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Siebel’s Partner Relationship Management

Siebel’s partner relationship management (PRM) adds fuel to the debate over which is better, a suite application or best-of-breed software. The application includes partner lifecycle management (PLM), collaborative sales, marketing and service. And two elements integral to its architecture, partner analytics and partner Web services, are shaping the direction of the company’s future PRM product development, Siebel PRM general manager Eric Hills told CRM Buyer.

The PRM application has taken a lead role in influencing the Siebel’s next-gen architecture because of the requirements associated with dealing with an extensive enterprise network, says Gartner research director Claudio Marcus.

“But at the same time, Siebel has to live with the baggage of its legacy applications and legacy architecture and a large client base that is still using those applications,” he told CRM Buyer. “It doesn’t have the flexibility to adapt to a new architecture as a newcomer to the space.”

Suite Versus Best of Breed

Hands down, Siebel has ascendancy as a suite provider of PRM technology, Marcus and other analysts say.

“If you were to do a head-to-head comparison with a best-of-breed application in a specific area of functionality, chances are the best of breed would have the edge,” Marcus said. “But when you look at the full suite, there aren’t any other vendors out there that offer [Siebel’s] breadth of application and features.”

Not surprisingly, Hills agrees. “We have developed a very comprehensive menu of offerings in this space,” he said.

These include features associated with tracking the relationship between a manufacturer or service company and its alliance partners; support for team selling, distributed lead management and distributed forecasting; campaign management, event management and other channel-marketing activities; and collaboration with third-party customer service providers.

Architecture Redux

In the area of partner analytics, Hills said that Siebel has created “operational dashboards” mapped to the four primary functional areas — PLM, collaborative sales, marketing and service — “that give the process owner or participant visibility into the process-performance indicators.”

As for partner Web services, Siebel has applied its new integration tool, Universal Application Network, or UAN, to its PRM module. “PRM to date has by and large been thought of as a portal,” Hills explained. “However, in many instances … global strategic partnerships are too large and too complex, and too much information needs to flow efficiently between the two enterprises to efficiently manage them with just the portal.”

Hills refers to this next generation of PRM as “real-time PRM.”

Partner Web services, Hills said, “represents the first step where we are taking PRM beyond the point of the portal. It is actually connecting partners’ business systems directly, without having to go through a portal. “That is where we see the PRM market going and where we have invested heavily.”

What the Market Needs

“Bringing together partner management, partner portal and partner analytics is exactly what the market needs,” AMR senior research analyst Louis Columbus told CRM Buyer.

This could well be the case. Enterprise resource planning vendors are eyeing the PRM market as fertile ground, and competition is heating up. “It’s an interesting stage right now in that there are large vendors entering the space, such as SAP and PeopleSoft,” Marcus said.

“Then there are other ERP vendors, such as J.D. Edwards and Baan, that will be entering the space. Going forward we will see ERP vendors making considerable inroads in terms of market share, but I do believe there is room in this space for three or fewer BOB vendors that bring deeper PRM functionality to the space.”

Industry-Specific PRM

So, where does that leave Siebel? In a very good position, in fact, given its market lead and comprehensive suite. Then there is the fact that it has rolled out at least eight vertical applications for PRM — and Siebel is renowned for its industry-specific expertise. However, analysts are not suggesting Siebel PRM should rest on its laurels.

“Siebel’s future growth as a PRM leader is going to be dictated by howeffective their applications are at defining the financial and operational metrics of performance accomplished within indirect channels,” Columbus said. “Siebel’s strength in verticals gives them a head start on going to the next generation of PRM functionality,” he added. “Yet to maintain their lead, they will need to get to the heart of what customers want.”

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