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High tech the old-fashioned way. An interview with Tom Siebel of Siebel Systems. Interview by Bronwyn Fryer.

Authors
Type
Published Article
Journal
Harvard business review
Publication Date
Volume
79
Issue
3
Identifiers
PMID: 11246919
Source
Medline
License
Unknown

Abstract

There is a growing awareness among corporations that the quality of the customer experience they provide directly affects their bottom line. Many are turning to high-flying software maker Siebel Systems for help in managing those relationships. The young company holds a leadership position in an explosive market-enterprise application software. But customer satisfaction, not dot-com chic, is foremost on the mind of Siebel Systems' founder, chairman, and CEO, Tom Siebel. The buttoned-down Siebel rejects the freewheeling management style and culture that characterize many Silicon Valley companies. As the former CEO of Gain Technology and a former executive at Oracle, Siebel believes in putting customers ahead of technology, discipline ahead of inspiration. In this interview, conducted at the company's San Mateo, California, headquarters, Siebel describes how this obsessive focus on customer satisfaction has been the driving force behind the company's success. He talks about how the organization remains true to its core values: a deep commitment to providing customer satisfaction; responsible fiscal practices that have created a cash-positive business amid today's cash-negative dot-coms; and general professionalism. "The notion of dressing in jeans and a T-shirt to greet the CEO of a major financial institution who just got off the plane from Munich is not acceptable," he says. Siebel Systems rejects the concept of going to war with rivals; instead, the CEO says, the company has forged an ecosystem of partnerships that allows it to support and integrate its own systems with other companies' software products and ultimately ease the customer's software installations. Indeed, Siebel says, the CEO's most important job is to understand what customers need and deliver that.

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