After SumTotal, we continue our interview series with another world-wide leader of the LMS market: Plateau Systems.
Plateau provides one of the most comprehensive talent management suite, including learning, performance, compensation, carrer & succession and content management.
Today, I welcome Jeff Kristick, SVP Marteking at Plateau Systems…
Sébastien FRAYSSE – Could you give us a few trends about the evolution of the LMS/LCMS market by the beginning of 2010? How is the demand evolving?
Jeff KRISTICK- Over the past few years, both the LMS and LCMS have been consolidating and shifting at the same time. In the LMS space, the trend has been and will continue to be towards combining learning and performance management into broader talent management suites. Included in this trend is the ability to support newer capabilities like collaboration and social networking that support informal learning activities and initiatives (an area where we are seeing increased interest).
The LCMS market is redefining part of their value proposition. Originally, LCMS were focused on re-usable content objects, but over the past few years, people have discovered that re-usable media is more important. So, the tools in the LCMS space are focusing more on improving group authoring and storage capabilities. Both the LMS and LCMS markets are moving toward SaaS, which brings down the overall cost for the customer and allows the providers to offer more and better products.
Another significant trend we’re seeing is Content-as-a-Service (via our iContent offering) is a “buyer’s market” for content (though this is not directly LMS/LCMS functionality, it is an essential integration component for the LMS, for most companies). By “buyer’s market”, we mean companies demanding more flexibility in finding and procuring content – pay-as-you-go models, small streamlined content bundles that serve as a “quick hit” as opposed to large voluminous content catalogs. Companies are responding to business needs by buying content in real-time (as opposed to strategic, up front mass buying) – this is due, in part, to the economy, but is also a result of customers realizing that they have spent the past 5 years paying for content their employees never used.
A final trend we are seeing is in the area of social or informal learning. Originally, informal learning was seen as something competitive to learning management systems and formal training while the reality is they are very much complimentary. An effective development strategy includes formal training and informal training and provides an environment where learners can get the best of both approaches.
SF – Plateau provides a full Talent Management solution. Could you shortly present the solution components?
JK - Plateau’s Integrated Talent Management Suite makes processes exponentially more efficient with each pre-integrated module. Plateau’s Talent Management Suite is comprised of the following modules, which are available as scalable and secure multi-tenant SaaS solutions and can be deployed independently or together as an integrated talent management solution.
Plateau’s Integrated Talent Management Suite includes:
- Career & Succession
- Shared Talent Profile and Reporting and Dashboards across all modules
- Rich set of Portal and Collaboration capabilities delivered by Talent Gateway
SF – Does that mean that your customers will no longer focus on a single LMS solution? Do you still have clients which purchase your LMS without taking care of a global talent management approach? What’s the trend?
JK – While a few customers are interested in and considering only an LMS system, that is not the norm. We are seeing a trend towards customers buying more than one talent management solution at a time. In fact, more than 100 of Plateau’s customers are currently using more than one Plateau Talent Management module, and more 20 customers using four or more. While the purchase of an LMS may be the initial driver (as was the case for 60% of our new customers last year), most customers want the flexibility to extend their LMS and add broader talent management capabilities such as performance management or compensation. They want to know that their LMS provider can support their longer-term talent management needs.
SF – Plateau recently announced that Trivantis’ authoring suite – Lectora Online – will be integrated with iContent Content-as-a-Service (CaaS). Could you explain what is iContent, the CaaS concept and the role of Lectora in this solution?
JK - iContent is the industry’s first content-as-a-service (CaaS) solution. It is a managed service supported by technology that removes the burden of eLearning technology, infrastructure, and process from customers and allows them to focus on delivering the right training to the right people at the right time. iContent’s CaaS solution provides all of the hosting, delivery, and content management required to effectively deliver third-party and custom eLearning content. This allows organizations to focus more on the effectiveness of content vs. the technical necessities for hosting and delivery.
We provide dedicated content experts to manage, test, and support all types of eLearning coupled with a complete infrastructure stack. Lectora was added to further expand the capabilities of iContent as part of a CaaS solution. Lectora online is bundled with the iContent service to now add content authoring to the list of available services.
More than 30 content providers make their content available via iContent and today, customers can select from a course library of more than 20,000 third-party titles in iContent and can purchase only the titles they want/need (no requirement to content in traditional bundles). iContent’s user base increased in 2009 to 1.8 million. iContent has close to 14,000 custom titles under contract, and around 250,000 courses are launched via iContent each month.
