Tidemark has a fundamental premise: Enterprise Performance Management applications could only meet 21st century business needs if they were built for the cloud. The legacy, on-premise software model is clearly being challenged. More interestingly though, not all “cloud” solutions are created equal either. In deciding on how to architect our applications, we were convinced that taking a fairly traditional three tier architecture and hosting it on Amazon EC2 or Rackspace, as some alleged “cloud” providers do, would only provide marginal benefits to customers. The real opportunity was to rethink every aspect of our solution in terms of the opportunities the cloud provides, and to design the system accordingly.
A system that is truly built for the cloud embraces:
- People not Databases: Solutions that are built for the cloud assume that the user is at the center of the experience, not the rigid, machine-friendly data structures of existing legacy analytic applications. This is crucial because pre-cloud solutions did not design for the user first, hence leading to low adoption rates which plague our industry.
- Configuration not Customization: Solutions that are built for the cloud need to expose pre-built domain specific functionality (in our case EPM) that can be configured, not customized. This leads to faster implementation times for the customer and a standard set of capabilities that allows the vendor to provide a single code line for all tenants. Contrast this to many pre-cloud models, where every implementation had thousands (in some case MILLIONS) of lines of custom code that made the system impossible to upgrade, which leads to failure because the business can not change the system to match its own pace.
- Collaboration not Coercion: Solutions that are built for the cloud facilitate cross-organizational business processes because the cloud is the ultimate collaboration space. In a highly heterogeneous world where individual pieces of the value chain are being broken up amongst thousands of players (think of how companies like Nike or Nestle or Boeing are designing and building products now), the cloud allows companies to have information technology that can support federated business processes. The previous systems and technologies (like EDI) were proprietary, hard-wired, and didn’t have a common language for intercompany business processes, which led to many failed projects or at least astronomically expensive ones.
- All Data not Some Data: Solutions that are built for the cloud assume the internet is one giant source of data. With the explosion of data in the last decade, much of what companies need to know to achieve competitive advantage is OUTSIDE of their firewalls, especially the early warning signals (think about information from your competitors, suppliers, and customers’ behaviors). The cloud allows companies the only opportunity to stitch together their internal AND external information into a single tapestry that they can use for managing their businesses . Without the external view (which often provides the leading indicators of business success, it is very difficult to compete.
- Parallel not Sequential: Solutions built for the cloud can leverage parallel computation capacity across hundreds of nodes of commodity hardware. One of the key challenges that companies face is both the volume of data and the ENORMOUS cost to process it. With systems like Hadoop (driven by the open source community) and techniques like Map Reduce (which provide a way to divide computation activity on many nodes without having to understand parallel programming), companies now have a cost effective way to manage large volumes of data quickly. Many projects in BI fail today because it is too expensive and WAY too slow to get the answers the business needs, which leads to them not using the technology provided.
- Virtual not Proprietary: Commodity Solutions built for the cloud assume a commoditized hardware infrastructure that is virtualized. This allows the vendor to deliver a solution that can scale up and down with the business needs versus having to make assumptions ahead of time of how much capacity is needed when and to provision for the worst case scenario. Customers benefit from the efficiency.
- Alignment not Enforcement: And finally, solutions built for the cloudalign the business processes of the vendor with the business processes of the customer. When this isn’t the case, projects fail. That’s why we are so keen on fixed price implementations. If our customers aren’t successful, we can’t be either.
When we started Tidemark, we asked our early customers through our development partner program if these kind of “positive disruptions” at each one of the levels of our technology and business model could change the way they would be able to manage the performance of their business better, faster, and more predictably. The conclusion they came to is clear: EPM applications built for the cloud are the only way to compete in a 21st century business.