Pulver's No Pushover, No Shoemaker's Child Either

April 1, 2004


You might think these are tough times to be in the enterprise software business. But Jeff Pulver, vice president of worldwide marketing for San Mateo, Calif.-based Siebel Systems Inc., is having a ball anyway.

Consider this: After years of growth, enterprise software--the big, heavy-duty industrial kind of software--faces buyer skepticism, cost pressure, consolidation and the threat of new Web-based entrants, such as salesforce.com. Despite these issues, Pulver and his boss, Siebel founder and CEO Tom Siebel, are charting just the right course.

In a recent conversation, Pulver says the outlook for CRM is good for three reasons: Large companies are expanding their use of it; marketers are requiring more analytics; and CEOs are demanding more precision.

Plus, Siebel’s efforts with IBM to provide a low-cost, high-value, Web-based $70 per month (per user) version called Siebel CRM OnDemand appears to be working. At a recent earnings call, CEO Siebel said he intends to be, “the leader in hosted CRM by the end of 2004.”

Finally, Pulver is no pushover and no shoemaker’s child. He’s an advocate of his product and a fanatical, articulate user.

“When Tom Siebel asks, ‘What’s the value for these marketing dollars?’ because I’m using Siebel applications, I can tell Tom how many leads I created and the average cost for each opportunity. That’s what CEOs want,” Pulver says.

I was a little skeptical about CRM when I called Pulver. Then he reminded me, “All the stats show it’s easier to keep an existing customer than to get a new customer. Companies from large to small have come to realize that gaining a single view of the customer and being able to interact with customers is very important.

“We’re seeing Fortune 1000 companies rolling out to more users,” adds Pulver, who describes a mega-deployment at Hewlett-Packard, which has “60,000 users of Siebel enterprise CRM.”

“There’s a real push around (predictive) analytics, to better understand the value of your customers,” says Pulver, who isn’t concerned he’s treading in the land of SAS and SPSS. “We’re trying to make analytics available to everyone. Someone who runs marketing doesn’t want to become a statistician.” Pulver sees opportunity in providing decision-support capabilities that are intuitive and user-friendly.

“Marketing is a growing area,” he says. “Companies have worked hard to automate their call centers and get their sales force using CRM. Marketing is the next major area.” Pulver sees CRM’s potential to segment, track promotional events, assist with budget allocation and demonstrate marketing’s business value to the CEO.

Pulver wants to migrate marketing from an “art to a science.” “Executives have to be accountable,” he says. “When things are great and the economy is booming, it’s easier to allocate a big chunk to marketing, (and) do the brand thing. Today, marketers have to be smarter about the dollars and be accountable back to the business.”

Pulver’s most interesting initiative is the Siebel CRM OnDemand launch (the product went live last October). In the past, Siebel and other enterprise software providers sold their solutions to senior corporate executives. The cost per enterprise was in the hundreds of thousands to millions of dollars. Typically, small and midsize customers were ignored. Then along came Oracle alum Marc Benioff, CEO of San Francisco-based salesforce.com. Salesforce.com’s Web site proclaims Benioff’s aim is to “create a Web-based software utility that would replace traditional enterprise software technology.”

According to salesforce.com literature, Benioff fancies himself as “the leader of ‘the end of software,’ which furthers the growing idea that Web-based applications deliver immediate benefits at reduced risks and costs.” Benioff recently signed up his 9,000th customer, plus he was founded with financial support from Oracle’s Larry Ellison.

None of this fazes Siebel’s Pulver in the least. “We’ve entered this market with the intention of establishing a leading market position,” he says. “We’ve had over 20,000 inquiries since launching Siebel CRM OnDemand.” Pulver plainly intends to have more seats of “Siebel CRM OnDemand by the end of 2004 than any other competitor in the space.”

One advantage Siebel has over salesforce.com is expandability and depth. Pulver says Siebel CRM OnDemand, “shares the same data model as traditional enterprise Siebel applications. You can grow from the hosted model to the on-premise model.” He’s quick to mention Siebel’s 10-year history with 4,000 enterprise-level customers. My guess is that some of those enterprises have more individual users of Siebel than salesforce.com has total customers.

Plus there’s the partnership with IBM. “We’ve got the security of IBM hosting and the domain expertise of Siebel’s CRM capability,” adds Pulver.

Doug Armstrong, senior vice president of customer and Internet solutions for Chicago-based consultancy West Monroe Partners, says Siebel’s “CRM OnDemand is a good strategy, but one driven by necessity.”

Armstrong praises the Siebel CRM OnDemand Web site for its responsiveness. “Siebel follow-up is thorough,” Armstrong says. He received “two e-mails and two phone calls since looking through their site.” Pulver will be pleased.

“We don’t think the on-premise model is going away,” Pulver adds. “Companies want a choice. We’ve spent years perfecting CRM for large enterprise customers. We want to take that knowledge and provide it to any type of company and any kind of user.”

Sounds like a plan.

“We’re cautiously optimistic that people are continuing to invest and that budgets are starting to come back a bit. It’s an exciting time for CRM,” he says.

Yes, and an exciting time to be the chief marketing executive at a global software powerhouse.  


 ©2004 Marion Consulting Partners