Few companies in the software industry have a mission statement. Oracle, the 2nd largest software company in the world, doesn't have one. SAP, the largest ERP vendor, doesn't have one either. Siebel, who was later acquired by Oracle, was one of those few who actually put forth its own mission statement.
Siebel was founded in 1993. But it was not until 2000 when its mission statement was born. The story I've heard was that Tom Siebel, the company's founder, commissioned the PR department and the marketing department to come up with one. It's understandable why a company would want a mission statement. Done correctly, it promotes brand awareness and improves one's public image. Therefore, a mission statement must be simple, concise, and easy to remember. At the same time, it must be ambitious that it'll be valid over a long period of time because the last thing you want to do is to change your mission statement every year. Siebel's mission statement failed on all fronts.
This is Siebel's mission statement: "Be a leader in eBusiness application".
As a foreigner whose native language is not English, I may be the least qualified to say anything on the subject of English language. But there's only one word in that sentence that I understand - "leader". I couldn't find the word "eBusiness" in the dictionary. Nor did I find any fitting definition for the word "application". Going beyond English, and drawing on my 13 years of experience in the software industry, I still find it hard to define an "eBusiness application", let alone explaining it to ordinary people. Does email count as an "eBusiness application"? Well....sure, I send invoices via email to my customers every day. Does Excel count as an "eBusiness application"? Well....yes, I do my sales forecast over there. If you examine every piece of software, you'll probably find that every one of them has an "eBusiness" aspect to it. And since the word "application" is just a glorified term for computer program, all software can be considered as an "eBusiness application". So, here's a question for those MBA PR and marketing geniuses at Siebel, why don't you just say "Be a leader in software"? It's both more specific and easier to understand, especially for the general public. Are you guys so chicken that you're afraid to take on Microsoft directly?
Of course I know why they chose the term "eBusiness application". It's the buzzword at the time! Those people at Siebel sacraficed the basic principles of communication over what's fashionable for the season!!! I would not be surprised that if Siebel had survived, their mission statement of today would have been "Be a leader in Web 2.0 B2B peer-to-peer social networking internet search application". In my opinion, it reflects the inability for today's companies to communicate directly in easily understood terms.
In 1975, a man founded a company in Seattle in what would become one of the most successful businesses in the world. Its mission statement: "A computer on every desk". That, my friend, is a true mission statement.
(originally written 10/02/2008)