Government as seller

For customer relationship management software vendors, government agencies with commercial-like operations are generally perceived, you might imagine, as an easier sell.

"The translation is simpler [for organizations] with processes that are equivalent to those in the private sector," said Beverly Gibson, general manager of the public sector for Siebel Systems Inc. "I am not sure that the technology is any more applicable."

A case in point is the General Services Administration's Federal Technology Service. A provider of information technology and network services to government agencies, FTS is "one of the places in government that operates on commercial principles" and is a good candidate for sophisticated CRM solutions, said Ray Bjorklund, vice president of consulting services at Federal Sources Inc., McLean, Va.

FTS began testing this supposition in December when it tapped Unisys Corp. to implement Siebel Systems' e-business software for a pilot program.

Because FTS deals with government customers, neither cost nor privacy was a tall hurdle, said Mary Davie, national account manager for the FTS office of sales. Launched in February, the 65-seat project has cost about $1.35 million, she said.

Geographically dispersed and organized according to business lines, FTS is using Siebel's call center and sales and marketing tools to sharpen its focus on individual customers. The system will be used to pool customer information from internal sources, such as the FTS data warehouse, and public sources to "give us some intelligence about the customer base," Davie said.

This first phase should end by September, and the initiative may be expanded GSA-wide.

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