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Bad times or good, SAS® Business Analytics vital to competitiveness

Proactive companies are doing more than just staying afloat in the current global economic downturn. They are relying on the predictive power of SAS® Business Analytics software to identify opportunities and position themselves for the eventual economic recovery.

Executives are already aware of what has happened and what is happening—from tight credit and relentless pricing pressure to the perils of unforeseen risk. Using SAS, they are gaining a clearer view of what will happen, so they can move quickly and confidently when the economic pendulum eventually swings the other way.

Significant enhancements within the SAS Business Analytics framework announced today provide business benefits such as: extending the power of SAS to new non-technical users; achieving insight much faster as conditions change; increasing collaboration across diverse business units; and maximising organisational efficiencies. The result is increased profitability whether economic winds are blowing hot or cold.

“Our customers know this economic environment won’t last forever and they know a turnaround is an opportunity to surge ahead,” said Jim Davis, SAS Senior Vice President and Chief Marketing Officer. “The SAS Business Analytics Framework provides the depth of software, services and best practices to capitalise on new opportunities ahead of competitors.”

Adding elements as needed

The SAS Business Analytics Framework, from the leader in business analytics, provides a powerful blend of data integration, analytics and reporting capabilities. These core technologies are imbedded in SAS’ ever-expanding range of industry and line-of-business solutions. Organisations can quickly address their most immediate business issues, and then expand their use of SAS capabilities over time to achieve continuous performance improvements.

Waitrose, the UK grocer known for quality and service, has grown to depend on SAS Business Analytics.

“We need to be able to support almost 200 Waitrose branches and their ordering, including predicting demand and enabling accurate replenishment even during special events and promotions,” said Gail Richmond, Waitrose Manager Branch Ordering Development.

“Our use of SAS business analytics allows us to continually evolve our capabilities as we determine new requirements. With ever more accurate and comprehensive forecasting through SAS business analytics, our managers now have more time to spend focusing on customer service and satisfaction,” she said

One size fits nobody

"Evidence-based decision making is taking root in all types and sizes of enterprises as they are driven to retain customers, find appropriate cost savings and comply with regulatory issues," said Dan Vesset, Program Vice President, Business Analytics Solutions, for IDC. "We continue to observe growing positive evidence of business analytics solutions' impact on organisational competitiveness and performance."

Vesset notes that query and reporting tools, often referred to as Business Intelligence (BI) software, are important, but are only one part of the broader business analytics platform that includes data warehousing, advanced analytics tools, and packaged applications. "One-size-fits-all, rarely, if ever, solves all business analytics needs."

In the overcrowded Business Intelligence market, vendor strategies are “as indistinguishable as polar bears in a blizzard,” wrote Forrester Senior Analyst James Kobielus in a February post to the Forrester blog for Information and Knowledge Management professionals.”1 Kobielus sees enterprises seeking to consolidate their analytics environments to a few key analytics vendors, among them SAS, who enhance core BI with data warehousing, data mining, data quality and other solutions.

“Where SAS and some other vendors are concerned, another key differentiator that’s helping them stay strong is emphasis on BI’s chief growth segments: most notably, advanced analytics, which encompasses predictive analytics, data mining, and text mining/analytics. Deep domain expertise and customer intimacy are also keys to vendor growth in advanced analytics,” Kobielus wrote.

Joshua Chan, General Manager, Competitive Strategy and Planning, CSL Ltd., Hong Kong’s first mobile telephone operator and a subsidiary of Telstra, said, “SAS gives us a comprehensive business analytics solution. We deploy SAS for customer analyses including customer segmentation, profiling and ongoing behavior tracking for understanding and predicting customer preference and changing usage. Such customer intelligence is absolutely crucial to us for designing targeted marketing programs to increase hit rate and efficiency.”

Today’s announcement of enhancements to SAS data integration, analytics and reporting capabilities, came at SAS Global Forum, the largest annual SAS users group conference, attended by more than 3,000 business and IT users of SAS® software and solutions.

SAS® Data Integration

SAS Data Integration enhancements help organisations to efficiently wring more value from their data resources. Enhanced performance tuning and monitoring, easier debugging and a more intuitive GUI are among the features providing improved cross-enterprise collaboration, ease of use, processing speed and integrated analysis.

For example, a new Code Analyser imports existing SAS code and converts it into a graphical data integration process flow. This provides a migration path for complex, valuable programs developed over years. Resulting visual programming solutions allow business analysts or others who don’t write code to maintain legacy code.

“We really enjoyed the new user interface with new smart features around propagation and mapping, job management, and monitoring within SAS Data Integration,” said Sonia Ruault, Business Intelligence Manager at Pacifica. The insurance subsidiary of Crédit Agricole uses an advance copy of products within the SAS Business Analytics Framework. “The job manageability and debugging capabilities are impressive. We expect time reductions of at least 25 percent to get data integration flows into production.”

SAS® Analytics

Improvements to SAS Analytics, including SAS® Enterprise Miner and SAS® Forecast Server, add additional power to these popular applications.

SAS Enterprise Miner provides rapid answers to key business questions, helping decision makers react quickly to volatile conditions. New algorithms, such as Least Angle Regression (LAR) and Least Absolute Shrinkage and Selection Operator (LASSO) algorithms, provide more efficient, step-by-step treatment of variables than classical stepwise regression methods on new data sets. This reduces large sets of variables to smaller subsets, generating better results in fraud detection, warranty analysis, clinical drug trials, database marketing and other applications.

SAS Forecast Server includes a new point-and-click Scenario Analyser that lets planners ask “what if?” Viewing likely impacts of proposed changes to pricing, promotions or other factors affecting demand helps companies meet customer demand, enhance supply chain efficiencies and boost profitability.

Eric Sandosham, Director of Decision Management, Citibank Singapore, said, “We’re probably the industry leaders in terms of analytics. Innovation came because we wanted to better understand and serve our customers in a highly competitive marketplace: We needed different ways to reach out to customers and grow share of wallet. Ten years ago, we started investing in a business analytics platform. Our solution of choice is SAS."

SAS® Reporting

SAS Reporting enhancements expand information use to a wider community within an enterprise, promoting a culture of fact-based decision making. With new features such as Microsoft SharePoint integration, high-impact and engaging Flash-based interactivity and other user-centric capabilities, smarter and more valuable intelligence is available to users within familiar environments. This is achieved with less administrative overhead and reduced reliance on IT or other support organisations.

“SAS Business Analytics enables more detailed and reliable analysis than before while allowing us to estimate the effectiveness of initiatives with customers, dealers, and product families. SAS’ unique framework lets us address strategic decisions sensibly, increasing our overall business success,” said Roberto Debbi, ICT Project Manager Reporting, Heineken Italia. The beverage company in Italy uses SAS® Enterprise BI Server, SAS® Enterprise Guide® and several other SAS products to monitor sales and service performance, to track purchasing, to improve reporting and to establish effective sales strategies.