Tidemark looks to reinvent cloud-based analytics through mobile platform

The names Anheuser Busch and MillerCoors reign supreme in beer industry market share, but in June 2010 young, entrepreneurial-minded owners purchased Pabst Brewing Co., looking to take on the big guys. Part of the investment was in IT and bringing in a new CIO, Ben Haines. "Our strength can be our size because we can move quickly," Haines says.

One area Haines wanted to improve upon was the disassembled array of documents for monitoring and managing the company. The sales team had its own document processing, while operations and distribution teams had separate spreadsheet templates. Across a business chain of 600 distributors for the company's 35 brands, including the flagship Pabst Blue Ribbon (PBR), Lone Star Beer, Colt 45 and Old Milwaukee beverages, there was barely any commonality. To complicate matters, an estimated 80% of Pabst workers and partners are in the field: "We don't even give them an office," Haines notes.

Pabst was introduced to Tidemark, which specializes in cloud-based enterprise performance management (EPM) software and Haines was intrigued enough to become an early adopter. Tidemark provides a unified document management platform that both monitors and provides analytics of financial and operations metrics, while delivering that information to mobile devices. After implementing the system, now various departments within the company - finance, sales, planning - can all work with the same documents on the same platform, capturing data from inside the company while gathering external data sources as well.

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Today, Tidemark executives are making the company's EPM tools generally available, after starting the business in 2010 and bringing the company out of stealth last year. The company has received $35.5 million in venture-backed financing, but it's entering an EPM market where it will go up against some heavy hitters.

The last half-decade has seen considerable consolidation in the market, from Oracle purchasing PeopleSoft in 2005, to SAP buying OutlookSoft in 2007, which it now runs as Business Objects. IBM Cognos software competes here as well. Tidemark executives believe they're ready to play though. The company is led by founder and CEO Christian Gheorghe, a former senior vice president and CTO at SAP, where he helped integrate what is now Business Objects into the company. This week he is joined by Phil Wilmington, formerly CEO of OutlookSoft and former PeopleSoft co-president, who will serve as Tidemark's president and COO (he has been on the board for the past couple of years).

Fundamentally, Gheorghe says Tidemark's proprietary internal technology, combined with its product feature set will separate the company from competitors. Tidemark architected what Gheorghe calls a "computational engine purpose built for the analytics of today." Cloud-based Hadoop clusters are able to analyze in real-time both structured and unstructured data using in-memory object storage for fast retrieval of data. That means the system can be fed both internal business metrics - sales, finances, supplies - as well as external unstructured data - news items, social media feeds and market dynamics, for example. Meanwhile, users can search within the program for customized results of data and it's been optimized using HTML5 programming to be accessed on mobile devices. It all gets back to Gheorghe's goal of "democratizing" data across an organization so that everyone can understand what's happening in a business and why.

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There are plenty of business analytics tools on the market, and some from big-name players. With the rise of Hadoop cluster computing, there is even a growing movement of developers launching their own clusters, or accessing them from the growing community of cloud service providers offering to manage big data analytics. Amazon Web Services, for example, has a suite of database management tools. R "Ray" Wang, a consultant at Constellation Research group, says Tidemark's design, based on HTML5 and delivered as software as a service (SaaS) application separate Tidemark in the field though. "Traditional EPM solutions live in a systems of transaction world," Wang says. "Basically, they expect their data to be structured, neat, in existing systems. Tidemark is designed for a systems of engagement world, meaning it's designed to handle big data, mobile, social, and cloud on day one."

The Tidemark officials are certainly excited. "We think performance management tools are going to grow rapidly because in order to draw a picture of an organization today, you really need to bring in sources of information from inside and outside the organization," Wilmington says. "Companies that can leverage that data will have the leg up."

Network World staff writer Brandon Butler covers cloud computing and social collaboration. He can be reached at and found on Twitter at @BButlerNWW.

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