oracle, unexpectedly though to many, to get integrated with ERP for larger enterprise need.

But the question was… Did people like it? If yes, then who liked it? Business Users? Business which pumped money into large monolithic implementations? Or IT departments? The response, I bet, would be mixed across the great divide of ‘Business’ and ‘IT’! Millions of dollars were spent by the global corporations. Most of them wanted to change their organizations, culture and bring in transparency. Some even went ahead and stuck posters on its walls and notice boards ‘Did you Siebel today?’ to change themselves!

I personally thought Siebel was so way ahead in evolution that at times it looked like an arrogant personality with a pricey hat on its head. I loved it as a tool and professional vehicle. But I also saw people who did not. Some thought it is too large. Some thought it as an invasion to privacy. Some found it complex and inflexible.

By 2007-08 CRM had started giving ways to BPM as users wanted flexibility to change the business processes on Siebel and of course, at a lower cost as well. Technology changed. Nature of investments changed. Too many unpleasant stories came out on Siebel as Dollar guzzling inflexible product. Risk appetite of the customers reduced. Maverick ideas generated around CRM and new startups commenced their journey, differently though. Salesforce.com and a host of SAAS CRM providers came up at a faster pace than anticipated by Siebel. By the time the new age products grabbed Siebel customers in some areas of business, however small, the inflexible Siebel started losing its grip. Hype started in the market on SAAS. Siebel’s ‘on demand’ journey was not kind of fully accepted by the market. The only way for Siebel possibly to survive was being integrated with Oracle’s ERP stack and Fusion architecture.

Many Fortune 1000 or FTSE 500 organizations have Siebel from its earlier days. They would continue to have it as it is difficult to deny the investments made into Siebel. I suppose it will remain for some more time in the world of software till Oracle or any other company completely changes its look n feel and the core of the product.

Sudip Mazumder

Head – Consulting

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Posted by Sudip Mazumder

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