Will Vertical Become the new Vogue?

This week I had two service experiences that were worlds apart – One was a very nasty US Airways supervisor that ruffled even my easy going travel composure, and the other was an exceptional waitress in a little restaurant in the Charleston, SC airport. Both employees deal daily with stressed and rushed customers, and both employees, I admit, have very difficult jobs. Their attitudes had a direct impact on my own mood which of course will have a direct impact on my buying decisions for the future. As an industry, front line service professionals are rarely given their due for the impact they have on an organization’s bottom line.

An organization that is hoping to improve the engagement of front line employees is PeopleMatter, a talent management platform designed specifically for the hourly workforces in the service industry. In 2010, PeopleMatter launched their first module HIRE with the goal of creating an integrated platform that was tailored for the service industry and built for ease of use. Over the last two years they’ve continued to launch two additional modules including LEARN, and SCHEDULE, with a goal of launching ENGAGE in late 2012 or early 2013.

When you speak to the PeopleMatter product team you hear a few themes continuously mentioned:

  • One thought per screen
  • Clean and intuitive user interfaces
  • Big, big, big buttons to guide your actions
  • Pre-designed for mobile and tablet environments

These design principles sound great, but as any developer will tell you they can be very hard to manage when you are trying to develop a complex people management system.

They also take their prioritization and product development cycles very seriously, using a numbering system driven by client requests to drive road-map decisions. Their energy isn’t placed on creating a feature rich platform; instead it is spent on creating an engaging platform that meets specific industry challenges and audience expectations.

This week was a busy week for PeopleMatter, over the course of three days they held events around collaboration, capitalization, a product launch, and information sharing.


On Sunday, PeopleMatters welcomed forty customers to their Collaborate 12.1 event. Their target clients are the mid-market convenience store, restaurant, hotel, and retail service providers, predominantly those between 10 to 1,000 service locations. Their key customers range from trendy local restaurant chains including Scotty’s Brewhouse and Boloco to larger organizations such as Ruby Tuesdays and Rickers Convenience Stores.

I spent the day with their customers, and the one thing you noticed immediately about all of them was that they were passionate about changing the way employees were viewed in an industry were turnover rates average in triple digits. In their view, PeopleMatter, was the technology that would enable their organization to create a better working environment for their diverse workforce. According to the BLS and Industry association numbers, In 2011, the service, retail, and hospitality industries employed somewhere between 30 to 50 Million people in the United States.


On Monday PeopleMatter announced a $14-million Series C round of venture funding led by Morgenthaler Ventures. Current investors Noro-Moseley Partners, C&B Capital, Intersouth Partners and Harbert Ventures also participated in this investment round. Gary Little, partner at Morgenthaler Ventures and a new PeopleMatter board member, stated “PeopleMatter is the only company that caters to hourly workers in the service industry – this is a $2.5 billion market that’s underserved and rapidly growing. There is a huge opportunity here.”

This funding allows PeopleMatter to continue their quick development pace, and provides the ability for them to grow their client base. It also continues to show the increased confidence from the investor communities in “SaaS” based talent technology.

Product Launch

In a live demonstration on Tuesday, PeopleMatter launched their new scheduling tool that is both smart-phone friendly and provides an automated voice recognition option for land-line or flip phone access. If you want to make the lives of both employees and managers easier in service based industries, then work to improve shift scheduling and workforce management. In an industry where work schedules change daily, or sometimes hourly, optimizing staff to sales ratios leads to real bottom line differences. Service organizations know that managing your workforce is a constant struggle.

PeopleMatter’s integrated platform, with the innovative scheduling tool, takes talent management to the most important level – the employees. It puts the employee in a position of ownership, with shift sharing technology that gives them options. This is especially important as 20% of the targeted work force is in the teen to early 20’s range – the intuitive mobile environment is the real game changer for PeopleMatter.

Information Sharing

After the SCHEDULE module was introduced, PeopleMatter also took some detailed time to walk industry influencers through their roadmap and future plans. Brandon Hall Group has highlighted PeopleMatter in the past for their unique vertical focus, but this week we had a chance to see how they plan to expand that vision. Nate DaPore, president and CEO of PeopleMatter, shared a vision that included a deeper focus on the service industry, ranging from improved HR and Operations platform tools to future hopes for offering services directly to the service industry job seeking and consumer markets.

To me, this was really the most interesting part of the week. Due to PeopleMatter’s vertical focus, they didn’t just have the usual financial and talent analyst attending their event. They also had a large group of industry specific news and association representatives that were also speaking about them and promoting their work including:

This type of vertical promotion can only lead to good things for PeopleMatter, but it also highlights the hunger for vertical specific solutions. As the Learning and Talent Technology industry has been recently focused on major mergers and acquisitions, it has created a void for solid innovation and simpler solutions that offer less features, but more services. Vertical solutions may be able to fill that void.

If you have some thoughts on creating or using vertical specific offerings, feel free to share your thoughts. We’d love to hear more about how your company is addressing your talent needs.

Stacey Harris

Brandon Hall Research Group

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