Winner Takes All - Siebel Ousts SalesLogix From Solomon’s Deal

Winner Takes All - Siebel Ousts SalesLogix From Solomon's Deal
P.J. Jakovljevic - September 8, 2000

Event Summary

During a Solomon Partner Conference in August, Great Plains, a leading mid-market provider of back-office and e-business solutions, announced a number of new product enhancements and/or product alliances for its recently acquired division and former archrival, Solomon Software. Notable announcements were the availability of new Distribution Modules for Solomon IV, the application hosting initiative for Solomon customers and the availability of Solomon Desktop, a browser-based portal.

However, the most remarkable announcement to our mind preceded the conference. In a July press release, Great Plains announced that it plans to integrate the Great Plains Siebel Front Office suite of eBusiness applications from Siebel Systems, Inc. with the Solomon IV product line to deliver a comprehensive, integrated, front and back office solution for Solomon customers. Great Plains Siebel Front Office for Solomon IV will possibly deliver the functionality, customization, ease of use, rapid deployment and pricing required by mid-market customers. This application will be available exclusively from authorized Solomon channel partners.

"Due to our recent acquisition by Great Plains, Solomon and its partners are now able to team with Great Plains and Siebel Systems to offer our customers a complete eBusiness solution more quickly than before," said Michael Rupe, president of the Solomon business unit at Great Plains. "By leveraging Great Plains' experience in assisting its partners to build their eBusiness practices, we can deliver more value, faster to Solomon IV customers and partners."

Siebel Systems has committed channel sales and telesales resources, marketing programs and funding, and regional product specialists to assist in developing, training and leveraging the joint Great Plains/Solomon partner channel.

"We are delighted to add the talent of the more than 500 Solomon channel partners to the Great Plains Siebel Front Office eBusiness initiative, as it will add substantial momentum to the already strong launch of Great Plains Siebel solutions," said Don Nelson, vice president and general manager of the Front Office group at Great Plains.

Solomon channel partners are eligible for immediate authorization to sell the Great Plains Siebel Front Office suite for Solomon IV, which includes sales, customer service, call center and Web-based solutions. Authorized Solomon partners can offer the suite as a stand-alone Siebel eBusiness solution or as an integrated front office/back office solution with Solomon IV, Premier and Select editions. The first phase of the integration between Solomon IV and Siebel eBusiness Applications is expected to be available in the fall.

Market Impact

Great Plains' biggest mission to accomplish during the Solomon Partner Conference was to allay any doubts in the minds of Solomon partners and/or customers regarding its genuine intentions to further invest in the Solomon product line. We believe that most of them were relieved since it became apparent that Solomon would benefit from following in the steps of its parent, particularly in terms of partnerships with Siebel Systems and Logility. The audience also witnessed the results of Solomon's continued internal R&D effort through the newly released functionality and through hints at synergistic R&D endeavors in the future as well as the leveraging of Great Plains experiences in developing internally its manufacturing functionality.

The decision to partner with Siebel, although apparently beneficial, was somewhat tricky in light of SalesLogix - Solomon IV CRM integration originally announced in March 2000 (See TEC News Analysis "Yet Another ERP/CRM Partnership") before it was acquired by Great Plains.

Shortly after Great Plains announced that it would acquire Solomon Software, Great Plains and Solomon team members began an extensive re-evaluation of Solomon CRM strategy that would offer its channel the best short- and long-term business opportunities. It became obvious that Solomon could leverage Great Plains' head start in integration and in assisting its partners to build their CRM practices to deliver more value and faster to Solomon IV partners and customers.

Had Solomon continued to partner with SalesLogix, it would have had to start from scratch to deliver integration, Solomon channel training and Solomon-specific marketing materials. Great Plains has already developed this expertise, and paved much of the way. In addition, the strength of the Great Plains-Siebel partnership (backed by the support of 75 dedicated and experienced Great Plains Front Office team members), Siebel's industry leading CRM position, its huge investment in R&D, and its specific commitments to assist Solomon partners in building this process (assistance in several key areas including marketing programs, product integration, business partner training and certification, and ramping the Solomon Technology Centers) all created an offer that was very difficult to refuse.

On the other hand, this alliance will allow Siebel Systems to further expand its mid-market position, and will further strengthen the strategic importance of its partnership with Great Plains. Siebel's MidMarket Edition is one of a few integrated suites available to the mid-market as licensed software. It also comprises of the broadest range of applications, as none of the competing suites offer call center support, multi-channel campaign management, and partner relationship management in one suite.

Siebel's brand awareness and large customer base within large corporations will bring intense competition to vendors such as Pivotal, Goldmine, and SalesLogix. Moreover, Siebel has already developed distribution channels that are unmatched by other CRM vendors. These facts suggest that Siebel will vigorously pursue its mid-market leadership.

Nonetheless, one should never expect a flawless and quick integration effort; Great Plains' and J.D. Edwards' painstaking efforts to integrate Siebel products and/or to train their service & support staff are perfect examples. One issue will also be the user interface mix of a future product suite - the 'same look-and-feel', as well as the support for localized, country-specific Solomon product versions. Additionally, Solomon does not exhibit much of a vertical focus. Its distributors offer vertical solutions on an opportunity-by-opportunity basis only, which may be insufficient in the light of the latest market trends. Integration of the Siebel product will certainly emphasize the need to resolve the above-mentioned challenges.

User Recommendations

Existing Great Plains/Solomon customers should certainly consider the new offering and carefully determine their needs and/or time framework for a migration/update, bearing in mind problems typical with major product releases. Customers should certainly consider the new offering, but avoid selecting it without looking at what the other vendors have to offer. We recommend identifying your unique needs and comparison shopping, at least to use for leverage during negotiations. Each component should be put through its paces using a well-documented set of requirements, scripted scenario demonstrations and rigorous reference checking. Despite promised tight integration of Siebel product in a foreseeable future, the company maintains its openness and interconnectivity to other products, which is one more incentive for considering all viable candidates.

As for potential users, we generally recommend including Great Plains and Solomon in a long list of an enterprise application selection to the lower-end of the mid-market companies (with $2M-$250M in revenue), which are staunch users of Microsoft technology and have significant financial accounting, project management, distribution, and service requirements, while currently not needing complex manufacturing functionality.

Potential clients should conduct preliminary research on industry expertise and reference sites of a regional Great Plains affiliate service provider when the Great Plains/Solomon product is selected. They should also familiarize themselves with products' strengths/weaknesses within certain vertical industries. Great Plains/Solomon distributors generally offer vertical solutions on an opportunity-by-opportunity basis only.

Organizations seeking a Web-based solution and out-of-box functionality with little or no re-engineering effort may benefit from evaluating Great Plains/Solomon ASP offering. Support, connectivity, ease of use, security, acceptance, and scalability are only a few regular considerations. Current users of its traditional client/server product may benefit from informing themselves of the ramifications of switching or not to the ASP mode be.

As for the new added CRM functionality through the partnership with Siebel, users are advised to ask for firm assurances on the availability and future upgrades timeframes, and more detailed scope of combined product functionality. One caveat to be borne in mind is that although this suite was developed from existing Siebel products, it is a first version release. This means there are inevitable bug fixes to be made over the next few months.

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