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The Top Ten Problems

in Siebel Projects ...

... and How to Avoid Them By Duncan Scattergood, Customer Systems plc

O rganisations often spend huge sums on buying and implementing • Processes are designed based on how
non-Siebel applications work, leading
Siebel, and many see a fantastic return on their investment - increas-
to many screens being required for
ing sales, improving customer service and reducing internal costs. something which could be achieved
However, others struggle and often become disillusioned with the whole with one or two button clicks. This leads
process after years of effort. Why do Siebel projects go off track, and how to significant and often unnecessary re-
can organisations ensure that theirs will be a success? engineering of Siebel.

• Particular ways of working are imposed

on the application, when Siebel already
Siebel is an immensely powerful product actively managed through the new process supports the exact requirement in a
with an extremely wide set of functional and there is consistency in the data. slightly different way. Recreating func-
capabilities. However, it is the way in tionality that exists in the core product is
which the product is implemented that To avoid setting unrealistic expectations, unnecessary and expensive, both in terms
determines whether the anticipated benefits care must be taken to understand at the of initial development, and of ongoing
are delivered. outset: maintenance, enhancements and
A project can fail for a variety of reasons. • The actual IT costs of the project
During our ten years working with Siebel • The system fails to meet all the require-
we have been called on to rescue many • The anticipated benefits and when they ments because it is perceived that certain
projects that have gone off track, and time are expected to be delivered things cannot be achieved in Siebel when
and time again the cause can be traced to a in fact, with appropriate skill, they are
basic set of problems. • The prerequisite process steps, both fairly small configuration tasks.
technical and business, to obtaining
By bringing together the ten reasons why a the benefits The importance of engaging real Siebel
Siebel project is most likely to fail, this experts at the early stages of a project,
article examines the factors that separate • The necessary commitment by the busi- with both functional and technical knowl-
success from failure. We explore potential ness of time and resources to the project edge about what is and is not achievable –
pitfalls and how these can be avoided, and and how best to achieve it – cannot be
consider how to bring problematic projects If adequate consideration is overstated.
back on track. given to these points
when developing a
The Top 10 project plan, it is
possible to celebrate
1 Unrealistic short term expectations milestones along the “Time and effort are essential,
way to the ultimate
One reason why a Siebel project may be goal, rather than and not all the benefits will be
perceived to fail is that there is an unrealis- becoming disillu-
tic expectation of how quickly the benefits sioned by how much delivered at once.”
will be seen. work has been done
and yet how far there
Merely installing Siebel and making it still seems to be to go.
available to users will not transform the
effectiveness of an organisation. Instead, 2 Insufficient Siebel knowledge in 3 Separate technical team
realising the full capabilities of the applica- design team
tion takes a lot of hard graft from technical In a traditional IT project, a business
and business oriented teams. Time and Experts in the relevant business processes, analyst speaks to users in order to gather
effort are essential, and not all the benefits or experienced business analysts who have requirements, before documenting them
will be delivered at once. worked on other applications, can play vital and passing them to a technical designer.
roles in the analysis and design team, but The designer translates them into a
For example, if a key benefit is more they must be complemented by real Siebel technical design which is then implemented
accurate forecasting of sales opportunities, experts. A lack of Siebel expertise is likely by a programmer before the system is
that benefit will not be realised until the to give rise to the following scenarios: tested and deployed. This approach results
organisation’s opportunities have been in a large gap between the users with the

OracleScene Issue 34 Summer 2008 19

original business problem, and the techni- • In the user acceptance test phase, to • Unresolved inconsistencies between
cal team charged with solving it. In a more check that what was finally built really data models: for example, a contact can
extreme version, the development work does do the job. have many addresses in Siebel, but only
may even be carried out off-shore. one is supported in a particular legacy
• In the deployment phase, to assist application.
This model may still have a place in some in rolling the system and associated
situations but it is not appropriate in a process changes out into the wider • Incorrect interface type selection: the

