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SAS Inside Intelligence 2016 – Executive Viewpoint


I am at the SAS Inside Intelligence event in Steamboat getting the annual update on all things SAS. First session of the day is the Executive Viewpoint. Jim Goodnight and Randy Guard kicked things off.

Creating a single global organization was a big part of last year with legal, finance, sales, marketing and more becoming global efforts. Marketing and sales in particular were rather too country-local. Marketing and sales globalization focused on GTM alignment, sales enablement, regional and global services and brand/creative direction. SAS has refocused its marketing in particular away from a channel-specific approach to a more customer-journey focused one (using, of course, SAS software). Each product line has been integrated into this approach to create a more coherent, global GTM plan. Added to this has been a set of industry templates, sales plays and use cases designed to make SAS and its partners more able to sell the capabilities it has by focusing on particular use cases. More advertising, new and expanded events also driving this message harder into the market.

Sales in 2015 were strong – over $3.0B – with a 8-17% growth rate worldwide for first year license with increasing deal sizes and the number of large deals both up as well. Overall revenue grew a little slower – 5-11% – but also pretty strong. Risk and data management were particularly strong with business visualization also showing good results. Modernizing existing customers to the latest and greatest was also a focus and apparently went well. Partner supported revenue grew 57% showing an increase in partner engagement. NOt much change from a sales perspective for 2016.

This modernization program is, I think, really important. Getting customers off the old versions of software and the old servers they run on is critical to sustaining these customers. Modernizing means customers are using the latest, scalable technology (like grid and the high performance analytics) as well as the newer tools like Enterprise Miner and Visual Analytics. Good story from some customers seeing dramatic increases in performance especially thanks to SAS Grid.

The history of the R&D program to improve performance runs back to 2009 and includes the core High Performance Architecture, the SAS LASR server and SAS CAS – Cloud Analytics Server – a massively parallel architecture developed in 2013 that balances in-memory and cloud. This new server has load balancing, fail over, easy install and a highly scalable architecture to deliver elastic compute as well as this support for managing datasets that won’t fit in memory. This will ship in Q2 and then add REST, Java, Python and LUA interfaces in the fall so that it can be integrated into a modern IT environment.

SAS is also planning to fight back against the growth of R  in university. SAS Analytics University edition is free and complete for academics and has 500,000+ downloads and provided an on-demand (40,000+) and AWS (3,000 users) versions.  SAS has also partnered with 37 Masters of Analytics programs and over 30 new joint certificate programs were added in 2015.

SAS continues to grow internationally with offices opening in Dublin and Paris as well as some new offices in the US (like Detroit). Plus the Cary campus is getting another new building. It continues to rank well on the great places to work surveys and to have local offices and presence.

A few additional facts on the business

  • 49% in Americas, 38% in Europe and 13% in Asia Pacific
  • 26% in Banking, 15% in Government, 10% in Insurance. Interestingly only 5% in retail.
    • Banking growth being driven a lot by risk with the expansion of stress testing and regulatory requirements. Fraud also drove growth in Banking and Government.
    • Life Sciences at 7% started to include more sales and marketing not just R&D and this growth also came with a willingness to use the cloud.
    • Manufacturing is at 6% and IoT is an increasingly big deal for SAS in this area as manufacturers start to instrument their products.
  • SAS consistently invests heavily in R&D – 25% of revenue v an industry average of 12.5%.
  • Partnering is an increasing focus:
    • They wanted in 2015 to become the analytics partner of choice.
    • Their target is to have partners participate in 35% of new revenue by the end of 2018 while driving 25% of new deals.
    • For 2015 they hit 30% partner participation in new sales and 18% led by the partner, so good progress.
    • Partner resell revenue grew 3x with 200 resellers, 2 new OEM agreements and 9 Analytic Service Provider agreements.
  • SAS is investing more in its brand this year, building on the confidence people have in SAS products and adding a focus on clarity and compassion.

Driving forces for the SAS business are pretty obvious:

  • Data growth, new sources, new types
  • Analytics – consumable by everyone from data scientists to business user/application users
  • Self service and discovery and the enthusiasm for this in companies – expanding from visualization and into data wrangling/data blending.
  • Connected everything but so what…

And this results in a set of 6 focus areas for SAS

  • Analytics
  • Data Management
  • Business Visualization
  • Customer Intelligence
  • Risk Management
  • Fraud and Security Intelligence

Plus some emerging areas including Cybersecurity and the Internet of Things.

Enabling Technologies for all this include

  • Data+Processing Power+hadoop – put processing close to the data
  • Event Stream Processing as more data is “in flight”
  • In-memory Processing
  • Visualization

All of this being brought together with a strong focus on common user experiences and integration across products.

Lots of interesting additional news and some good choices by SAS presented under NDA. More on the technology later in the day.