As e-Up is attending the Oracle Open World 2014, today I attended the “Siebel CRM - the future of Siebel, Strategy and Roadmap for the World’s most complete CRM” session.
I have to say that after years of frustration, now Siebel customers could relax about the future of their multi-years investment, if Oracle keeps its promises.
As I have had the opportunity to underline in other occasions, the strategy towards what they now define as the most complete CRM solution in the World, has been ambiguous - to say the least.
During these days, I have met Siebel customers really expressing years of frustration towards a non clear statement of direction, making confusion even between going to Open UI or Oracle Cloud (by the way - someone still talks about Oracle Fusion applications and you would be surprised by who is doing so..).
What we have been experiencing in these years is a constant and continuous penetration of the cloud buzzword in the business applications scenario. Cloud is cool, On-Prem is obsolete... Or so they say.
So we have seen Siebel customers abandon their investment for other technologies, quite always towards cloud based ones as Salesforce.com or Sugar CRM (as in the famous IBM case). But are we really sure they did the best long-term decision?
Siebel customers are still very concerned about their commitment to their Siebel solutions and they are not sure if continuing investing in it is a winning strategy.
If until today I had my own idea about the right choice for big corporations, but I could not reassure them (at the end of the day, we do not own the future of Siebel as a technology) now I can honestly say those customers that they should be relaxed and not too much worried about the future of their CRM platform.
What really changes between Cloud and On-Prem solutions is the commitment you are giving to handling your own data and servers. If taking care of your servers and data is more a burden than an advantage, then you should probably think about a strategy to get rid of it and find someone to take care in your place or change the entire application paradigm and move everything to the cloud.
If you are not part of this group, then I don’t think you should be concerned about not being yet on the cloud. As technology is improving, as network speed and bandwidth are increasing, the difference among the different paradigms is really more and more a keyword, marketing one. But I will return on this in the future, discussing how we simply deliver to you new solutions like e-Tools for Siebel.
What I want to give you is really my impression about the market and my opinion about the most intelligent way to face the future.
My impression is that someone has tried to put on-prem solutions as Siebel apart, but many customers were not ready or not willing to follow the flow.
The consequent lack of customers satisfaction and the evolution of technologies I mentioned before brought us where we stand today, with Oracle telling us they are going to commit to Siebel for the most foreseeable future with a bunch of new implementations I am going to list.
Again, if you are not in the group of customers that consider handling data and application servers a burden, you should not really worry about not being on the Cloud. Why? Because it will come, step by step, and I think you should let Oracle worry about that, not yourself.
A first example is the integration of the new Oracle Cloud solutions with Siebel, that will extend your on-prem CRM features with cloud based ones, without the need for you to completely disrupt years of implementation. This is part of the Oracle CX strategy, that is offering you the possibility of choosing new cloud solutions such as Oracle Marketing, Oracle Sales, CPQ, Commerce, Service and Social to be integrated with the Siebel core. Numbers show us today that 84% of Siebel customers are either on 8.1 or 8.2 version; that means that - from now on - things should be much simpler in terms of innovation and upgrades and the official roadmap now clearly shows 2022 in the time line. So commitment is there... As for the quality of the products, I cannot really say and I don’t want to make everything appear so easy as it has not been in the past years for many upgrades (really painful for many customers).
Open UI, firstly released 2 years ago, is now not just a reshaping of the user interface; it is really a change of technology, making sure that the Siebel application is not only more likable for the users, but ready to be run on all the latest devices. IP 2014 will make sure that there will be a complete responsive design UI, so that no development is needed to adapt the user interface to different devices. Using both tablets and smart phones? Then the UI will automatically shrink or expand to fit to your device screen.
The third part representing an update and new life to Siebel is represented by mobile solutions: there will be now the possibility to directly download the mobile application from the App Store and the synchronization famous pain points will be approached (and hopefully solved) with 3 different options (complete synchronization, upload or download). The disconnected application will therefore see new life with an enhanced solution, together with a new version of CRM desktop, completely integrated with Outlook 2013 and Lotus Notes 8.5.3.
Together with the standard mobile application, new ad-hoc vertical mobile solutions (phone or tablet) have been introduced: for the moment Communication, Life Sciences (particularly for e-detailing) and Financial Services will have completely dedicate mobile applications that will be integrated with Siebel (Open UI, of course).
The fourth pillar of a potential Siebel renaissance (as our friend Bruce Daley has referred to at the beginning of this year -http://www.brucedaley.com/siebelobserver/2014/01/2014-the-year-of-a-siebel-renaissance.html) - and from my point of view the real indication that the Siebel team in Oracle is taking this seriously - is the introduction of a complete SRF and web templates free deployment (also called Run-time configuration) and a web version of the Siebel Tools that should allow you to do some basic customization of Siebel directly on the web browser, something similar to what you can do nowadays with Cloud platforms such as Salesforce.com. This is not something that will be available in the coming IP-2014 anyway, but should come from 2015 on. Of course this is a big change and will be released step by step, also because I am not totally convinced that you can successfully deploy all the current powerful Siebel configuration possibilities into a web browser: one of the limits of customization possibilities for cloud packaged applications (if we can define them so) relies exactly on this, in fact.
Oracle future strategy aims at a so called Single Unified Tools on the web (weirdly very similar to our Unified Perspective approach) so that changes can be applied on an environment that is very similar to the end-user one.
This unification should also bring new Optimized Testing capabilities for Siebel applications (Packaged Siebel Test Automation Interfaces and Objects).
As you can see, lots of new developments should arrive to completely refresh the Siebel technology and this reinforces my point of view that on-prem or on the cloud, it is just a question of the technical evolution that an application is going through. Once your user interface is HTML5 compatible, your tools are web compatible, and you can rely on standard integration interfaces, the real difference between Cloud or On-Prem relies on the fact that data is on your own servers or on third-parties’. That’s really it!
As for the timing for the commitment to do such changes, well... That’s a completely different story, and we could write an entire new article and discuss for days... My personal opinion is that these changes are at least 6 years late and that I am quite sure that around half of the lost Siebel customers in these years would still be on Siebel, if such changes would have been applied in a coherent time frame.
I just want to finish this long post reinforcing the fact that this just represents my point of view on the current scenario and it is particularly referred to the long list of Siebel customers I talked with that are worried about the future of their CRM platform. As I mentioned, going to the Cloud could be the right decision for some, but for others I would say that right now they can look at their years of investment as an asset and not any longer as a liability. Above all, I always invite everyone to critically analyse what "cloud" really means, because at the end of the day the real important thing is that your piece of software is up to date with the recent technologies and the possibilities they offer, not where you store your data.
Personally, I can say that we at e-Up will still commit with strategic and technical consultancy and innovative new software for Siebel, together with other technologies... but that’s another story...
So, as usual, stay tuned...