Siebel taps IBM sales chief for CEO post

Thomas Siebel last week passed the CEO's mantle at the CRM vendor that bears his name to veteran IBM cORP. executive Michael Lawrie -- a move that comes as Siebel Systems Inc. is trying to rebound from two-plus years of declining revenue.

Siebel will remain as chairman and continue to be a full-time employee of the company. But he said during a teleconference that Lawrie, who previously was head of worldwide sales operations at IBM, will take over full management responsibility. "Mike runs the company," Siebel said. "The executive team reports to Mike."

Tim Arnold, IT manager at Bose Corp., said the management change probably won't have much of a day-to-day impact on the Framingham, Mass., maker of audio systems. But Lawrie's addition may help dislodge Siebel from its financial rut, added Arnold, whose company uses the vendor's sales force automation software and other applications.

"Hopefully, some new blood will make a difference," he said. "Sometimes you just need a new perspective."

However, Lawrie said he doesn't plan to make any "significant changes" to Siebel's management team over the next 12 months. The new CEO added that he intends to maintain the company's current strategy as well.

It's still unclear what the transition's effect on users will be, said Ken Casey, vice president of corporate services and operations at Alberta Treasury Branches, an Edmonton-based bank that runs Siebel applications in its call centers and branch offices.

Casey said that he respects Lawrie and that the bank has had a "good relationship with IBM over the years." As part of the Siebel installation, the bank uses IBM's mainframe and Unix systems and Windows-based Netfinity servers, plus its MQSeries messaging software and DB2 database.

Lawrie has a lot of work to do to restore Siebel's reputation for developing products that give users "great value and great satisfaction," said Rebecca Wettemann, an analyst at Nucleus Research Inc. in Wellesley, Mass. "There are Siebel licenses (at customer sites) that are not being used. They must identify those folks and take a harder look at customer satisfaction."

Siebel's annual revenue has fallen from US$2.04 billion in 2001 to $1.35 billion last year. The company last month reported first-quarter revenue of $329.3 million, down slightly from the year-earlier level -- but it said software license sales rose 13 percent year over year.

Tom Siebel, 51, last week said he decided a year ago to split the roles of CEO and chairman. Siebel added that as chairman, he will "assist in any way I can," with his duties to include providing input on corporate strategies and working to foster relationships with users and business partners.

Lawrie, 50, had worked at IBM for the past 26 years and was a senior vice president there. IBM and Siebel did about $1 billion worth of joint business last year, according to Tom Siebel. In addition, IBM has an internal installation of about 60,000 Siebel end-user licenses, making it one of the CRM vendor's largest users.

Joshua Greenbaum, an analyst at Enterprise Applications Consulting in Berkeley, Calif., said adding Lawrie may not give Siebel a long-term boost. "Lawrie says he's playing the same game with the same set of cards," Greenbaum said. "And with Tom watching over his shoulder, I doubt we'll see that new, dramatic shift that Siebel needs to recapture its former glory."

Side bar

With Lawrie leaving, IBM shifts execs

IBM Corp. last week reshuffled several of its top executives in connection with Michael Lawrie's decision to leave his sales job there and take over the CEO position at Siebel Systems Inc.

Doug Elix, who had been running the company's IT services and outsourcing unit since October 1999, was named to replace Lawrie as head of sales and distribution operations. Taking over for Elix at IBM Global Services is John Joyce, the company's chief financial officer for the past five years. Mark Loughridge, who had been general manager of global financing, was tapped to be CFO. All three executives are senior vice presidents and report to Sam Palmisano, IBM's chairman and CEO.

In an internal memo outlining the changes to IBM employees, Palmisano noted Lawrie's departure but described the series of management changes as business as usual for IBM.

"The intent of these leadership changes is straightforward -- to step up the pace of our marketplace execution and accelerate our strategic growth plans," Palmisano wrote.

-- Stacy Cowley, IDG News Service

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