Siebel Systems Appoints a New Director

Somewhat lost amid Monday's news that Tom Siebel was stepping down as CEO of the company he cofounded was the appointment of former Compaq Vice President and CIO John White to Siebel Systems' board of directors. White directed Compaq's IT efforts from February 1994 until October 1998, during which time the company implemented several Siebel applications. Like White, Siebel's new CEO, J. Michael Lawrie, comes to the company having worked for a major technology firm--in Lawrie's case, IBM, where he had been the senior vice president and group executive of sales and distribution and led global operations. Lawrie, not surprisingly, also was the point man for IBM's CRM deployment, as Siebel himself noted during Monday's conference call with analysts and media. "IBM [is] Siebel Systems' largest customer and largest marketing partner," Siebel said. And IBM, he added, was running "the largest production CRM deployment, under Mike's direction: [roughly] 60,000 users-wide." White's experience in many respects parallels Lawrie's, as Siebel himself acknowledged in a company statement announcing White's appointment. "John is universally regarded and highly respected in technology circles as a leading IT executive," Siebel said. "As the former chief information officer of a large global Siebel customer, John has a deep understanding of our business and the requirements of our customers." In his Monday afternoon conference call with analysts following Lawrie's appointment, Siebel used some of the same phrases to describe Lawrie's qualifications for the role of chief executive. But as expected, White brings unique qualifications to the board. According to Sheryl Kingstone, program manager of CRM Strategies at research firm The Yankee Group, "White has much more infrastructure expertise to balance Siebel's application and business process knowledge." Several analysts agree that "independent director" issues stemming from Sarbanes-Oxley requirements may have also played a role in White's appointment, but "independence," like beauty, is often in the eye of the beholder. "White strengthens the board but...there is still some question of how 'independent' he might be," says Chris Selland, vice president of sell-side research for The Aberdeen Group. "The good news is, he knows the company and the products." Related story: Siebel Systems' New CEO
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