At its 2010 user conference in Miami, Plateau Systems reviewed for analysts its progress in the market for talent management software. Plateau has a unified platform and suite of applications that cover learning, compensation, job performance and analytics. The company’s financials have been steadily growing as more customers adopt its platform and show good year-to-year growth in its applications that are rented through software as a service (SaaS). Plateau claims that its SaaS business has customer retention of 99 percent. The conference itself grew 40 percent from the previous year, with about 500 people in attendance, and Plateau has started a European conference that provided a local event for the first time.
The company has continued to invest in developing its technology, as I have observed (See: “Plateau Advances Talent Management in the Cloud”), and adding to its portfolio. Recently Plateau released version 6, which has advances in goal alignment, administrator tools and unifying compensation for short- and long-term incentives. Plateau’s suite is built on a single code base to serve large and midsize enterprises; this Plateau Foundation is designed to scale with interfaces and extensions that enable efficient operations of the applications as a company grows. This base is part of the reason why the company has been able to release updated applications every six months.
Plateau spent some time showing industry analysts improvements in the usability and segmentation of the applications across roles for employees, managers and administrators. The applications’ interfaces now include to-do lists, type-ahead, spell-checking, adaptive flows and other ease-of-use touches. The applications facilitate navigation across tasks and goals and enable examining talent and building pools of human capital for new assignments and initiatives. These investments in what they call ‘user experience’ and I just call usability should pay off for Plateau as the seamless flow and simplicity are key points for distinguishing its value in evaluations.
The company also announced Plateau Anywhere to provide offline capabilities on mobile platforms. This product addresses the challenge that for many SaaS applications the user must be online, which of course is not always possible. The design also brings a sleeker interface for reviewing to-do lists, catalogues of content, approvals, discussion forums and other items that often are required offline. Plateau has designed the capabilities to fit the form factor of mobile devices and is considering whether to design native capabilities for specific mobile platforms. Once this product is accessible by anyone with their mobile technology, the product will get more recognition and adoption.
In addition Plateau has advanced its efforts in analytics, adding robust report writing and sophistication in its layout. The technology is built on BIRT open source technology that provides an integrated approach to workforce analytics. Plateau Analytics has admirable simplicity, but the vendor needs to integrate workforce data from across systems in both cloud and enterprise in a more automated manner, which is necessary to support broader analytics and even workforce planning.
Plateau is growing partly because of its ability to cross-sell its applications to existing customers of its learning application and is gaining new customers that see the value of integrating compensation and performance applications with learning to facilitate performance improvement. The combination of these applications and workforce analytics makes a solid foundation for talent management on which Plateau can compete aggressively with Saba, Success Factors, SumTotal Systems and Taleo. It looks like 2011 will be a critical year for Plateau to see if it can break out of the pack and grow faster than others.
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Mark Smith – CEO & EVP Research