Happy Friday. We wanted to take you back inside Tidemark to meet some of the people who make the product and company tick. Today, we hear from Tidemark co-founder and customer success guru Tony Rizzo.
Tony has been here since before day one, is intimately involved in the product and lives the unofficial Tidemark motto of “everything is about the customer”.
You’ve been in the BI, Analytics and Enterprise Performance Management space most of your career. Can you tell us more about your background and the products you’ve worked on?
I’ve been doing performance management for the past 22 years. I started with Hyperion before it was Hyperion (then IMRS). I was there for nine years and implemented close to 1,000 projects. We started to see the challenges they had in making customers successful in unifying budgeting and planning. That is when we first got the notion that there is a better way, and I co-founded OutlookSoft. Our goal was to exploit that lack of unification in Hyperion and provide a more flexible reporting interface. I was there from ground zero – even laying the cables through the ceiling of our first office space. I was involved in shaping the product, developing the implementation best practices, and was personally involved in the implementations of the first few hundred customers. Then, in 2007, SAP bought us. I survived a year at SAP. I learned a lot since it was my first foray into a gigantic company, but it wasn’t the environment for me. Then, I started an EPM practice at an SAP partner called AXON (Now HCL AXON). I left there after they were acquired, which is when Christian and I started talking seriously about Tidemark.
How did Tidemark come about?
Christian and I first worked together at OutlookSoft, and we kept in touch. As things started winding down for me at AXON, Christian and I started talking about rethinking in the space again – at a much higher level. By this time, mobile, social and cloud were changing what you could do with the scale of business. You could go to Amazon, search for a camera and get suggestions for a tripod, camera battery and case. We wondered, ‘why can’t you do that in an enterprise company?’ Thinking about that over cups of coffee the idea was hatched, we connected and I became co-founder at Tidemark. My role here, and our entire company, is based on customer success. Legacy technology cannot keep customers happy. Technology and businesses are changing too fast for those tools. I should know because I helped to build them. We need something different. That’s why I’m here.
Business analytics is a fast moving world. What has changed even in the time since you co-founded Tidemark?
Cloud adoption. One of the first things we did was to talk to 100 customers, even before we wrote a single line of code. We wanted to build what business people wanted, not what we wanted. One of the questions we asked was, ‘what is your appetite for the cloud?’ 30% didn’t have an answer, 30% kind of had a strategy, 30% said there is no way I’m putting my data in the cloud and the rest either didn’t know what the cloud was or didn’t care. If you asked today, 75% probably have a cloud strategy. At the beginning of Tidemark, we had to defend the cloud, prove the data would be safe and that it’s viable. Those conversations are largely over.
The other big change, of course, is the tablet. Customer meetings used to be dominated by laptops, now most people in the room are just using an iPad or other tablet.
Over the thousands of projects you’ve implemented, what are three problems enterprises encountered then and still do today?
First, consumption: the ability to leverage the collective intelligence of an organization. Most enterprises don’t take input from the people who are really in touch with the business like those in the field, plant managers, site leaders, store managers, etc.. Everyone needs to be connected to the strategy of business.
Inflexible models are still a huge problem. Technologies of the past like OLAP and SQL force you to understand what everyone does and will do before you build it. It extends the implementation cycle so much because you have to sit there and think so far ahead of the business just to understand what the requirements are. If the business needed to change the model, you just couldn’t do it fast. It gets to the point where people stop asking for changes to manage the business. The ability to have flexible modeling is key to being able to analyze at the pace of business today.
Finally, extract, transform, load: garbage in garbage out. In relational databases, bringing in data from source systems like ERP, accounts for about half of the implementation time. Why not load first and transform at runtime? Doing it that way requires no pre-defined structures, which you just can’t pull off in the old world. By implementing faster you can now focus on what end users need and not the data, which drives more value.
What’s your most memorable day yet at Tidemark and what fills your spare time?
Too many memorable days to list them all, but here are a few. Any day we sign a customer is memorable, but the day we signed Acosta as our first customer in particular. Seeing great people leave secure, longstanding jobs to take the journey with us. And days like we saw earlier this week, when we celebrated two-year anniversaries for some employees.
When I’m not working, I try to be on the water. I spend all my time with my wife hanging out at the beach - swimming and boating, or renovating something at my house.