Plateau Systems: Comply With Me

By Baselinemag  |  Posted 2004-06-08 Print this article Print

Plateau Systems has won business from large organizations that must prove their employees meet government-mandated training requirements.

Plateau Systems hates to be called a niche player. But like it or not, the company has won particular favor among large organizations that need to demonstrate that their employees meet government-mandated training requirements.

When the American National Red Cross was selecting a learning-management system to replace its internally developed one in late 2001, Plateau was the only major player that had been implemented in heavily regulated areas, such as the pharmaceutical industry, says chief information officer Tom Schwaninger. "The other vendors didn't have that track record," he says. That was a key consideration, because the organization wanted to ensure that 18,000 workers in its biomedical-services division are certified to handle blood and human tissue according to U.S. Food and Drug Administration regulations.

Besides being "fully entrenched in the energy industry," Plateau's system two years ago was the only one compliant with Java application-server standards, says Olivier Schittecatte, manager of training and development in the field services group of Canadian power utility BC Hydro. That allowed the Vancouver-based utility to install the software on two BEA WebLogic Java application servers it already had in production.

But Plateau hasn't pleased everyone. Julie Wuest, systems administrator with Genentech, a drug developer in South San Francisco, Calif., complains that the company provides no templates to help with the initial deployment. "It's like every customer has to reinvent the wheel," she says. Wuest also says Plateau is not proactive at alerting customers about bugs: "It seems like they're hiding their known problems."

The company insists it tries to be as timely as possible in issuing bug fixes and that it provides deployment guidance to customers through consulting services. As for not providing prebuilt templates, Paul Sparta, Plateau's chief executive officer, says less "mature" buyers may not understand that a learning-management system must remain flexible enough to accommodate different environments. "You first have to know why you're buying the software and how you want to use it," he says.

  • Plateau Systems
  • 671 N. Glebe Rd., Arlington, Va 22203
  • (703) 292-0200
  • www.plateau.com

    Ticker: Privately held

    Employees: 120

    Paul Sparta
    Chairman, CEO

    Before co-founding the company in 1996, the U.S. Navy veteran was director of training systems at MRJ, an information-technology defense contractor (now part of General Dynamics) that originally developed the Plateau learning-management system.

    Brian F.X. Murphy
    President, COO

    Former J.P. Morgan currency trader was CEO of Sensory Computing, a producer of e-learning titles and content-authoring products that merged with Plateau in 1999.

    Brad Cooper
    Senior VP, Product Strategy

    Co-founder of Plateau, who was in charge of marketing and product analysis at MRJ, has a background in producing training videos.


    Plateau 4 Learning Management System, based on Java 2 Enterprise Edition application-server standards, manages Web- and classroom-based learning activities. OpenSuite bundles the Plateau 4 LMS with tools for content creation and management.

    Reference Checks

    Union Pacific
    Kevin Naylor
    Assistant VP, HR Development
    (402) 271-3475

    Project: Railway operator manages training companywide via Plateau for 48,000 employees, 40% of whom must be certified to meet federal safety regulations.

    BC Hydro
    Olivier Schittecatte
    Manager, Field Services Training and Development
    (604) 528-8172

    Project: Canadian electric utility spent about $340,000 to deploy a Plateau system last year that provides online training for 3,800 workers.

    American National Red Cross
    Tom Schwaninger

    Project: Disaster-relief organization is replacing its 10-year-old homegrown application for scheduling training and classes with the Plateau system.

    Charlotte-Mecklenburg Police Dept.
    Officer Brian Russell
    Professional Development Coordinator
    (704) 432-1638

    Project: Plateau automates scheduling and tracking of firearms training for the North Carolina police department's 1,500 officers, who are retested every three months.

    Dte Energy
    Gayle Ashbridge
    Dir., Organizational Learning
    (313) 235-8260

    Project: Detroit utility uses Plateau primarily to provide online classes to 8,000 employees for annual certification training.

    Alyeska Pipeline
    Karen S. Anderson
    Technology Analyst
    (907) 787-8708

    Project: Alaskan oil pipeline firm uses Plateau's system to provide Web-based training to 1,000 employees and 1,500 contractors spread out over 800 miles.

    Executives listed here are all users of Plateau's products. Their willingness to talk has been confirmed by Baseline.


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