Tom Siebel

Age: 49

Claim to fame: In 1993, founded customer relationship management (CRM) software maker Siebel Systems Inc. in San Mateo, Calif., now recognized as the market leader. Prior to that, he was CEO of Gain Technology, a multimedia software firm. From 1984 to 1990, he was an executive at Oracle Corp.

What he's doing now: CEO of Siebel

What's been the biggest technology influence on your life? The relational database. I think the relational database was a very, very important development that dramatically affected the economics of computing. I think much of the work we do, the entire applications software industry, is built on the foundation of the relational database technology. The entire application software industry would be a fraction of what it is today without this fundamentally enabling technology.

Tom Siebel, CEO of Siebel
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Tom Siebel, CEO of Siebel
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What will be the next technology advance that will radically change the business landscape? The most important advance will be business process computing. . . . Today, the application software industry consists of a collection of screens and reports and associated business logic we customize or modify to meet the requirements of an industry or company, and we have various tools and languages we use to modify the data presentation workflow and underlying data structure. The next breakthrough will be when we begin to view an application not so much as software, but as collections of best practices.

What will the IT organization look like? The organization will look less like [a group of] programmers and configurers and installers of software, and more like [a group of] business experts who can describe and modify business processes.

What kind of role will computers play in business 10 years from now? I think the computer itself will become marginalized. I think it will be something of very little value 10 years from now that is ubiquitous and taken for granted and very low-priced. It will be like a paper clip in terms of form factor and cost, and at the same time have enormous utility.

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