Siebel Gets Serious About BI

After several fits and starts, is Siebel finally getting serious about business intelligence?

As expected, Siebel Systems Inc. last week unveiled several new analytic applications at its inaugural Business Intelligence Forum conference, held last week in Los Angeles. The upshot, analysts say, is that after several fits and starts, Siebel finally seems serious about business intelligence.

In fact, Siebel officials made the same point: “This is the first time in my professional career where the importance of BI has become really top of the CIO agenda,” said Larry Barbetta, group vice president and general manager of Siebel’s Business Analytics division. Barbetta also stressed Siebel’s commitment to a “new generation of business intelligence” applications.

Siebel has marketed analytic solutions for quite some time—it introduced its Siebel eBusiness Analytics suite four years ago—but at last week’s Business Intelligence Forum, the CRM giant unwrapped a set of pre-built analytic solutions called Enterprise Analytic Applications.

Siebel officials say the new analytic offerings—which are designed for a variety of functional areas, including customer, financial, and supply chain and supplier applications—incorporate business and technology best practices tailored for different industries. They’re based on Siebel’s customer-centric data warehouse, which first shipped with the eBusiness Analytics suite, too.

“There’s like 20 some-odd unique, high-value, complex analytical applications we’re delivering today,” Barbetta said, arguing that “this clearly speaks volume for our strategic commitment to this marketplace”—both in the context of CRM and “also beyond the bounds of CRM.”

To some extent, Siebel’s move is a reflection of market realities, company officials acknowledge: Customer analytic applications (i.e., sales, marketing, and service analytics) accounted for one percent of Siebel’s license revenues in Q3 of 2001, but by Q2 of this year, sales of analytic software accounted for one-quarter of Siebel’s license revenue.

Siebel’s new analytic offerings include:

  • Enterprise Service and Contact Center, to assist agents and supervisors manage contact center performance and operations

  • Enterprise Marketing Analytics, which Siebel says can help marketing managers better understand the ROI and potential impact of marketing programs and activities

  • Financial Analytics, delivering real-time visibility into the financial performance of a business

  • Supplier and Supply Chain Analytics provide visibility into the overall "demand chain," including the factors driving costs, revenues, and profits across the enterprise

  • Employee Performance Management and Workforce Analytics helps organizations align the actual performance of employees versus established goals

Officials say the new analytic offerings feature metrics, workflows, and business processes tailored to different industries. In addition, Siebel’s revamped analytic strategy involves a dashboard component that can provide topical and role-specific analytic alerts in response to data-driven business events

Siebel’s data warehouse offering is enabled through a partnership with ETL power Informatica Corp. Siebel says it’s also delivering source-specific "analytic business adapters" that automate much of the complexity associated with ERP extraction and cross-source data integration. “Now what we’ve done is created full enterprise oriented solutions … [so] our sales stuff now talks to order systems, financial systems from people like SAP, PeopleSoft,” and others, said Barbetta. On top of that, Informatica gives Siebel native interfaces into SAP, PeopleSoft, Oracle Applications, and other data sources.

Mike Schiff, a senior analyst with consultancy Current Analysis Inc., is convinced that Siebel is finally taking BI seriously. To some extent, he says, it's thanks in large part to the efforts of Barbetta, who came over to Siebel when the CRM giant acquired former BI player nQuire three years ago.

Since then, he’s been the driving force behind Siebel’s BI strategy, which, until recently, consisted of a surprisingly credible analytics offering that suffered from a lack of marketing. Even though Siebel finally got BI religion, Schiff says Barbetta still has his work cut out for him.

“While Siebel’s analytic applications will have obvious appeal to existing Siebel users, it is not at all certain how successful Siebel will be in selling them into non- Siebel accounts,” he comments, noting that Siebel must overcome years of lackluster promotion of its Siebel eBusiness Analytics suite.

Nor does Siebel have all of the makings of a complete BI stack. Its most glaring omission is probably the lack of an integrated reporting facility, but—given its demonstrated willingness to acquire its way out of feature or functional shortcomings—the CRM giant could address this in short order. Less than a month after announcing its hosted CRM OnDemand, for example, Siebel purchased CRM-as-a-service specialist Upshot; several months later, it ponied up even more cash for Ineto, a provider of hosted call-center services.

About the Author

Stephen Swoyer is a Nashville, TN-based freelance journalist who writes about technology.