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EDS embraces newest Siebel applications

The IT services giant gets its hands into Siebel's upcoming CRM release as part of an internal enterprise overhaul.

Matt Hines Staff Writer, CNET News.com
Matt Hines
covers business software, with a particular focus on enterprise applications.
Matt Hines
3 min read
Siebel Systems will announce Monday that the first company to complete installation of its latest customer relationship management system is IT services giant Electronic Data Systems.

EDS served as a beta tester of the CRM package, dubbed as Siebel 7.8, throughout the product's development cycle and decided to employ the applications as part of an ongoing effort to revamp its entire enterprise software operations, company executives said.

Though EDS is a Global Strategic Partner of Siebel's and sells the software maker's products to its customers, executives at the services company said they chose the 7.8 package after reviewing a number of other CRM systems, including applications made by SAP and Selectica.

EDS maintains a partner relationship with SAP around the software maker's enterprise resource planning, or ERP, applications and has teamed with Selectica in the past in the supply chain management space. The company also uses SAP software to process many of its so-called back-end operations, including certain financial and human resources tasks.

Keith Halbert, chief information officer at EDS, said his company is in the middle of a massive effort to expand and integrate its CRM system with a particular focus on improving the company's ability to provide options for pricing and product configuration to potential and existing customers. The CIO said that though EDS has been using Siebel's CRM software in some of its divisions for years, the company's project around the 7.8 release will push the applications across most of the company's operations.

"We're engaged in a three-to-five-year renewal of all the (enterprise) systems within EDS, from our (product) development tools through sales, provisioning, procurement and supply chain management, as well as for the systems that run all of our delivery centers around the world," said Halbert. "We've previously had a less integrated approach (to CRM), and EDS needs to have a strategic architecture that will create visibility that we can leverage into all of our accounts."

Halbert said EDS was particularly sold on Siebel's applications for developing integrated product and pricing catalogs that it can provide to customers to allow them to pick and choose from its services offerings. From an underlying technology standpoint, Halbert said Siebel's data processing architecture stood out in comparison to the other systems the company considered.

"One of the things that is very attractive about Siebel is that its software's core genetics were designed on a metadata model that considers all the relationships in the system and builds around that," Halbert said. "Other vendors who proposed a fully integrated systems strategy seemed to have approached the data model as more of an afterthought in terms of dealing with things that don't already live in their suite of applications."

Specifically, Halbert said, EDS has embraced Siebel's Universal Application Network integration strategy, which is aimed at helping pull together data stored across disparate IT systems.

Mitch Seagraves, who serves as a director for the office of the CIO at EDS, said that each of the CRM software makers considered by the company brought different strengths to the table, but Siebel evidenced the widest range of skills in addressing the companywide needs central to his company's enterprise revamp.

"While Siebel honed its skills on call centers and customer service, they have also worked hard in other areas such as integration with back office," Seagraves said. "We have our centralized center of systems, but needed to integrate with a number of account specific environments, and Siebel's applications integration platform is helping us do that."

Among the challenges faced by EDS in installing the Siebel software were finding the right people to get its project started and working with a product that was still in development when the company launched its initiative, Seagraves said. Though it may have been easier to go with Siebel's older 7.7 offering, the executive said that the new CRM release made sufficient enough gains in areas such as integration to make it worth choosing a product that was being finished as his company installed it.

"There's always a risk with deploying beta software," Seagraves said. "So far we're pretty happy with how it's working out for us."