SAS looks beyond BI with 9

SAS unveiled a version of business intelligence software this week that it says marks the most revolutionary release in the company’s 28-year history.

The SAS 9 intelligence platform and seven related solutions, unveiled globally

at the firm’s corporate headquarters in Cary, N.C., allows companies to go beyond traditional query 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 permitting 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 every few months for the next 18 to 24 months, with the next one to be announced at a Montreal 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 primarily to determine what products customers want based on their 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.””

Toys “”R”” Us Inc., which has been using SAS 8 since last year, is one client closely 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 or events, 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 and what product information to mail, 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 (ERP) software market and others from the traditional business intelligence space —— start selling BI products, spurred by a tightening 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.””

This is why SAS, which intends to plaster SAS 9 on ads, is undertaking for the first time a coordinated global effort and has been spending over the last year 15 per cent to 20 per cent more money on worldwide marketing, Davis said.

“”We’re hoping that SAS 9 not only sells software but boosts the brand awareness. Now we want to be known on the desktop as the organization that can also deliver historical reporting and predictive reporting.””

As for the size of the market, SAS said BI expenditures are rising between 15 per cent and 20 per cent, whereas worldwide IT spending is growing more slowly at two per cent to five per cent.

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