I just got back from the SAS analyst event that was held in Steamboat Springs, Colorado. It was a great meeting. Here are some of the themes I heard over the few days I was there:
SAS is a unique place to work.
Consider the following: SAS revenue per employee is somewhat lower than the software industry average because everyone is on the payroll. That’s right. Everyone from the grounds keepers to the health clinic professionals to those involved in advertising are on the SAS payroll. The company treats its employees very well, providing fitness facilities and on site day care (also on the payroll). You don’t even have to buy your own coffee or soda! The company has found that these kinds of perks have a positive impact. SAS announced no layoffs in 2009 and this further increased morale and productivity. The company actually saw increased profits in 2009. Executives from SAS also made the point that even thought they might have their own advertising, etc. they do not want to be insular. The company knows it needs new blood and new ideas. On that note, check out the next two themes:
Innovation is very important to SAS.
Here are some examples:
- Dr. Goodnight gave his presentation using the latest version of the SAS BI dashboard, which looked pretty slick.
- SAS has recently introduced some very innovative products and the trend will continue. One example is its social network analysis product that has been doing very well in the market. The product analyzes social networks and can, for example, uncover groups of people working together to commit fraud. This product was able to find $32M in welfare fraud in several weeks.
- SAS continues to enhance its UI, which it has been beat up about in the past. We also got pre-briefed on some new product announcements that I can’t talk about yet, but other analysts did tweet about them at the conference. There were a lot of tweats at this conference and they were analyzed in real time.
The partnership with Accenture is a meaningful one.
SAS execs stated that although they may not have that many partnerships, they try to make the ones they have very real. While, on the surface, the recent announcement regarding the Accenture SAS Analytics Group might seem like a me too after IBM BAO, it is actually different. Accenture’s goal is transform the front office, like ERP/CRM was transformed. It wants to, “Take the what and turn it into so what and now what?” It views analytics not simply as a technology, but a new competitive management science that enables agility. It obviously won’t market it that way as the company takes a business focus. Look for the Accenture SAS Analytics Group to put out services such as Churn management as a service, Risk and fraud detection as a service. They will operationalize this as part of a business process.
SAS has a number of SaaS offerings in the market and will, no doubt, introduce more. What I found refreshing was that SAS takes issues around SaaS very seriously. You’d expect a data company to be concerned about their customers’ data and they are.
Best line of the conference
SAS is putting a lot of effort into making its products easier to use and that is a good thing. There are ways to get analysis to those people who aren’t that analytical. In a discussion about the skill level required for people to use advanced analytics, however, one customer commented, “Just because you can turn on a stove doesn’t mean you know how to cook.” More on this in another post.