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Siebel outlines product plans

Siebel Systems is working on a slew of new features for its set of business-management applications and plans to release them in new versions of the programs next year.

Siebel Systems is working on a slew of new features for its set of business-management applications and plans to release them in new versions of the programs next year.

The software company discussed the product updates Tuesday during its annual User Week conference in San Diego.

The thrust of the updates and developments--part of what Siebel is calling its "CRM for Everyone" initiative--appeared aimed at quieting Siebel critics who say the company's software is difficult to set up and use. Siebel specializes in CRM, or customer relationship management, software. Such software is designed to automate corporate sales, marketing and customer service tasks, but it has gotten a bad rap recently, with companies reporting disappointment in the programs.

Siebel is promising to revamp the user interface of its software, allowing people to customize it based on a given job. So a salesperson, for example, would have a different view of the system than a call center agent. Siebel said the new software will also be easier to install, configure, test and upgrade than previous versions.

Many of the new features will become available with the next release of the company's software, Siebel 7.7, expected to ship by July, the company said.

In the meantime, Siebel plans to release an updated version of its data analysis software by the end of the year. Siebel Analytics 7.7 incorporates new data mining capabilities and data presentation formats, the company said. Siebel also recently released an updated version of its software compatibility tools, called Universal Application Network 3.0. The product is supposed to make it easier for customers to link Siebel software to other business systems, a task many customers say can be a costly undertaking.

The CRM for Everyone message also incorporates Siebel's recent announcement that it's working with IBM to introduce a slimmed-down version of its applications for small and medium-size businesses. The Siebel OnDemand software, scheduled for release by year's end, will be available for a monthly per-user fee, the companies said. IBM plans to host the software at its data centers, allowing customers to access it like they would a Web site.

In other news, Siebel and Microsoft on Tuesday announced that they are working to link their integration products using Microsoft's .Net architecture. The companies said they will enable Microsoft's BizTalk Server software to work with Siebel's Universal Application Network product so that customers could more quickly link their Windows-based business applications to share data. Siebel said the integration work is being tested with customers.

In addition, the companies plan to enable Siebel's Smart Client application, which lets people access the company's customer relationship management (CRM) software, to work with Microsoft's Office and Exchange software. The integration will let customers synchronize contact, calendar and to-do list data between the products, according to the companies.