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Siebel keeps at vertical build out

Siebel has developed new versions of its customer relationship platform for the consumer goods, medical products and government sectors.

Continuing its quest to establish Siebel 7 as the standard CRM platform for large enterprises, the CRM giant has...

unleashed three new vertically focused iterations of its suite.

The new Siebel 7 industry applications cover consumer goods, medical products and government.

Context

While many vendors are publicly jumping into the debate over whether CRM customers are better served by integrated suites or by stitching together best-of-breed applications, Siebel quietly assumes that its leading position shows the strength of the suite position. It then gets on with the business of attempting to capture more market share. The company's initial growth spurt came from signing up the generalists for CRM, particularly for sales force automation and call centers. To keep that growth up, Siebel reckons it must focus on vertical markets.

The CRM king has already tasted some success with its vertical suites for financial institutions, energy providers and automotive companies. Now it has turned its attention to several new verticals and new pieces of markets that it has already touched. Much of the technology in these releases is similar to Siebel's vanilla Siebel 7 suite, but the company has spent a lot of time building up the domain expertise to understand these markets and has applied that knowledge to the applications. Two of these markets are comparatively recession-proof -- people receive medical care no matter how well the economy is doing, and government, to the delight of many politicians, is still a growth industry, especially in the U.S.

Technology

Each of the packages features vertical-specific functionality, and they all ship with Siebel Analytics 7. The consumer goods package includes trade promotion simulation capabilities, designed to let trade marketers estimate the incremental lift from their promotions. The suite also recognizes the degree to which consumer goods salespeople use handhelds, with enhances to the retail execution capabilities of Siebel Sales Handheld -- this will give salespeople retail merchandising, presales, delivery and van sales functionality in their portable devices. Siebel has also included a pre-built data warehouse and bundled it with analytics applications for analyzing trade promotions, funds, retail audit and sales performance.

The suite aimed at the medical products industry contains a customer segmentation tool so that product marketing personnel can segment their profitable customers through integrated, multichannel analytics. The idea is that these marketers can then channel that information into more targeted, effective sales and marketing campaigns. Interestingly, the suite also includes a tool for pricing and contract management -- an area that Oracle has long crowed about its superiority in. Because this field relies heavily on field service, Siebel is highlighting the suite's robust field service technology for remote technicians.

The strategy for government is a little sketchier at this point. Siebel is still flogging its Siebel Solutions for Homeland Security, a set of applications designed to be used by numerous governmental agencies to anticipate, track, prevent and respond to national security threats. Siebel also has technology for helping public sector organizations to create and execute Internet-based outreach campaigns, develop customized service offerings and perhaps most importantly to allow self-service over the Internet. These applications, called Siebel .GOV, all feature a personalization engine. Beyond that, Siebel's approach to the vertical seems to be mostly applying domain expertise to its existing technology -- giving tax and revenue agencies, for example, a consistent view of all taxpayer interactions across different channels, as a method for ensuring more accurate handling of citizen inquiries.

Conclusion

Other CRM vendors are just now discovering the potential of 'verticalizing' their offerings. This means that Siebel has a strong lead over other vendors such as Pivotal, Kana and E.piphany in tackling industry-specific product sets. PeopleSoft has also adopted a vertical-friendly approach, but its CRM offerings are less battle-tested than those of Siebel. Meanwhile, Oracle has begun to identify verticals that it would like to play in, such as manufacturing. But for the foreseeable future, the vertical suite will be Siebel's calling card, and it is a strong differentiator.


the451 (www.the451.com) is an analyst firm that provides timely, detailed and independent analysis of news in technology, communications and media. To evaluate the service click here.

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