I'm seldom surprised but often overwhelmed by the volume of press releases that appear daily in my e-mail in-box. New products, new partners, new strategies - with so much new happening at companies, it's amazing any real business actually gets done. However, most of these announcements could be nothing more than electronic shouts from PR firms and marketing staffs, reminding us that they're actually getting work done. (And, they have the press releases to prove it.)
While speaking with Scott Anderson, director of the Siebel Alliance at Sun Microsystems, I was assured that Sun/Siebel Systems Global Strategic Alliance announcement is much different than the "Barney Alliances" that typically flood my in-box. This alliance between two industry giants has substance. And, I believe, he is right. Sun and Siebel will have dedicated people who will work jointly on marketing and sales. Most importantly, however, the two companies will work hand-in-hand when it comes to engineering, as integration is the watchword in this Global Strategic Alliance.
Single Vendor Versus Best-Of-Breed
Companies with ERP (enterprise resource planning) systems in place are now looking to add a CRM (customer relationship management) solution or upgrade to a new one. And, tight integration between ERP and CRM systems is critical to gain that elusive, complete view of customers.
So, where is a company to turn? In the past, many enterprises turned to Siebel, which offers CRM solutions with unquestioned functionality but accompanying integration challenges. Now, however, there are other options. ERP vendors, who saw their stock - literally and figuratively - peak around Y2K, are now coming at customers with CRM solutions. If you have SAP in place as your ERP system, for instance, you'll likely consider SAP's new CRM solution. The same can be said for other ERP players like PeopleSoft and Oracle. The pitch is "tighter integration is better than best-of-breed." And, this has to concern Siebel.
Like any good alliance, the one between Sun and Siebel is mutually beneficial. All Siebel 7 modules will be available on Sun's Solaris platform and will leverage the network-centric computing model promoted by both companies. Siebel is supplying the Web-based CRM functionality, and Sun supplies the platform and server infrastructure - this addresses many integration concerns.
CRM Requires Different ROI Model
Even though some studies revealed that companies are not overly impressed with their ROI on previous CRM investments, it's clear - from the same studies - that the market will continue to increase. In fact, Anderson predicts vibrant growth in this space for at least the next 12 to 18 months. In the end, however, nagging questions about ROI will remain. Where supply chain investments pay off in efficiency, Anderson urges end users to measure CRM investments in terms of effectiveness. With CRM, for instance, it's a matter of more effectively identifying suspected customers, prospects, and then closing sales. Or, it might be identifying and marketing to your best customers. These, and many other examples, can have dollar amounts assigned to them.
Ultimately, end users will likely come back to that watchword - integration. If your ERP implementation went well and the system is effective, then you will look long and hard at adding complementary CRM modules from your legacy system vendor. If you recall a nightmare ERP scenario, then you're probably not going to turn to the same vendor that caused your headaches. In any event, Sun and Siebel will be in on almost every deal of consequence - pitching functionality and performance and trying to dispel any integration issues raised by competitors. If you're in the market for a CRM solution, it's a pitch you're going to be hearing a lot.