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Seibel Launches New Version of Hosted CRM

Siebel Systems upped the ante in the increasingly competitive hosted customer relationship management (CRM) market with the launch of yet another new version of its CRM OnDemand software. This is the San Mateo, CA-based company's seventh new release of the product in just over a year-which should leave no doubt that Siebel is serious about hosted CRM, says Bruce Cleveland, Siebel's SVP and OnDemand/SMB general manager.

"There have been some questions about whether Siebel is in this business," Cleveland told reporters and analysts during a Webcast product launch. "Are we really in the on-demand industry? I want to assure you that the amount of resources we've been investing in this particular area across our CRM OnDemand and Contact OnDemand are significant."

Siebel CRM OnDemand 7 features built-in support for PBX, interactive voice-response, voice-over-IP, and computer-telephony integration systems. And it includes real-time contact-center analytics capabilities.

The company is showcasing the product's new Contact OnDemand module, which is based on technology acquired a year ago with hosted contact center service provider Ineto Services. The company is billing the module as the first in the industry to marry hosted telephony and CRM. It adds computer telephony integration, interactive voice response and automatic call distribution in a hosted environment.

Seibel has long been a leading provider of CRM products, but the company has only recently become a serious contender in the hosted CRM market. Siebel first entered this market in 1999 with its sales.com offering. In 2003, the company joined with IBM to provide Siebel OnDemand. The same year, Siebel bought hosted CRM provider UpShot for approximately $70 million, and later acquired Motiva for $3 million. Gartner analysts cite this January's release of Siebel OnDemand 6 as the spark that "ignited a feature and function war in on-demand CRM."

Salesforce.com has been the hosted CRM market leader, according to Gartner. As of the first of this year, the San Francisco-based company claims to manage customer information for approximately 13,900 customers and approximately 227,000 paying subscribers. But Siebel clearly has Salesforce.com in its sights. Cleveland threw a few darts at his company's chief competitor during the press briefing, pointing out that Siebel's integrations are all prebuilt, while Salesforce.com asks companies to do the integration work themselves. "Our strategy is to provide all of this out the door," Cleveland said. "Our key competitor's strategy is to outsource this to third-party providers."

Still, Salesforce.com was here first; last fall, the company introduced its own call-center offering, Supportforce, which relies on telecommunications partners to deliver contact-center capabilities in its core CRM platform.

Siebel is clearly appealing to small-and-medium-sized businesses (SMBs) with its latest release, emphasizing the product's ability to "deliver to both enterprises and SMBs a fast-to-deploy, easy-to-use and highly robust hosted contact center that doesn't require additional infrastructural investments." And though Gartner feels that vendors in this market are now competing on features instead of price, Siebel is also appealing to the budget-conscious. Setting up an integrated CRM and call-center environment might typically cost $1 million and take six months of integration work, observed Ineto's former CEO and new Siebel VP Mike Betzer. "Customers are tired of trying to buy multiple point solutions and having to integrate them later," he said.

Siebel CRM OnDemand 7 is available now, starting at $150 per month, per user, not including additional usage-based telephone charges. Customers also can bundle Contact OnDemand with any of the vertical-market versions of Siebel CRM OnDemand, the company said.

About the Author

John K. Waters is a freelance writer based in Silicon Valley. He can be reached at john@watersworks.com.

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