Siebel project. Siebel is different because a user community. wrong decision is taken over which
skilled configuration expert can bend the integration technology (EIM, eAI, Web
core application to meet a particular In addition, continual (if less frequent) Services etc) to use. Integration routines
requirement very quickly. This presents an involvement throughout the project, may also be poorly developed, since this
opportunity to run projects in a way that including build, is advisable. This involve- is primarily a Siebel configuration job
greatly increases the probability of the ment really does help users to have a strong requiring expert Siebel skills.
delivered system meeting users’ needs, sense of ownership of the project, as well as
while lowering project costs by reducing allowing frequent checks that the project is Even when Siebel expertise is engaged
the project team size. on track, avoiding surprises during user in the design and build of integration,
acceptance testing. organisations often choose to subdivide
the Siebel team along the line between con-
figuration and integration. This is a mistake
because decisions made at the design stage
about how the user interface should work
can affect the format, style and frequency of
“Siebel is different because a skilled integration – and choices made in integra-
tion (often forced by legacy applications)
configuration expert can bend the core can affect how information should be pre-
application to meet a particular sented to users. Therefore, the two aspects
are by no means independent, and as a
requirement very quickly.” minimum, the team building the core
configuration should be expert in the issues
surrounding integration and vice-versa.

Integration must be considered in the

The ideal model for a Siebel project is a When planning user involvement, a key context of the overall application design,
small, expert team where each individual consideration is who to involve. This varies and not dealt with as an afterthought.
is responsible for all activities relating to from organisation to organisation, and also Of course, individuals with high levels
a particular functional area, from depends on the task to be performed. Of all of expertise in the other applications
requirements gathering, through design, the user-centric tasks, design workshops are concerned should also be involved, and
development and testing, to deployment. normally the most critical to a project’s suc- collaboration is the key to successful
In larger projects, there may well be people cess. Senior management often do not have integration projects.
who specialise in design, build or test, or enough time to do the activity justice and
people who are involved in only one area, may not actually understand the finer detail 6 The difference between sales and
but the core team should remain through- of the processes that users will perform on service projects
out the whole project. a day to day basis. On the other hand, run-
ning workshops with low level users can A Siebel application is usually intended to
4 Insufficient user involvement result in the collection of information that be used by one of the following groups:
reflects the details of the current system
Ultimately, a Siebel implementation is a rather than the changes that senior man- • Users selling high value products to a
business project that must deliver business agement are trying to implement. relatively small number of customers.
benefits. The project is for end users and Therefore, the best candidates for these
their managers, so it is critical that they are types of activities are often found at team • Users dealing with low value, high
fully engaged throughout the project to leader or middle management level. volume sales and/or service type
ensure that the final system delivers what transactions.
they need. 5 Poorly thought-out integration
A particularly common mistake resulting
Often, other responsibilities mean that Many Siebel implementations involve com- from a lack of Siebel expertise is the failure
users have only limited time to give to the plex integration with other applications. to recognise the significant difference
project, but if they are only prepared to Even if each individual application that between these two types of project.
commit very small quantities of time – or supports a business process is well designed
even no time at all – then our experience is and robust, if the interfaces between those Low value, high volume sales and
that a project will not be as successful as it applications are flawed, then the resulting service environments are typically very
should be. overall system will not be solid. transactional with emphasis on users
gathering set pieces of information in a set
Typically, the most important stages for Again, expert Siebel knowledge is essential sequence, and the style of user interface
significant user involvement are: in this scenario. If the team handling the built needs to reflect this.
integration has little Siebel knowledge, the
• In the design phase, including workshops following often occur: By contrast, the nature of transactions in a
and prototyping to verify that the user high value, low volume scenario means that
interface will support what they need to • Inappropriate split of tasks between processes are typically quite unstructured,
do. At this stage, it is also important to applications: for example, something with skeletal information about new oppor-
run through each of the processes that that could be easily achieved in Siebel is tunities being fleshed out throughout the
users will perform, to check that nothing customised into another application sales process. It is therefore difficult to pre-
is missing. because no one knew better. dict the sequence in which users will navi-
gate through Siebel and enter information,
and again the user interface must reflect this.

