CRM Vendors Push Software as National Security ToolsMajor customer relationship management vendors have spent the past few weeks pitching their products and services to the federal government as tools for preventing future terrorist attacks and responding to attacks if they occur.
Siebel Systems Inc. this month took its commercial marketplace software and targeted the homeland security effort. PeopleSoft and Oracle Corp. also have software they are marketing to the government.
The Siebel Solution for Homeland Security is designed to help the Office of Homeland Security, which is charged with coordinating the activities of the numerous agencies involved in fighting terrorist threats. The goal is to enable law enforcement agencies to share information in real time.
Just as Siebel's CRM software is designed to help companies gather disparate customer information spread across many databases, the homeland security package is tailored to combine data from local, state and federal government agencies.
"We work with a number of government entities around the world and [have] had an existing government practice for the past two years," said Clay Helm, a Siebel representative.
Siebel's CRM software is used by postal agencies in the United States, France and United Kingdom. The U.S. General Services Administration and state and local governments also use Siebel's software.
Siebel gave this example of how its software could be used: A terrorist suspect living abroad is identified by the CIA as a national security threat. The suspect requests a visa from the State Department's Bureau of Consular Affairs, which has no knowledge of the suspect's background and grants the visa. The Immigration and Naturalization Service fails to stop the suspect upon arrival in the United States because its agents, too, are unaware of the threat. After entering the country, the suspect overstays his visa but is not tracked or apprehended. By sharing its watch lists with the Bureau of Consular Affairs and the INS via Siebel Applications for Homeland Security, the CIA could prevent the suspect from entering the United States.
Though "there are some legal and organizational barriers to this process that have to be worked around," Helm said, Siebel's system can work within existing laws and is flexible if those laws change.
Helm said Siebel could draw on its original product line of sales force automation, which tracks sales leads and opportunities, "and this would be very useful for teams that are tracking criminal leads," she said. "Just as a salesperson would be tracking a deal to closure, the same type of software functionality can be used when tracking activity around a suspect."
Another CRM vendor offering a hi-tech tool against terrorist threats is Pleasanton, CA-based PeopleSoft Inc. The company said that it is meeting with government officials, members of homeland security director Tom Ridge's council and members of Congress who are looking to write legislation surrounding this subject.
"Tom Ridge's real responsibility in terms of the homeland security effort is to pull information [from different government groups] together and find a way to share information while at the same time not compromising any of the sensitivities of employees or the people they are tracking," said Kimberley Williams, director of marketing.
Williams said PeopleSoft is well-suited for the effort because it sells all of the traditional enterprise resource planning software, including modules that assist human resources, supply chain and financial functions as well as CRM, "and has a long history of delivering those products to the government with government-specific functionality."
The company has been in the government market for eight years, Williams said. Clients include the Internal Revenue Service, the Department of Defense and the Detroit public school system.
Oracle Corp., Palo Alto, CA, also suggested that it could provide software to the government for free if it wanted to create a national "smart card" or identity card containing basic information about the holder, including a Social Security number.
Larry Ellison, chief executive of Oracle, supported the idea earlier this month. Sun Microsystems CEO Scott McNealy also said it would back the national identity system. Ellison said the system would be linked to a federal database filled with detailed personal data, and that the card would be required to enter sensitive facilities like nuclear power plants. Carrying the card would be optional for U.S. citizens and mandatory for foreign visitors.
The Bush administration has yet to take a formal position on the cards, but Richard Clarke, the president's adviser on cyberspace security, is discouraging the idea of a national identity card.