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>Now a question: Do you consider the huge move toward >web-enabled products to be significantly different >from the client/server architecture that it >constitues a second tornado in the space?

Not in itself. There are factors that give web-architected products an advantage:

- the need for tight integration with channel partners

- the need for tight integration between customer communication channels - telephone, email, the web, SMS

- the rollout and support costs of big, complex client/server applications

... but I don't see these reasons being compelling enough to persuade big companies, whose first priority is the operational reliability of their call centres, to abandon Siebel en masse for the likes of Kana or E.piphany.

Not directly related to the web versus client/server architecture question, but another important factor that could give the current generation of web-based contenders an opening, is this:

One of the biggest issues that I see among my consulting clients is first generation CRM installations that are already "legacy". I have had dealings with first generation installations of Siebel, Vantive and Clarify that were heavily customised to deal with the (real or perceived) limitations of the systems at the time they were installed. The results will be familiar to anybody who has ever had dealings with a large SAP installation:

- long and expensive integration/customisation projects with disappointing results

- "point" call centre solutions poorly integrated with other systems such as back office, analytics and the web. In most cases the clients have so far been focused on the operational challenges of getting the call centre running smoothly, and are only now starting to try to make serious analytical use of the call centre data.

- long backlogs of work on system enhancements, made worse by the fact that people on the open market with generic skills in the products -- who are scarce anyway -- face a steep learning curve to work productively on these companies' heavily customised versions

- long and painful projects to migrate the applications and data to more "vanilla" installations of updated versions of the products

... but in only one of these cases was situation so bad that the client was considering scrapping the original product altogether and going back out into the marketplace to search for a replacement.

A year or so ago, when it was already obvious that Clarify and Vantive were no longer serious threats to Siebel's potential gorilla status, all the talk was aout Oracle or SAP being the Next Big Threat. Is it now equally possible that Kana or E.piphany could be it? Yes. Is it likely that one of these companies will actually unseat Siebel as the market leader in the next three to five years? I don't know. Possible, yes. Likely? Hmm.

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