SF – The SaaS model is becoming “the preferred deployment model” for enterprises. Does it make systems like Plateau accessible to Small and Medium Businesses (SMBs)? Is there a critical size in terms of number of users and budgets to adopt such a system?
JK – The short answers are yes, SaaS is definitely making Plateau’s solutions more accessible to a broader range of customers, including SMBs and large enterprises; and no, there is not a critical size for deploying Plateau’s SaaS solutions. Historically, Plateau has focused on larger enterprises, but as we went to market with our SaaS solution, we broadened our focus and can now efficiently and effectively meet the needs of any size customer. While we have some of the largest SaaS customers in the industry (with our largest customer having over 500,000 users), we have also seen significant growth among customers with less than 1000 users. Our scalable multi-tenant SaaS architecture allows us to serve customers of all size and provide them with a high level of flexibility to extend the application to meet their unique business requirements.
As I mentioned, we initially focused on large enterprises and as such we had to build capabilities into the product to support those customers extending the application to meet their needs. We now see more requests from customers of all size to extend the application. Our recent Platform-as-a-Service (PaaS) announcement reinforces Plateau’s ability to uniquely support SaaS deployments for all customers by allowing them to implement specific extensions to the Plateau Talent Management Suite that address their specific business requirements.
SF – Plateau recently held its first international user conference – Insights Europe 2010 – in Barcelona. From your experience, what are the differences between the American and the European markets? Are European customers waiting for different features and services than American ones?
JK – We have seen significant growth in our international business in the last several years and that was driven by having the right products and services for the markets. There are unique data security and privacy issues in Europe that we had to deal with in our SaaS solution like the EU Safe Harbor Framework. Also, we saw Europe as a late adopter of SaaS, but that has really changed and it has now become the preferred deployment model. In terms of the product features there are some obvious global capabilities like language support and multi-lingual support that are table stakes in Europe. We support over 25 different languages and complete support for multi-lingual data sets (e.g. a learning item description can appear in multiple languages). Finally, a key requirement to being successful in Europe is having the implementation and support teams in Europe. Many US-based companies will try and fly services folks into Europe to support their customers or sign up a set of partners to support the customers. European companies want to know that their vendor is committed to the market and has the team in place to make them successful. Partners are obviously important, but the vendor must have the right services people in Europe and we have done that since day 1 at Plateau.
SF – What direction will you give to your product (mainly LMS) for the next years? What kind of features/capabilities do you plan to develop?
JK – Our primary strategic areas of focus include:
• Continued Integration of learning and training with other Talent Management applications. Organizations are increasingly recognizing the benefits of integrating learning and training information and data with broader talent management applications like performance, career and succession planning and compensation. In addition to providing a consolidated view of the training, skills and talent that comprise an organization, an integrated solution allows managers to link employee performance with specific learning and training activities, also allows managers to link pay with performance and allows organizations to develop succession plans by mapping employee skills and training with the needs of the organization. An integrated approach is proving to be more time, labor and cost-effective by decreasing the need for multiple systems, providing a consistent user interface and experience across all applications, reducing manual data entry errors and eliminating data “siloes”.
• Informal learning – Budget constraints and a changing workforce comprised of younger workers who are more accustomed to “just-in- time” learning (as opposed to more structured learning), is driving increased demand for the incorporation of informal learning mechanisms. We released Plateau Talent Gateway in the fall of 2009 and we continue to enhance this product to provide full support for things like social networks, content management, wikis, blogs, and discussion forums.
• Social networking and collaboration – Companies are looking at collaboration and social networking capabilities to promote and manage informal learning. They want these capabilities to work with the formal learning platform (most likely an LMS), so that users can move between formal learning and informal expert-based learning. Plateau is embracing this shift with Plateau Talent Gateway and a key area of focus for us is to make this platform more open and extensible. We recognize that most companies have several social networking solutions in place already, and we are enhancing Talent Gateway to make it easier to work with and embed in those other products.
• Content-as-a-Service – We have seen a huge uptick in customer interest for our iContent (content-as-a-service) solution. More and more customers are finding this solution beneficial and cost effective as it allows them to acquire, and/or develop only the content they need (rather than purchasing content bundles, as they have been accustomed to doing). Because this is a fully managed solution that includes hosting as well as content authoring tools, content testing, validation and delivery, customers are freed from content management and administration burdens. And, through Plateau’s recently expanded partnership with Travantis that makes Lectora Online available to iContent users, iContent customers can now publish content directly to iContent.
SF – Thank you Jeff for all your answers. Our readers can visit the Plateau website to go further.
Complimentary post related to the CaaS concept: http://www.itbusinessedge.com/cm/docs/DOC-1943