On April 8,
Siebel Systems, Inc. (NASDAQ: SEBL), the leading provider of customer-centric eBusiness applications software announced its intention to release a set of application integration tools in the second half of 2002. The new products intend make it easier for organizations to exchange data between Siebel's CRM system its other vendors' business applications. A standards-based and vendor-independent application integration solution called Universal Application Network (UNA) is touted to dramatically reduce the need for custom integration, thereby minimizing complexity, speeding deployment and delivering a low total cost of ownership (TCO). Leading system integrators such as Cap Gemini Ernst & Young, Accenture, IBM Global Services and KPMG Consulting, and application integration server vendors including IBM, SeeBeyond, TIBCO Software, Vitria, and webMethods, have all committed technology and expertise to deliver the Universal Application Network. The most recent to join in was BMC Software on April 22.
Siebel Systems believes it is positioned well to deliver this solution through its open architecture, industry specific domain expertise and extensive partner ecosystem. It claims that its Universal Application Network solution:
- Delivers industry-specific extensible business processes. -- Leveraging industry best practices and the domain expertise of leading system integrators, Siebel Systems pledges to build a set of prepackaged business processes to reduce cost, complexity and risk of application integration, while accelerating time to deployment.
- Provides re-usable business processes, enabling organizations to "create once, deploy everywhere." -- Independent of both the underlying applications and integration server, the prepackaged business processes should be re-used across multiple divisions or lines of business (LOB) --even where different applications or integration servers are deployed.
- Embraces industry standards. -- Universal Application Network is based on emerging Web Services and XML standards, which are supported by the above prominent integration technology vendors.
- Leverages proven integration server technology that is robust, highly scalable, and reliable, supporting thereby the integration requirements of the world's largest organizations and most complex IT environments.
- Offers organizations maximum flexibility and choice. -- Universal Application Network is devised as application-independent, leveraging customers' existing investments and interoperating with any underlying application. As a result, customers should no longer be locked into a single vendor's proprietary product set and integration architecture, but can instead select from the industry's best application and integration technologies.
Combining Siebel Systems and its partners' domain expertise, Universal Application Network is comprised of three major components: 1) a comprehensive business process library, 2) a business process design tool, and 3) an integration server. The new products focus heavily on business process management concepts and will contain an electronic reference guide that instructs customers on standard ways of configuring Siebel to support certain business functions, such as acquiring new customers.
This is Part 1 of a 2-part analysis of Siebel Systems' recent product announcements.
2 will discuss the Market Impact and make User Recommendations.
Universal Application Network Components
The Business Process Library is a collection of the above-mentioned prepackaged, industry specific business processes-such as Customer Creation or Quote to Order, which are based on XML and Web Services standards and are independent of both the underlying applications and integration server. Siebel's business process library will contain instructions for ~200 potential scenarios. These business processes include:
- Pre-built business process flows. These orchestrate a sequence of steps across multiple applications to achieve a business objective. They are defined using an industry-leading specification based on Web Services standards.
- Common objects. These objects are a composite of application data models and are compliant with industry-specific standards such as RosettaNet and OAG. Siebel Systems provides a comprehensive set of pre-defined objects, such as customer, employee, product and quote objects.
- Transformation maps. These provide mappings between the application data models and common objects, and are based on XSLT standards. Siebel Systems provides pre-built transformation maps to back office applications (such as SAP, Oracle, Peoplesoft, etc.).
The Business Process Design Tool is an intuitive graphical tool for developing and configuring business process solutions-including business process flows, common objects, and transformation maps. The design tool consists of:
- Business Process Flow Modeler, which enables the user to describe business processes at various levels of abstraction that are application independent. The Business Process Flow modeler also provides visual representation of error conditions, transactional boundaries, and compensating transactions.
- Transformation Modeler, which is used to define transformations, which describe mappings between common objects and the application data model. The user can visually drag and drop fields and choose available function libraries to define custom transformations.
The Integration Server coordinates inter-application communication. Examples of commercially available Integration Servers include IBM WebSphere Business Integration, SeeBeyond Business Integration Suite, TIBCO BusinessWorks, Vitria BusinessWare, and webMethods Platform. These products are being enhanced to specifically execute the standards-based business processes and include the following elements: Transport layer, Adapter, Common object model, Transformations, and Business process controller.
With the release of Siebel 7 at the end of 2001, Siebel Systems was one of the first eBusiness applications vendors to recognize the heterogeneous, multi-vendors reality of customers' IT environments by introducing an "application network" integration architecture (see Besieged By The CRM Throne Aspirants, King Siebel Delivers "The Magic No.7"). Now, Siebel Systems has taken a next step to build on this approach through strategic partnerships and the development of new functionality for Universal Application Network planned for availability this summer. Siebel 7.5, due this summer, will add support for SOAP, WSDL and UDDI protocols. Nearly all application vendors from SAP, Oracle, PeopleSoft and IBM to Microsoft have professed support for these standards (see Liberty Alliance vs. WS-I; J2EE vs. .NET; Overwhelmed .YET?). Ideally, such support will enable Web services to be described, found, and accessed on the Internet, and Siebel is seeking to enter the Web services fray with 7.5.
Rather than to remain on its high horse and complacent, narcissistic rumbling about its CRM product's functional superiority and its leading market shares in all segments of the CRM market, Siebel is finally taking 'the bull by the horns' by acknowledging the integration challenges its customers face, and by addressing that issue, which has been one of the major sales deterrent of late. This has also often been a troubling aspect of CRM implementations in the past, as the only way IT departments can achieve a full view of the customer is by integrating front-end, customer facing applications (e.g., contact management) with back-office systems, such as billing applications and financial ERP modules. To illustrate the intricacy, Siebel's larger customers have a multiplicity of applications they want to connect. Nearly 10% of them reportedly have more than 1,000 applications rendering the problem of integration colossal. As a most extreme example, General Motors is reportedly attempting to integrate Siebel applications with more than 5,000 other software systems.
This concludes Part 1 of a 2-part analysis of Siebel Systems' recent product announcements.
2 will continue the discussion of the Market Impact and make User Recommendations.