Exclusive: Siebel's hosted CRM doesn't rise to the top
Although impressive, nicely priced OnDemand Release 8 falls short on heavyweight features
A longtime leader in on-premises applications, Siebel Systems has been fighting an uphill battle in the hosted CRM space against powerhouses like Salesforce.com and hot service-centric evangelists like RightNow Technologies. With the latest release of CRM OnDemand, Siebel takes a significant step toward catching up.
The InfoWorld Test Center has an exclusive look at Siebel CRM OnDemand Release 8, including its full call-center option, Contact OnDemand.
OnDemand provides hosted SFA (sales force automation), marketing, and customer-service capabilities, along with an integrated call center, enabling companies to manage communications across customer-facing channels both in-house and remotely. Impressive IVR (interactive voice response) and skills-based routing are also part-and-parcel.
New to this release is team-based collaboration -- including record sharing and group calendaring, as well as relationship charting -- used to carve leads out of existing contacts. And for marketing campaigns, a new desktop tool helps segment target lists.
Although impressive, the product is not without limitations. Siebel CRM OnDemand has difficulty managing multiple simultaneous sales methodologies; task-based workflow offers no real-time alerting; the role-based interface development tools are clumsy; and top-level administrative responsibilities can’t yet be delegated to workgroups. Client support is also sparse.
Yet even with the added cost of Contact OnDemand, Siebel CRM OnDemand is an affordable option for shoring up service and sales operations. And the extra padding left in your wallet might cushion any functionality bumps along the way.
Are You My Customer?
Like many of its competitors, OnDemand uses Internet Explorer to deliver a familiar tabbed interface for accessing sales, marketing, and service records, as well as search, dashboards, and reporting.
SFA offers creation of subaccounts for easier management of larger customers and multiple products per opportunity.
Definable sales steps and the Process Coach serve to structure agent performance expectations, and there are good features to track customer interactions and build audit trails. But I would like to see more comprehensive criteria available for audit tracking.
In addition to field-level security, OnDemand’s role-based permissions offer good control over an agent’s view of data; however, an inability to copy and reuse existing layouts forces users to create pages for each role from scratch.
Custom tabs can’t be added, but custom fields within a page can. Unfortunately, the number of fields and data types is limited and, once created, can’t be deleted -- so plan well. Those custom fields also don’t trickle through to existing pages; you have to manually update all layouts for all roles that demand access.
Workflow consists of automated task generation. Triggered when a record is created or updated, new tasks get assigned to your agents. Although they fall short of actual alerting -- such as firing off an e-mail before an opportunity falls through the cracks -- tasks can be used to build a framework of best practices using due dates and sales stages.
Rules-based assignment of leads and opportunities can be configured to ensure the right agent or territory is on the job. But rule assignments are not truly queue-based: Each requires assignment to a specific account.