Siebel unveils SMB go-to-market strategy

Company will partner with IBM and selected VARs

After a year of pilots and trials, Siebel Systems jumped with both feet into the SMB market Tuesday, announcing a new approach to offer Siebel Professional CRM applications to SMBs (small and midsize businesses) -- companies with revenues up to about $500 million.

The strategy is a mixture of technology and channel development.

On the channel side it includes offering Siebel Professional through IBM's Express SMB program, plus deals with selected VARs that address vertical markets. Siebel currently has vertical market solutions for its Professional Edition in financial services, wealth management, life sciences, automotive, and high tech.

The new approach consists of a hosted and an on-premise version. Both will be sold through IBM and partners as well as through a dedicated Siebel sales force.

Dennis Pombriant, managing principal at Beagle Research, said Siebel is making all the right moves with its entry into the SMB market. "It's a transition for them and there may be some bumps in the road, but they are smart to get in front of the wave rather than putting blinders on," said Pombriant.

On the technology side, changes in Siebel Professional are aimed at making it easier for IT administrators to configure. It does not differ in features and functionality from the enterprise edition, Siebel Enterprise.

"The infrastructure of an SMB is different," said Bruce Cleveland, senior vice president and general manager of the OnDemand and SMB division.

SMBs tend to standardize on Microsoft Windows and SQL Server, for example, Cleveland said. "They are less global and require a less customized business process layer than the enterprise," Cleveland said.

Siebel, therefore, was able to build standard utilities for IT to install a "slimmed down" configuration.

While enterprise-level companies have a very heterogeneous infrastructure that requires customization, mid-market companies do not. "For a mid-market customer, the metadata schema is standard," Cleveland added.

Siebel makes no bones about the fact that they are going after Salesforce.com with their OnDemand SMB solution. Cleveland said that while Siebel offers best practice solutions by vertical industry, Salesforce.com requires users to customize their CRM solutions themselves.

"They are outsourcing customization to the customer. It would take 18 months to build an equivalent vertical application in sForce [Salesforce.com's customization platform]," Cleveland said.

Siebel Professional is shipping now.

Copyright © 2004 IDG Communications, Inc.

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