Will Nexus save Siebel?

Company places hopes on custom development to rejuvenate CRM sales

Siebel Systems needs to grow again, and with its traditional enterprise software market sluggish and saturated, expanding into new areas is the company's best chance. In the coming months, the company will unveil Project Nexus, a custom-CRM offering that executives hope will unlock a lucrative new market. Several years in development, the initiative represents Siebel's latest attempt to regain the vanguard of the software market it pioneered.

Siebel is preparing to move into what it sees as the biggest untapped market for CRM software: custom development. Its roots go back nearly three years, to Siebel's October 2002 decision to work closely with Microsoft and IBM to support both .Net and J2EE natively.

That's when Siebel began focusing on building an SOA framework for its applications, company officials said. The goal is to allow customers to more easily tailor Siebel's applications to match their business processes. Siebel 7.5.3, released in mid-2003, incorporated Siebel's initial SOA work, which continued in Siebel 7.7 with UI changes to simplify transaction processes. The architectural overhaul will culminate in Siebel 8.0, due next year. The fully Web-services-oriented software will include changes such as a new rules engine to improve workflow management.

Analysts say the basic idea is sound. "What Siebel has recognized is that they have a tremendous amount of internal knowledge and expertise in managing complex deployments," said Nucleus Research analyst Rebecca Wettemann.

Every major applications vendor is also pursuing an SOA software strategy: Oracle has its Fusion plans; Microsoft calls its initiative Project Green; SAP offers NetWeaver; and IBM partners broadly with application vendors, including Siebel, while urging customers to adopt its own WebSphere middleware layer.

As Siebel focuses on increasing its software's usability and usefulness, its customer satisfaction reports are already getting better. "People have seen vast improvements in functionality in Siebel's platform," Wettemann said.

Copyright © 2005 IDG Communications, Inc.

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