SAS Celebrates Its 40th Anniversary by Charging Forward

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The analytics behemoth launched several solutions at its Global Forum that aim to leverage its heritage while supporting a modern approach to marketing.

A shower of confetti rained down on the more than 5,400 analytics practitioners in attendance at the 2016 SAS Global Forum. The flurry kicked off not only a celebration of the analytics firm's 40th anniversary, but also a celebration of the new tools announced during the opening general session.

One of the new tools perhaps most interesting to marketers is SAS Customer Intelligence 360. “The main thing this solves is that [marketers are] fragmented in their marketing efforts,” SAS CEO Jim Goodnight, Ph.D., told attendees. He pointed out that in many marketing organizations social, email, and other channel teams operate separately. Customer Intelligence 360, he said, aims to brings disparate, siloed customer data together to facilitate smarter decision making.

At a press briefing Jonathan Moran, senior manager of product marketing for Customer Intelligence, explained that SAS Customer Intelligence 360 is a digital marketing hub that provides insight marketers can use to optimize customer journeys in real time. “It raises the bar on the customer journey by extending our digital capability to allow more devices and points in time for customer interactions,” he said. He added that SAS Customer Intelligence 360 extends customer intelligence beyond a company's website and email to mobile, in-store, and other channels.

“Data is often fragmented—email data is usually in one place, web data is in other, etc. If you have fragmented data, you'll get a fragmented customer experience,” added Wilson Raj, global director of Customer Intelligence. “Customer Intelligence 360 takes that data and makes it customer specific regardless of channel. It tracks what an individual user does across channels and then can craft a set of sequential actions to drive conversions.”

Raj explained that optimization is build into the solution. It will analytically optimize the ideal sequencing of offers, next-best actions, content, and the like. It's then up to marketers to act on those recommendations or take other actions. The solution also provides automatic segmentation.

Customer Intelligence 360 includes two modules: SAS 360 Discover provides data, reporting, and insights based on user behavior on mobile and web properties. SAS 360 Engage is designed to allow marketers to take insight gleaned from Discover and other sources to improve how they interact with customers over digital channels. Simply put, "to create, orchestrate, and optimize" customers' digital journeys. It includes capabilities across web and mobile, with email and social to follow, Moran said.

Another new product that may be of interest to marketer is SAS Analytics for IoT. “There's a tsunami of data, so what are we doing about it? SAS Analytics for IoT,” SAS CMO Randy Guard asked and answered during the general session.

The solution uses in-stream analytics to help users make sense of the high volumes of fast-moving data that the Internet of Things has brought to the fore. “We're providing the analytics to support the volume and velocity of data that we're now seeing and to address opportunity in real time,” Jason Mann, direct of product management, IoT, explained during a press briefing.

Users can tap SAS Analytics for IoT to mine and analyze IoT data, combine it with contextual data to uncover patterns, inform real-time actions, and focus on the data that matters most.

The biggest announcement SAS made during the forum is the launch of SAS Viya, what the company is calling a “high-performance analytics and visualization architecture.”

It's a cloud-ready analytics architecture “designed to bridge the gap between the innovators and the established companies,” Mike Frost, SAS senior product manager for clouds and platforms, said during a press briefing. “There are two different types of companies out there today: the innovators and disruptors and the established organizations that are faced with competition they never had before. [SAS aims to] help both compete better.”

SAS Viya is built on four pillars, Frost explained: unified (a single approach to analytics); open (integrates using APIs and services, and provides support for familiar programming languages);  simple and powerful (easier to access insight when it matters); cloud (elastic scalability, support for multiple clouds, pay for what you use). SAS will launch Viya with four products initially, then will move its core technologies over gradually.

“It's not just a big-company problem anymore; small companies have big data problems, too,” Carl Farrell, SAS's EVP and chief revenue offer, said during the opening session. “Companies of all sizes want a 360-degree view of their customers. Everyone is realizing that they have to provide [an outstanding] customer experience. We can…resolve the big data problem using analytics to get at actionable insight.”

Companies want that help managing data, they want quality data, and they want the right data, Guard added. “Companies want analytics the way they want it. They need the tools for advance analytics and they want analytics embedded in business context. Companies want analytics as a service,” he said, adding that SAS's response is to provide enabling technologies to meet those expectations. “‘Big data is great, but how do I see, understand, and share it?' Keep moving the processing closer to the data.” He cited in-stream processing and in-memory computing as components of this. “They're critical to speed and scale,” he added.

Ultimately, these launches are part of SAS's goal to help its customers stay competitive in a fast-changing marketplace, Guard noted. “The digital transformation happening today means that companies have to change their business model,” he said. “That includes changing their customer relationships or getting new ones by disrupting the marketplace.”

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