Siebel Keeps the CRM Upgrades Coming

One of the benefits of Web-based applications is that vendors can efficiently roll out new versions. There’s no software for users to download or CDs to mail. Siebel Systems has been taking full advantage of the ASP model, releasing five versions of its hosted CRM product in the past 12 months.

While the licensed version of its CRM software is typically associated with larger enterprises and six-figure installations, Siebel OnDemand is striking a cord with small business, according to the company. Announced today, Siebel CRM OnDemand Release 8 introduces new features designed to streamline collaboration and to offer sophisticated segmentation for targeted marketing programs.

“Each release has themes,” said Ken Rudin, vice president and general manager, On Demand and SMB at Siebel. The two themes in Release 8 are team collaboration and marketing segmentation.

Rudin described previous attempts to add collaboration to CRM applications as “clumsy” and said the Release 8 of Siebel OnDemand makes it easier share calendars and information across accounts, sales opportunities and contacts. You can view team calendars and task lists to coordinate schedules and balance workloads.

According to Siebel, Release 8 lets you analyze group calendars in a single consolidated view for better workload management and track assigned tasks through completion. Because it provides built-in integration to familiar applications such as Microsoft Outlook, users are quick to adopt Siebel CRM OnDemand, the company claims.

Release 8 also, according to Siebel, makes it easier to take advantage of “contact networking.” That is, by tracking business and social relationships between contacts, businesses can uncover new revenue opportunities. “It’s similar to social networking,” Rudin said. “You know someone, who knows someone …. “

In the new release, Siebel hopes to let SMBs produce targeted marketing campaigns without needing to invest in other applications. The new Marketing Segmentation Wizard helps uncover additional sales opportunities. By segmenting contacts using several criteria, you can, Rudin said, customize marketing campaigns based on either demographic information or past-behavior. That is, you could send a mailing to all your customers in the Northeast, or your customers that bought a product in the last three months or all your customers in the Northeast who bought a product in the last three months.

Rudin said “a simple interface makes it easy to filter data and integrate with outside lists such as Dun & Bradstreet. Previously, you would have had to export the data and use analytics software.”

Acknowledging that it’s taken them a few years to arrive, Rudin said that CRM applications are now accepted by businesses of all sizes. “CRM started with large companies, hosted applications came along and got the ‘M of the SMB, and now we are moving more to the ‘S. We have a ton of customers that have a dozen users.”

Rudin said the Siebel has “broken down the barriers” that stopped small business from embracing Web-based CRM software. “Too many companies just said ‘it’s Web-based. Just pay a monthly fee and good luck,” he said. “Best practices are built into the product versus giving customers a took kit. A took kit is like saying, ‘here’s a table saw and lumber, go build something.”

Pricing for Siebel CRM OnDemand Release 8 is $70 per user, per month (with no minimum number of users required).

Dan Muse is executive editor of Small Business Channel, EarthWeb’s Networking & Communications Channel and ServerWatch.

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