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Small Improvements Vendor Profile

By / October 1, 2013 / / 0 Comments

This is our fourth post in our vendor profile series focusing on HR Technology vendors who service the Australian market allowing them to talk about their products and what’s coming up.

Disclaimer: Navigo Research works with many different vendors across the Australian marketplace – we also provide our own frank opinions. This is NOT a paid advertorial nor should it be seen as an endorsement of a particular vendor.

Over the last few weeks I have been talking with Linda Jonas, Director of Marketing from Small Improvements, to discuss their product and how its being received in the Australian market.

The Small Improvements story

German company Small Improvements offers a cloud based performance management solution that is having success both in Australia, and globally. Founded in March 2011 by Per Fragemann, previously the Development Lead for Australian software provider Atlassian.

Small Improvements promotes the use of lean performance management practices by their customers. At the same time they run their organisation just as lean, with eight employees globally and one in Australia, Linda.

This small size has not stopped them signing up an impressive list of customers, over 160 globally and with significant success in Silicon Valley with well known start-ups such as Pinterest, Klout and DISQUS as customers.

Small Improvements have 30 customers in Australia. As mentioned in our July HR Technology News this includes 10% of the top 50 and 20% of the top 10 BRW Best Places to Work.  Australian customers include Atlassian, QuickSilver, and RedBalloon.

Small Improvements pride themselves on customer service and according to Linda they would “rather not have a client than have an unhappy one.” Based on the feedback from Megan Bromley at RedBalloon, they are succeeding on this objective with Megan claiming Small Improvements as a “match made in HR technology heaven”.

A look at the product

A crucial element of Small Improvements is the move away from top down, control and command performance management towards open and continuous improvement. The product drives the simplification of performance management processes by encouraging frequent discussions, and documentation, between employees and managers.

As a cloud based solution incorporating the concept of continuous integration, the product is continually moving forward with bug fixes and improvements, released as often as several times a week.

In line with the trend of ‘consumerisation’ of enterprise software, Small Improvements tries to keep features simple and intuitive. Much of their approach is modelled on tools like FaceBook or Twitter while offering customers flexibility to support their business needs.

Small Improvements are strong believers in the need for social and collaborative actions when it comes to HR processes. The product has been designed from the ground up to incorporate social tools and collaborative elements. Features such as awards, badges, and status updates allow employees and managers to document performance throughout the year. All these ‘messages’ can be public or private depending on your culture.

While there is a growing demand for mobility in HR software, Small Improvements have deferred additional mobile development. Instead they are focused on addressing core features and a rewrite of the front-end based around a REST-based API allowing a simpler migration to support mobility.

Functionally, the software takes a minimal approach to metrics, delivering only the key information about your program.

Instead of forcing employees into a single rating the product encourages users to focus on continuous feedback. For the final review Small Improvements provides a 2D chart to allow employees and managers to plot their performance. This chart allows managers to visualise their teams’ performance on a single graph, helping to ensure equity.

Getting set up with Small Improvements is easy and free for up to 10 users.  There are no upfront costs and no minimum contract lengths. In addition a 50% discount applies for not-for-profits and for customers with more than 500 employees.

Our view

Small Improvements is one of several vendors in the HR Technology market driving a minimal and agile approach to enterprise software resulting in an impressive performance management solution.

However organisations looking to use Small Improvements need to be aware of a few potential pitfalls.

The philosophy of the product is for frequent performance ‘check-ins’ to help your organisation execute the performance management process. If your organisation’s culture is not aligned to this style of  management you may struggle to gain acceptance from managers.

The second potential pitfall is around product flexibility.  An example is limitations around the number of questions, or topics, per-review.  This is not a surprise given their focus on more frequent and focused reviews over the traditional bulky review process. Having a clear understanding of these limitations is critical before purchasing any solution.

Finally Small Improvements largest customer has 800 employees.  While they have internally tested the product with data sets up to 2,000 employees, customers of this size should ensure they conduct suitable due diligence around scalability.

Overall Small Improvements is an great example of the new innovative HR Technology vendors starting to appear in the market place.  They provide a simple, easy to use performance management tool.