Analytics abounds in Vegas this week, with overlapping conferences hosted by SAS and IBM. Jim Goodnight comments on companies playing in SAS

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LAS VEGAS – Analytics abounded in Vegas this week, with SAS Institute Inc. and IBM Corp. each holding conferences focused on the business analytics strategy.

While IBM is gearing up its business analytics strategy, according to reports from Raphael Ruffulo, who was on hand at the Information On Demand event, SAS doesn’t seem to be fazed by the competition.

According to CEO Jim Goodnight, SAS has always had competition with companies like IBM, Cognos Inc., SAP AG’s Business Objects and Oracle Corp.

“The fact that they’ve put these things together, I don’t know that it makes a whole big difference to us. It’s just more of the same, except under different names,” said Goodnight in a one-on-one interview at SAS’s Premier Business Leadership Series event.

Goodnight believes IBM is fairly serious about putting more emphasis on analytics. “After all, ERP is pretty much dead in the water for the next few years. They’ve got to do something,” he said. 

Companies don’t have the millions of dollars required to implement ERP systems right now, according to Goodnight. “It’s just not going to happen. There’s not that much money in the budgets,” he said.

Goodnight expects companies will look at areas that provide a faster ROI instead. “I think the answer is going to be taking the data we have now and making better use of it to do forecasts, to help grow models for recovery that tell us what behaviour we should take,” he said. 

Business analytics will become essential for a company’s success, according to Goodnight. “I think we are just about there right now. Companies that are not using business analytics are going to be overwhelmed by the ones that are,” he said.

With pricing based on volume and usage, SAS is an option for just about any company that needs it, said Goodnight. “And if they can’t justify the ROI, they shouldn’t buy it,” he said. 

“If we are talking about analytics to help improve your business, then we are talking about a definitive ROI you are looking for,” he explained.

People have a hard time understanding the difference between business analytics and business intelligence (BI), said Goodnight, clarifying that business analytics is not a subset of BI. “It’s certainly the other way around,” he said. 

According to Goodnight, “business intelligence equals query and reporting” whereas “business analytics encompasses everything.”

“Business intelligence is a marketing term that was created to sell query and reporting tools and to try to make something sound better than it was,” said Goodnight. “There is no intelligence in a query and reporting tool. There are no analytics in there.” 

Goodnight believes business intelligence has been oversold by companies “talking about how their business intelligence can you solve your business problems.” While business intelligence people have always tried to make it sound like this is all you need, “there is very little intelligence in it,” he said. 

But “everybody’s bought into using the words business intelligence … it’s such a muddy term,” he said.

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