My Conversation with Paul Sparta: Update on Plateau, SAP, and SuccessFactors

Today I had a chat with Paul Sparta, the founder of Plateau and one of the key product leaders at SuccessFactors and now SAP.  Paul, who’s current title is Chief Integration Officer, shared some important thoughts with me which I felt were worth publishing.

1.  As a result of the acquisition, the SuccessFactors and Plateau teams now have thousands of SAP customers to work with, and they feel that their job is to slowly but openly build product plans to make sure these customers are successful.  The original acquisition was done at a very high level, and only now are the product groups even starting to understand the potential directions for all the SuccessFactors, Plateau, and SAP products. Technically no real decisions can be made or communicated until the acquisition closes.

2.  Paul believes there is a strong agreement within SuccessFactors that its LMS (formerly Plateau LMS) is a highly strategic product and it will remain one of the company’s key technologies going forward. This means SAP-SuccessFactors will likely continue to support and sell both licensed and Cloud-based Learning Management. There are many huge Plateau customers who have licensed software, and Paul stated that the company will continue to support these important customers.

3.  Despite SuccessFactors’ public comments that Plateau professional services was being rationalized, Paul shared with me that this is not the case – the company is further investing in consulting expertise and plans to continue to build out is support team for the LMS and indeed all of the products. (And the company stated recently that it will continue support of Plateau products for at least five years.) Some of the early Plateau customers who may have licensed Nuvosoft (Plateau’s legacy compensation product) may see support wane over time (there are hundreds of SuccessFactors compensation customers but only 50 or so Plateau compensation customers). But again these decisions are not made yet.

4.  Paul understands well the fact that large SAP customers (Disney, Royal Bank of Canada, Novartis, etc.) who have SAP and Plateau are important and will remain strategic to the company. He feels strongly that despite the company’s public vocal statements about Cloud computing, SAP will continue to sell licensed software and Learning Management will be part of that strategy. So any worries about Plateau disappearing into the Cloud are unlikely. He also feels that SAP will get behind SuccessFactors Learning in a big way, even though the company has many customers running the SAP HCM LMS.

5.  As a result of this acquisition, for the first time he feels that the company can take a much longer term view of its technology strategy.  In the last ten years Plateau and SuccessFactors have been in a “moon race” – running as fast as they can to grow and beat out other fast-growing competitors. Now as part of SAP the company has a vast customer base to support and work with (more than 100,000 licensed customers) and can take more time to build a long term roadmap which serves the needs of a large number of customers.

I personally hope that Paul has the opportunity to play a leading role in SAP’s future product strategy – he has proven to be a savvy enterprise software product leader and his experience in the LMS and Talent Management markets, coupled with his technology expertise, brings SAP a lot of stability during this acquisition.