OPENWORLD - Siebel users seek better road map from Oracle

Some Siebel Systems users say they are still waiting for Oracle to deliver on the promises made when it agreed to buy the CRM software maker a year ago.

About a half-dozen Siebel CRM users interviewed at the Oracle OpenWorld 2006 applications and technology conference here said that Oracle has been slow to provide details on its pledge to integrate Siebel and Oracle products and to provide detailed information about its long-term plans for the CRM product line.

The US$5.8 billion deal closed earlier this year.

Julie Reeves, CRM leader for the office of the CIO at Electronic Data Systems, is looking for a road map outlining Oracle's plans for the Siebel middleware products used at the Plano, Texas-based systems integrator.

EDS uses Universal Application Network middleware, which uses Web services to connect front-office Siebel applications to other software, and Universal Customer Master, which gathers information about a company's customers to be used for analysis.

EDS also uses Siebel CRM tools but expects a smooth growth path for those products, she said.

However, Reeves said, Oracle executives have given mixed messages about the future of the Siebel middleware products that EDS uses. Depending on Oracle's plans, EDS may have to replace the Siebel middleware with software from Oracle. "It's an open question for the future," she said.

At a press conference during the show, John Wookey, vice president of application development at Oracle, said the vendor plans to continue supporting both the Universal Customer Master and Universal Application Network middleware.

He also said the company plans to use Siebel middleware technologies in the Fusion middleware it is building.

Reeves also said she hopes that Oracle takes steps to ease the process of migrating to new versions of Oracle tools. The process is now costly, she said, mostly because of EDS' need to customize each new version.

"Easing that migration and helping customers upgrade without significant financial drain is very important," she said.

Other Siebel customers wanted more information on how Oracle intends to integrate its various CRM products and what other Siebel technology will be added to Fusion.

One executive at an IT services provider who asked that his name and company not be identified, called on Oracle to better integrate all of its products, including Siebel's. The user said he works in a division of the company that runs Siebel CRM software, while the headquarters operation runs the PeopleSoft Enterprise human resources and E-Business Suite financials applications.

The user said he hopes that Oracle will build links among the various products. His division has more than 3,000 users who rely on Siebel's field-service applications to help support its customers.

The user said he is also looking for Oracle to release a schedule for rolling out common integration standards for its software.

"Ideally, I'd like a detailed road map about when all the [Oracle] products will converge and what the architecture will look like and how it will feel and how to navigate through it," he said.

A couple of Siebel users said that Oracle's services operation has equaled and in some cases exceeded that of the former Siebel Software.

Richard Napier, business development manager at InFact Group, a software consulting firm and systems integrator, said that software patches and upgrades are easier to locate on the Oracle Web site than they had been on Siebel's. InFact uses Siebel's hosted On-Demand CRM applications. Napier did not attend OpenWorld.

"In all our dealings with Oracle, we notice better communication, more efficiently handled service requests and basically more information [than Siebel offered]," Napier said.

Martin Schneider, an analyst at The 451 Group in New York, said the jury is still out on what Oracle will ultimately gain from its Siebel purchase.

As Fusion develops, the technology that made Siebel desirable to customers could get stripped down as Oracle creates a common CRM application set, he said.