CARY, NC — SAS has unveiled a version of business intelligence software it says marks the most revolutionary release in the company’s 28-year history.

The SAS 9 intelligence platform, along with seven related offerings, were unveiled at the firm’s corporate headquarters here last month. The

platform allows companies to go beyond traditional queries and reporting to deep analytics, said Jim Goodnight, president and CEO of SAS Institute Inc.

Goodnight explained SAS 9, which will help gather and analyze information more quickly, has an expanded user interface that will allow more than 80 per cent of an organization’s employees to take advantage of the software.

“”There are a lot of reports and data that banks need to collect to prove that they’re not discriminating in housing or in loans,”” he said. “”We now have in place solutions that will help solve these problems.””

Business intelligence is data that decision makers analyze to increase competitive advantage and improve operational efficiency.

SAS’s new applications include marketing automation, risk dimensions, strategic performance management, financial management solutions, supplier relationship management, activity-based management and IT management solutions.

Customers will see solutions enter the market over the next 18 to 24 months, with the next one to be announced at a Montréal users’ group, said Jim Davis, senior vice-president and chief marketing officer of SAS.

SAS said 300 customers use SAS 9 and this figure will grow to 3,000 over the next three months.

Toronto-based Rogers Communications may be one of them. For two years, it’s been using SAS’s Enterprise Miner, Enterprise Guide and data management software, said Bob Terdeman, vice-president and chief information architect. He said Rogers is using it to determine what products customers want based on patterns of behaviour.

Terdeman said Enterprise Minor “”deploys virtually flawlessly”” and allows users to do simple cross-tabular statistics or higher level statistics.

Having seen what SAS 9 can do, Terdeman said it’s better than the BI products Rogers is using now and the company will consider bringing the software in-house. “”They’ve done a wonderful cross-platform integration job. The integration of meta-data with the ad-hoc query tool makes it much easier so the business rules are visible to the end user.””

Greater interest in high-end analytics Toys “”R”” Us Inc., which has been using SAS 8 since last year, is one client eyeing the new release. The retailer, which has a large database of households that have purchased toys in the U.S., is faced with the challenge of deciding who to market to during certain holidays, said Rick Muldowney, director, guest relationship management of Toys “”R”” Us in Wayne, N.J.

The company is using SAS software to look through patterns in data and decide which consumers to notify about promotions, Muldowney said.

In the past, Toys “”R”” Us paid a marked-up fee by using outside vendors to do analytical work, he said.

“”Our investment in SAS has paid for itself.””

Though it’s a compelling argument that SAS 9 can provide greater company access to data, Muldowney said, “”Cognos says the same thing. SAS said the same thing with Enterprise Guide. MicroStrategy says that. Business Objects says that. Brio says that.””

As SAS rolls out its new version of business intelligence, the greatest hurdle is building awareness as other players — some from the enterprise resource planning software market and others from the traditional business intelligence space — start selling BI products, spurred by a tight economy that has increased interest in other sectors like business intelligence and high-end analytics, Davis explained.

By investing a lot in advertising, the new competitors are “”creating smoke in the marketplace,”” forcing SAS to spend more to “”cut through a lot of hype that’s out there.””

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