Interview: Nimish Mehta, Siebel

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Last time InsightExec spoke to Nimish Mehta, group vice president of Universal Application Network (UAN) technologies, he had one of the less enviable jobs at Siebel. He was the person drafted in to re-position UAN, the grandiose concept that is one of the bedrocks of Siebels product strategy going forward, but which at that time had elicited little more than puzzled frowns from many market watchers.

Was UAN a product? A framework? An architecture? Or was it always to remain that frighteningly complicated looking PowerPoint slide that Siebel marketing people stood in front of at corporate pitches? At the time, Mehta conceded that UAN had not been presented as well as it might have been and that one of the tasks moving forward was to clarify its positioning and lift understanding of what it was all about.

Over six months on, Mehta seems content that there has been a tangible improvement, both in terms of perception and takeup. "We have been very focused on building up the value propositon" he says. "We’ve now got a large number of customers going live with the technology. We have 60 customers now, which is significnaty up. What we’ve done is to widen and deepen the technology and to add more partners. As a consequence we are seeing significant revenue increase and customer traction".

Mehta cites the South African Revenue service as a good example of a UAN customer. The service is using Accenture to deploy the Siebel Public Sector Single View of the Taxpayer solution, in order to integrate multiple taxpayer systems, streamline citizen service processes and provide staff with a comprehensive view of the taxpayer.

The solution is part of the Siebel Universal Application Network that Accenture is using in South Africa. The purpose of the network is to allow the South African government to quickly deploy multiple customer-facing applications without integration headaches. The network includes various Siebel Business Integration Applications running on an IBM platform.

Prior to the new system, the South African Revenue Service had a series of disparate systems that prevented it from getting an accurate picture of its operations. This left open the possibility that the agency could lose tax revenues and customs dues because internal systems could not communicate effectively.

Accenture, IBM and Siebel integrated eight taxpayer systems with an existing deployment of Siebel Call Center. The initial deployment, a 200-user pilot trial, was completed in eight weeks. The subsequent rollout to more than 5,800 users nationwide was delivered in less than four months. It’s a text book example of what Mehta calls "an imaginative use of the technology".

The company has also added technology enhancements to UAN, adding 35 new workflows to the 120 that already existed. With the latest release of Microsoft’s BizTalk 2004, Siebel intends to extend its integration technology to the energy, communications and media sectors, said Mehta. For instance, there will be an offering specifically for wireless carriers that will let call center employees see all relevant billing or credit data about a given customer without having to access multiple screens or systems.

“BizTalk is part of our core strategy,” expains Mehta. “When we launched UAN, we talked about supporting all the major vendors which had built integration serverrs. This is one of our big differentiators. We are multi-vendor supporters. We support Microsoft, IBM, BEA, Tibco and SeeBeyond. In the case of BizTalk 2004, it’s a new version that’s significantly improved and really very impressive. So we are supporting that product ad we will have all our business processes on it.

"One of the things that customers like about UAN is the portability. The South African Revenue Service for example has IBM WebSphere in place. If we went in and said to them that they had to use our integration server then it would make life much more difficult for them. They’d have one more product in their IT shop and that at a time when most companies are trying to reduce the number of products that they have".

Of course Siebel’s other big push is its CRM On Demand initiative with IBM and BT. How does that fit with UAN? "There is a sister product to CRM On Demand called UAN On Demand" explains Mehta. "One of our key differentiators is that we can integrate with on premises CRM as well. You might have a division that is using on premises and one that’s using on demand. Or you might need to integrate with an Oracle back end that’s inside your firewall. The target for UAN On Demand are those customers that want to integrate their On Demand and On Premises systems".

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