As part of our Fall ’13 release last month, we introduced our Tidemark Forge™ functionality, and someone asked me why we would use a metalworking metaphor for a cloud product. We all know that metal is melted down in a forge and poured or hammered into a new shape: bits of iron or old metal go in, and freshly shaped, very useful objects are built from the molten metal. To me, this is a fitting metaphor for what happens when we take transactional data (streams of line items, purchase orders, expense reports) and strain it through an extract, transform and load (classic ETL) process. In the transformation, some information is flattened and lost (summarized or materialized at the order, product or customer level) and that “melted” information is lost forever.

At Tidemark we process all of the useful data, and we don’t toss or lose any of it. We don’t rely on the classic ETL to squish the data down sufficiently to report against it (by order, customer or product). We enable our customers to look at data the way that they need to see it, where it can help them make decisions or make plans. In some cases that means looking at the details at the line item level, by customer, with associated revenue and expense. In this way the user knows which orders are profitable and which are not. We don’t rely on a data warehouse to store our information, but rather can select the important and relevant data from large data sets in real time

So why the Forge metaphor? Forge is about self-service. It is functionality our customers use to model and “shape” the way they want to see their data based on their business needs. It is a flexible modeling tool with advanced features, and it enables power users to design and create the interfaces that their users will interact with. And they can do it all at the right level of granularity, with variances where appropriate, and with the ability to dive into the context as desired. Plus, they can re-form the interfaces whenever they want provide immediate insight.

By offering functionality like Forge, I’d like to think we are helping democratize data by getting useful insights into the hands of business users on their mobile devices, in time to help them make great decisions and choices. One part of the secret sauce is the jailbreak of data, liberated from the binding constraints of a data warehouse and delivered on your iPad. Forge enables our customers to build a better window into data, and to pour their own magic data containers.

Instead of melting the business into a proprietary data mold, Forge helps customers break free by melting the data to their business needs.