SuccessFactors Ascends To Next Plateau

Lars-Paul-Doug-jpg
Lars-Paul-Doug-jpg

At its San Francisco user conference(Amsterdam currently underway; Sydney set for August), SuccessFactors rolled out a new logo combining passion and aggression.  Keynotes and announcements further propelled this titilating, and somewhat odd, combination.  The Plateau purchase, for example, was both an enormous envelope-pusher as well as a sweet love note as Lars Dalgaard (CEO of SuccessFactors) and Paul Sparta (CEO of Plateau) hugged and smiled brightly.

Lars-Paul-Doug-jpg
Lars-Paul-Doug-jpg

Following the acquisition of Plateau, along with last year’s purchase of Inform’s workforce planning and analytics suite as well as the company’s announcement of 20+ customers live on employee central (core HR), not to mention a more robust employee central 2.0 now in production – SuccessFactors now has the most extensive set of talent applications in the market.

So, what’s next?

Integration of these products is no small matter.  Creating the unified suite that has been aggressively promised will involve more than an API call from SuccessFactors’ performance product to Plateau’s learning product and back.  This level of integration, it should be noted, was accomplished in one week as a result of compatible web architectures – no code was altered.  This first accomplishment will be music to the ears of the dozens of customers that have inquired about the combination from both customer orientations according to Lars and Paul – as well as those curiously standing by.

The next phase of integration will be more of a unification project and will involve:

  • Building CubeTree’s social native capabilities into Employee Central’s core as well as embedding social processes into the talent applications.  Note: the recruiting application is the first beneficiary, with some capabilities enabled in the current offering.
  • Making tough calls on where Plateau begins and SuccessFactors ends.  Both have strong performance and succession products – the ultimate unified product will likely have some aspects of each.

And even more exciting …

While executing on integration (or unification) will serve SuccessFactors well in the next few years, another plateau beckons with opportunity.  This opportunity has less to do with functionality and more to do with platform maturity as Bill Kutik suggests in his article and related LinkedIn discussion “Did SFSF Get a Game-Changing Gem with Plateau?“  In fact, the customer install base resulting from the Plateau acquisition – one filled with large, on premise deployments – may actually provide SuccessFactors with a unique advantage in the industry.

Wouldn’t an install base of on-premise deployments prove a hindrance to a SaaS-driven application provider?  Here’s why the opposite may prove true:

HR vendors today fall into 2 camps: 1) those with an on-premise legacy that are working toward a SaaS future, and 2) those who started with SaaS.

Those in camp 1 are learning the discipline of SaaS as well as trying to teach their customers about that discipline.  The range of discipline choices available to customers means that a good deal of them are highly customized and will have a hard time relinquishing control by moving to SaaS.  Vendors in camp 1 will have to work very hard to find a way to move those customers to a SaaS platform.

Meanwhile, those vendors in camp 2 attract and select those customers that are prepared to give up some control in favor of SaaS benefits.  A good deal of time is spent educating prospects about the benefits, but ultimately, the customer install base only includes those willing to play by the rules.  Those with heavy customization requirements do not play.

SuccessFactors was firmly in camp 2 up until a few weeks ago.  Plateau brings with it a number of large, highly customized customers – in particular, those that customize to bring innovative, highly competitive learning experiences to their people.  Like vendors in camp 1, SuccessFactors will need to work hard to find a way to move these organizations to SaaS.  However, SuccessFactors has a decided advantage – it already knows SaaS.  And now, it has an ideal customer advisory board to build a Development-as-a-Service platform that delivers just the right amount of control to these highly innovative companies.

Bottom line:  SuccessFactors continues to strengthen its position as an HR vendor of choice.  Opportunities to unify a next-generation end-to-end HR suite as well as provide a Development-as-a-Service platform that enables optimal combination of agility and innovation will become game-changers in the coming years.  SuccessFactors is in a great position to take advantage of these opportunities.  Plateau and SuccessFactors customers should take heart.

Your POV: Are you a current customer of Plateau and/or SuccessFactors? What should SuccessFactors be mindful of as it unifies the suite?  What Development-as-a-Service tools would you like to see developed?

Photo source: YouTube SuccessFactorsInc Channel

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