Siebel Systems, on the verge of a $5.8 billion takeover by Oracle Corp., announced plans last week to roll out products based on its Nexus project that puts Web-enabled customer relationship management (CRM) tools in the hands of business managers.
Some analysts are proclaiming the project enables business managers to model their business outcome, a step in Web-enabling Siebel's CRM products by bringing together a suite of Siebel componentized applications. The tools allow managers to create a set of Web-enabled, custom applications.
Oracle plans to continue product support for Siebel's CRM technology and eventually merge the components with Oracle's Fusion middleware, Web-enabling the entire CRM suite.
Meanwhile, Siebel has outshined SAP, which has been a latecomer to the CRM market, according to William Band, a consulting analyst with Cambridge, Mass.-based Forrester Research Inc.
"SAP has been a follower in CRM, but it has gained a lot of recent market share with product improvements that have put pressure on Siebel," Band said. "Siebel has had better industry customization and has been stronger in the area of customer data management."
Industry analysts will be watching how Oracle merges Siebel functionality into its Fusion-branded CRM offering. The process could give SAP a short-term advantage, Band said.
"The basic architecture is quite different from Oracle's CRM product, so it's going to be a big challenge to bring those two pieces together," Band said.
Andrew Leigh, the SAP executive in charge of strategy for mySAP CRM, is responding to Project Nexus, calling Siebel's plans ambitious, but not in line with the way companies are looking to buy CRM software.
"We have tremendous respect for Siebel as a CRM vendor," Leigh said. "But CRM is no longer a siloed best-of-breed choice for enterprises. SAP's vision is a much more broad initiative toward SOA."
Siebel's plans include rolling out a set of component assembly tools to build custom CRM applications that run natively on both .NET and Java 2 Platform, Enterprise Edition.
The tools would address customer-facing processes and include Siebel's "Foundation Workbench," which provides a repository and editor to create and modify meta data components.
The Foundation Workbench can also import and export code-based services to and from development environments, such as Eclipse and Visual Studio, and run on either .NET or J2EE application servers provided by BEA Systems, IBM or Microsoft.
Siebel also plans to release prebuilt component sets that address sales and service processes.
"Siebel is making its applications more able to be assembled as a component with a particular business process," said Sheryl Kingstone, CRM program manager with Boston-based Yankee Group. "This business modeling engine will increase business outcome decisions and the impact they have on their technology processes."
Companies have been actively seeking tools that use Web services to help manage specific modules based on existing business processes.
An overwhelming number of respondents to a recent Yankee Group survey said they are seeking Web services tools to help integrate processes and enable service-oriented architectures. A large number said they were looking for the tools because they were beginning customer-facing application projects, according to the Yankee Group survey.
SAP's Leigh said SAP already has many of the features Siebel plans to release from its Nexus project. SAP has component assembly tools, allowing customers to extend and customize SAP applications to specific business processes, he said.
"NetWeaver can be extended with commonly used development tools such as Java 2 Platform, Enterprise Edition; Microsoft .NET and IBM WebSphere," Leigh said.
SAP NetWeaver also contains a feature called SAP Solution Manager, similar to Siebel's Foundation Workbench, which provides a centralized software management toolset that manages the implementation and monitoring of SAP software.