Is Siebel Dead?

Long Road to Nowhere

Is Siebel dead, or on the load road to nowhere? For some of the CRM enthusiasts this is a question long answered. If not already dead it is certainly on its way. For the other camp, especially those who have substantial investments in the Siebel product (as customers, IT vendors or consultants), the answer is confusing at best. The reality of course is not simple.

I have been an ardent developer/follower of Siebel applications for a long time, and also take every opportunity to look around at how other CRM products are faring in the market. From time to time I do try them out to get a feel of things but execute Siebel projects to pay my bills. So I hate to say this – “Siebel is increasingly becoming irrelevant for today’s world in most situations (if not all)”.

Let’s look at a few facts from technology stand-point:

  • For more than 5 years the improvements have been incremental at best. That is an eternity in the IT industry, especially when you look at the way technology has changed leaps and bounds in this time
  • Usability has never been a strong point of Siebel applications, and time has made it so much more harder to catch up
  • Siebel applications for org-wide consumption are still not supported on browsers other than Internet Explorer. The Siebel portal applications are poorly implemented, and already on the way out – thanks to the new eCommerce on Oracle Fusion framework
  • There is no solution for mobile devices. The interim solutions from Oracle were quietly buried. With the product stuck in a older world, the incentive to get the right mobile product for Siebel is too low and fraught with risks
  • Development still averages more than 6 months. There are no good tools to ensure customization is on the right track. There is high reliance on system implementer to get it right
  • Multilingual, multi-locale deployments still take considerable time
  • Integration with other systems is marred with too many complexities,  and options to get it wrong
  • Upgrades requires a minimum of 3-6 months, and needs substantial expertise to get it right
  • Fusion Applications were prematurely announced as next generation CRM and the struggle to get it out to the market continues to this day
  • While all improvements seem to be put on hold in Siebel, Fusion is no where near to catch up. There is no clear direction to help customers make an informed choice
  • Siebel is one of the most expensive products in the market. There are not many reliable, proven and reasonably priced SaaS models for Siebel

It is quite easy to argue that Siebel is a much more powerful CRM product as compared to its competitors, is flexible to customer needs and therefore may provide more opportunities to “screw up”. But the fact of the matter today is complexity, coupled with inadequate clarity on success, will not sell in the market. We increasingly see a lot of CRM projects (especially from the larger enterprise groups) that would have blindly followed the Siebel route, are today spending considerable time on evaluating competing products. Although CRM investments have see an increase, big, badass projects in Siebel are increasingly hard to come by.

But don’t write-off Siebel just yet..

  • The industry-specific out-of-the-box capabilities of Siebel CRM are difficult to beat
  • For some industries (e.g. telecom), there are only few alternatives to the all-in-one solution of Siebel
  • OpenUI technology (available as of v8.1.1.9) has the potential to break the shackles of browser dependencies, and also breathe new life into the usability part of the application
  • There are still a lot of people within the industry who trust Siebel 🙂

So, what do you as a Siebel technologist do in the time of change? Here’s my 5 point strategy –

  1. Learn how to get CRM right, not the technology part alone
  2. Be in touch with basics – what features of your favorite programming language have you used in the last 2 weeks?
  3. Delve deeper into other CRM products. SugarCRM is an open-source product, SFDC provides developer access free of cost, some of the products on Dynamics CRM have a pre-release version available to try
  4. Look out for opportunities with strong future trends and related to CRM – technology enabling leveraging social media, mobility or analytics
  5. Keep your finances intact, don’t get into too many debts 🙂