• June 1, 2007
  • By Marshall Lager, founder and managing principal, Third Idea Consulting; contributor, CRM magazine

Lord of the Undead Vendors

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Memo from the desk of Marshall Lager, June’s Chief Necromancy Officer

(Cue spooky organ music)
It haunts a crypt up in the mountains, in the dark, brooding gloom of San Mateo. When darkness falls, some...thing rises from a grave to feed on the blood of living CRM vendors. A shadow flits across the moon--fangs sink into the neck of a healthy vendor, draining its press coverage, its vital essence.

A blood-fiend walks among us: It is Siebel Systems, Lord of the Undead CRM Vendors.

Once, I was a skeptic. I believed that Siebel had gone to the afterlife of acquisitions. Its legacy lingered here in CRM and in other venues, but I attributed that to fond memories and a desire to preserve a lasting impression. One does not speak ill of the recently departed.
But press mentions continued, even going so far as to bestow awards on the late master of enterprise software systems. I denied the evidence. It often seems as if a corpse's nails and hair--even teeth--continue to grow for quite some time after interment, and that's what I chose to believe was happening. It's been nearly two years now, and I can no longer doubt.

The crisis for me started during our most recent Service Awards, published in April. There was still disagreement among analysts over whether to include the monster as a separate entrant in our categories, and the editors here seriously considered doing so. Siebel was considered as part of Oracle instead of its own entity, but the discussion continued: Should we keep them separate in the upcoming Market Awards? When we published a news story about a Gartner Magic Quadrant ("Siebel Continues to Fly Solo as a Leader," March 7, 2007) it became clear that we were dealing with the supernatural.

Siebel is hungry. Whenever Oracle is mentioned, Siebel is sure to be the next topic. But when Count Siebula leads the discussion, where is poor Oracle? The name will come up, but like Renfield it is a shadow of its master. And don't doubt that Siebel is the master; which company is all of Oracle's CRM and SOA functionality built around? Siebel hides behind Oracle, draining its press all the while and denying it the spotlight.

I admit I might have the wrong take on this situation. In fact, there's another hypothesis that could be just as likely: Oracle is playing god, piecing together bits from scavenged corporate bodies like Dr. Frankenstein did, to create an amalgamated creature.

Either way, there's something creepy going on in California (as if you need me to tell you that). And just because I'm giving this monster movie the Abbott and Costello treatment doesn't mean there isn't something serious behind it. M&A is a dangerous game when the names involved are big ones, and there were arguably no bigger ones in the enterprise applications space than Oracle and Siebel. Fallout from that acquisition and from PeopleSoft continues to plague Oracle, a company that is routinely seen as having a tough job of making sense of all its many properties. The fact that I'm writing this is further proof that Larry Ellison needs to find the right stake, and I'm not talking about the number of shares he owns.

Contact Senior Editor Marshall Lager at mlager@destinationCRM.com.

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