20 A UK Oracle User Group publication

Furthermore, high value, low volume sales • Unacceptable user response times due to • Will the application work correctly in the
users can effectively boycott the application inefficient configuration or poor user production environment? For example,
if they do not like it – organisations do not interface design. the development environment might sit
fire their top performing salespeople simply on a single LAN, but multiple firewalls
because they will not use Siebel. As with many of the problems outlined in might be involved in the production
this article, the solution is to ensure an environment that require opening of

Additionally in this situation, increased appropriate level of Siebel knowledge and ports and other infrastructure changes.
management control is often a key stated skill is engaged at this stage of the project.
objective of the Siebel project. However, if • Do any specialist modules, e.g. Siebel
this is the sole objective of the project then In the ideal project there would be no Remote, work as expected?
end users may feel that the system’s only separation between the design team and
impact on their day-to-day activities will be the build team, and in the best projects the • Will the application work with produc-
a negative one. Consequently, user adop- design team will simply be absorbed into tion volumes? As it can be very difficult
tion will be poor and the project will fail. the core of the build team. to replicate production usage scenarios,
careful thought ought to be given to
whether this style of testing is necessary
and practical and, if so, what scenarios
will be simulated.
“The key is to encourage user
Test plans are also advisable to ensure a
adoption by offering genuine degree of repeatability, although these
should be as brief as possible to keep the
benefits for the sales force.” emphasis on high quality testing, not on
the maintenance of test plans.

9 Poor user adoption

The key is to encourage user adoption by 8 Insufficient or inappropriate testing
offering genuine benefits for the sales force, It is not uncommon to come across Siebel
such as the provision of up to date com- It is not necessary to spend an excessive implementations that are, in the main,
petitor analysis, or automatic generation of amount of time checking the standard fea- technically sound and well aligned to user
presentations, proposals and quotations. tures of the packaged Siebel application, requirements, but are poorly adopted
which can usually be assumed to work cor- because the users do not understand how
An application that is well designed for one rectly. Pre-deployment testing must instead to take advantage of the facilities offered.
type of scenario rarely suits the other. focus on the specific configuration that has
Misunderstanding the user types and con- been carried out to meet the organisation’s This lack of knowledge can and does occur
sequently not designing the user interface particular requirements. Ensuring that the at multiple levels:
correctly is an expensive mistake to rectify application supports the business processes
later, not only in terms of build cost but as intended, and that processes run correct- • Not knowing how to perform basic
also in terms of lost user confidence when ly across multiple applications, is also vital. navigation, search and data entry:
an inappropriate application is deployed. for example, taking multiple actions to
The trick is to use the limited time period achieve something that can actually be
7 Insufficient knowledge in available for testing in the most effective done with a couple of button clicks.
development team way possible,
concentrating on the
Configuring Siebel quickly and efficiently is areas of highest risk
not an impossible challenge but it is a spe- and/or those with
cialist job. Whereas with many program- the most impact if “Ensuring that the application
ming languages an expert might work two there is a problem.
or even three times as fast as an average This usually means supports the business processes
programmer, with Siebel development the focusing on the as intended is vital.”
factor is much bigger, maybe as large as 20. following:

A development team with an inadequate • Do the processes,

skill set risks delivering any of the following: as defined in the
workshops, work as anticipated? • Not understanding how the application
• An application that does not meet If a good job has been done of involving relates to the organisation’s business
users’ requirements because the people users through the design and develop- process: for example, not knowing when
performing the configuration do not ment process, this should not normally to enter an opportunity in the system, or
know what is possible or how to be a major area of concern. what stages it should go through. This
implement it. can result in one user not completing all
• Are any exceptions to those processes of the necessary steps in the system to
• An application that was expensive supported? allow the next user involved in the
to develop because it contains more process to do their job.
configuration than necessary to achieve • Do integrations work between
a given task, in particular extensive applications? • Incomplete or inappropriate data
coding to implement something that administration: for example, if an
could have been handled far more easily • Is all the master data, e.g. list of values, administrator fails to correctly set up
in Siebel Tools if the developer had had correct? Do the initial data loads import the organisational structure within the
the relevant knowledge. all the data correctly? application, a user could find that they
are not presented with the subset of data
• Following on from the previous point, an they need to see in order to do their job.
application that is difficult and costly to
support, enhance and upgrade.

