Accenture and SAS announced today that they will jointly create an analytics group focused on financial services, healthcare and public service. They describe this as a “significant evolution of the existing relationship between the two companies”. The release is at http://www.sas.com/news/preleases/AccentureSASAnalyticsGroup.html
This is obviously an interesting announcement. Ever since IBM announced its new Business Analytics and Optimization service line I have been waiting to see what Accenture would do. The announcement that they will be working more closely with SAS makes perfect sense for them – they needed a set of analytic software around which to work and on which to focus. Given their history of working with SAS, and SAS’ industry position, SAS was an obvious choice.
It has always seemed to me that SAS was challenged by the range of companies with whom it works. With everyone from IBM to Accenture to many small specialty companies using SAS, the temptation to focus on “playing nice” with everyone must be strong. Making a more public commitment to working with Accenture has some risk in this regard but is, I think, a good move for SAS. Accenture has a good track record with analytics, is participating in the building of awareness (through its surveys and through working with Tom Davenport on his books Competing on Analytics and Analytics at Work for instance) and has the development/organizational change skills that need to be wrapped around analytics to transform businesses using those analytics. The only thing I see lacking from this partnership is the technologies you need for operational delivery of analytics – specifically business rules management integrated with business process management/event management. The highest value analytic projects require making those analytics actionable in the context of operational processes – decision management in other words – and the partnership does not have the same assets in this regard that IBM has acquired through its acquisition of ILOG, FileNet, Lombardi and its development of its WebSphere stack.
As with all partnerships the devil’s in the details. How many consultants will be trained, how will joint customers and prospects be developed, how tight will the technology relationship get and so on. Over the coming months we will see the answers to these questions. I hope to get updates from Accenture and from SAS also so look for more on the blog as I do.
Overall I think this is a good move for both companies. Add it to IBM’s commitment to analytics and to building an analytics practice and the trend is clear. Those large consulting firms that don’t yet have a strong analytics practice need to get with the program. This is already a fast moving area it looks set to accelerate.