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Where is Siebel headed anyway?

·5 mins

Bang out of the blue, a friend drew my attention to a past post on Infosysblogs that predicts a cheery future for Siebel.

(broken link -

Now none of the Indian IT industry veterans are doing a fantastico job on innovation. So I typically do not follow a lot of blogs that claim to be official. Since I am one of those morons who predicts a dire future for Siebel but do my bit to push it forward in the market, I thought it will be fun to write about that a bit.

I found the post about the positive outlook for Siebel funny at best. The post misrepresents facts, and makes merry of the so called turn-around of Siebel in the middle-east. So here are a few of my “innovative” thoughts about the claims and points made in the original post.

1. Oracle acquisition did not help Siebel. #

Siebel did not grow when Oracle took over. While Siebel suffered through the recession of 2000, and did not quite clock maginifient growth, Siebel was still 8 times in 2005. Probably a turn-around of the business model would have made sense - but it was too big, and funds would have been an issue.

No organization likes to buy a product that is being acquired. Apart from the fact that you never know what the product direction would be, it is also true that Oracle does not have a tremendous reputation of letting the product grow.

We now know that intent for sure. Oracle has release a grand total of TWO major Siebel versions since 2005 - that is 9 years if you care not to count. Yes, there is a v8.2 release - but that supports only certain core industries.

2. Siebel was not a shining example of what CRM could do. #

As early as 2002, a string of CRM failures made people wary about Siebel. The customer satisfaction ratings can be safely assumed as “fudged” (all ratings are fudged anyway), and only a fraction of 3500+ customers seemed to be happy with Siebel. CRM implementations failed most of the times (and still do), but software being one of the reasons for those failures doesn’t seem right.

Thanks to the complexity of IT systems, it took a long time to implement anything and that did not help in quelling fears. You often ended up developing something that you loved, but business probably hated by the time of completion.

Siebel just gave too much power to IT, and that was not a good thing.

3. People are not happy about upgrades. #

Imagine this - you have spent a million or two, and waited an year to get your favourite CRM system. Now, the product vendor gets to decide that the older version is not suitable for you any more.

Either, you have to pay more for support (or suffer consequences when a browser/OS gets upgraded), or upgrade the software product.

Upgrades cost money. I have seen upgrades running from 3 months through 12-14 months because of the sheer complexity of upgrades, and the tendency to “deliver value” by adding enhancements during upgrade.

Sure, upgrades are fun. IT earns another million or two, and gets to fiddle with the latest products. What is business role in this whole thing again?

4. Co-existence of Fusion CRM with Siebel CRM is necessity #

After a “massive Engineering effort”, Fusion applications found the light of the day in 2011 after 5-6 years of development effort.

And, it was a massive failure. After 3 years and 8 major releases, I am yet to find a customer who will not scoff at the story. In spite of the strong backing from Oracle sales teams (and promise of big bonuses), there are very few major customers for Fusion CRM.

Oracle has no way out other than backing Siebel for some more time. The co-existence with Fusion CRM is a necessity rather than anything else.

5. Open UI is complex. #

While Siebel takes months to get right, Open UI adds on to the complexity. Yes, you can survive on the basic themes provided by Oracle. But, that isn’t fun. You can find a tonne of problems with the way Open UI works in Tree theme and some in tabbed theme. The customization is not all plug and play - it does behave different from normal development projects.

Additional languages will only increase your woes - strings in labels will never behave in the way they are expected to. In many ways, I found High Interactivity application of yore to be better performing than Open UI.

Open UI also opens the doors to newer technology professionals enter the world of Siebel, but without letting the older ones go.

And lastly.

6. People have every right to be stupid. #

Yes, there are a few projects out there that have absolute necessity to implement Siebel (regulatory problems, lack of a credible application for the industry, thousands of users and IT scare-mongering). In-house hosted applications also work out to be cheaper than their cloud counterparts.

But, if you consider only that - you are seeing it wrong.

The ONE reason why you should think at least 10 times before choosing Siebel is this - it is fraught with risks.

Apart from the fact of time and resources for an extended period in time, Siebel has an architecture that makes it difficult to start play and do frequent/quick changes to customize application for business.

I see new customers in Siebel - that is for sure. But that is a dwindling number. I strongly believe those proposals are led and accepted by people who have a strong connection to Siebel at some level  :).

IT continues to love Siebel - it was a God-send for spending big money on projects that have little success rates (more money for later).

_Disclosure: I work in Siebel CRM and sometimes recommend it to my clients. I love the software for what it can do, but pity the people who use it all wrong. _