OracleScene Issue 34 Summer 2008 21

“...a key requirement is to extract data from the
application and put it in a form that managers
at all levels can use to make decisions.”

One of the main causes of this is poor It is essential to consider reporting at the • An understanding of how to gently
training. The training provided may simply start of a project, to ensure that the bend the core product to any given
be insufficient, or it may be inadequate in information captured suits the reporting business situation and, in particular,
that it only covers the mechanics rather requirements, and to ensure that reporting which of the multitude of available
than the procedures specific to the organi- and analysis are delivered either in parallel configuration techniques is most applica-
sation. Training that is not delivered very with, or very shortly after, the main Siebel ble in which situation.
close to the point of system deployment, or releases. If any of these steps are omitted,
training that does not reflect a person’s an otherwise excellent Siebel implementa- Projects may have effective team members
prior technical experience, will also not tion can elicit a reaction of “so what?” from who have either a strong functional or
yield the best results. For example, it would the business community. technical emphasis in their skill set, but a
not be appropriate to use the same training truly worthwhile team member will have
material for a field sales person who has The common theme of product knowledge about both dimensions.
previously hardly used a computer, and a knowledge
technically literate power user. However, In our experience, the most successful
both of these users still have training needs. The majority of the problems outlined Siebel projects have a small team of
here are underpinned by a common theme. experts who can both speak to users
Surprisingly often, projects get as far as the If the project team does not understand about requirements and effectively
end user training and deployment stage Siebel well enough from a functional configure Siebel to meet those
before it is discovered that the detailed pro- and/or technical perspective then it is very requirements. The value of real product
cedures for using the system have not been unlikely that the system will be well aligned knowledge (as opposed to certificates or
fully agreed and documented. This lack of to users’ needs, of reasonable technical years of poor quality experience) cannot
clarity is another reason why users do not quality and cheap to create. be overestimated.
use the system that has been developed.
The normal cause of this is insufficient user Product knowledge cannot be measured in In conclusion
involvement throughout the project and it years of experience. It is quite possible for
is often one manifestation of more deep an individual to have worked with Siebel A Siebel project has the potential to
seated problems in an implementation. for several years without actually having increase an organisation’s sales, improve
learnt a great deal about the product. customer service and reduce internal costs.
To avoid delivering a system which users In fact, true product knowledge encom- However, without adequate effort, plan-
cannot use to its full potential, it is passes three key things: ning and expertise, the project can run into
essential to thoroughly plan the way in a number of problems, and ultimately fail
which the application will be used, and to • A thorough understanding of what the to deliver on expectations.
provide adequate training to users across core product does and how that can be
the organisation. applied to particular business situations. To achieve success, it is essential that your
project team is equipped with the skills and
10 Inadequate reporting • A deep comprehension of the principles resources, both internal and external, that
behind how the product is built. It is not they need to maximise the benefits of this
When designing and configuring a Siebel possible to hold the entirety of such a powerful software suite.
application, it is easy to focus entirely on vast product inside one person’s head,
the entry of data, and how that data should but it is perfectly possible to have a firm
be transferred to other applications by enough understanding of the underlying
integration. technologies to allow any new functional
area to be learnt very quickly.
However, in most implementations, a key
requirement is to extract data from the
application and put it in a form that
managers at all levels can use to make About the Author
decisions. In other words, the application Duncan Scattergood is Operations Director and co-founder of
must have the capability to report on and Customer Systems plc, where he is responsible for all sales,
analyse information held in the database. marketing, project delivery and recruitment functions.
Customer Systems is wholly focused on Siebel, Siebel Reports
Oracle provides a number of reporting and and Siebel Analytics and has accomplished hundreds of
analysis tools including Siebel Reports
successful implementations. Based in the UK, they have
(Actuate), Oracle BI Publisher and Oracle
delivered services in 29 countries across 4 continents.
Business Intelligence Enterprise Edition
19% of the customers listed in Siebel’s last annual report have
(Siebel Analytics). The most suitable tool
depends on the situation, and it is often used Customer Systems.
appropriate to meet multiple requirements Duncan can be contacted at
with multiple technologies.

22 A UK Oracle User Group publication