SAS Institute, indisputably the world’s largest business intelligence (BI) software specialist, has been working through a long-overdue transformation.
“In the past SAS was a technology company for technologists,” says Peter Dorrington, its business solutions manager in the UK. Now the company – renowned for highly functional but under-marketed software – is coming through an 18-month reworking of its product line up and refining of its marketing approach in an attempt to make that technology more appealing to business-minded executives.
SAS – best known for its sprawling collection of over 100 separate offerings – has been placing its existing products in ‘vertical wrappers’ designed for specific industries or business function. The portfolio has been grouped in packages for Customer Intelligence (with offerings tailored for telcos, financial services companies, retail and marketing organisations); Organisational Intelligence (with software for risk management, IT management, drug development, and personnel management); Enterprise Intelligence (with balance scorecard and performance management); and Supplier Intelligence (with a supplier relationship management suite). Supporting these are a set of architectural underpinnings for BI tasks: the extraction transformation and loading of data into data warehouses, online analytical processing (OLAP), data mining, forecasting and statistical analysis.
The alignment has been aided by a handful of recent acquisitions: customer relationship management capabilities have been boosted by the addition of data quality software vendor DataFlux and campaign management applications vendor Intrinsic; and performance management offerings have been enhanced by grafting on ABC Technologies.
How well such moves pay off still remains to be seen. But with 18,000 customers – most paying for products on an annual subscription basis – SAS revenues have continued to flow, rising to $1.13 billion in 2001.
But clearly the self-analysis the company went through in its abortive preparation to go public in 2001 have possibly given it the necessary commercial footing to continue in a leadership position in BI for the rest of the decade.