SAS president and CEO

Since he co-founded the company in 1976, president and CEO Jim Goodnight has built Business Intelligence software developer SAS Institute into the world’s largest private software company. During SAS’s international media day this week at the company’s Cary, N.C.-headquarters, Goodnight sat down with ComputerWorld Canada senior writer Jeff Jedras to discuss company’s direction, the impact of recent acquisitions by competitors, and the future of the BI space. Our goal is to dominate everything outside of the transactional space.James Goodnight>Text

What sets SAS 9 and your tools apart from the offerings of competitors such as Cognos and Business Objects?

It’s the platform we have. SAS has its own data store so you don’t have to rely on other databases, you can store all your data right in SAS. You can use our ETL (extract, transform and load) processes to extract data from all of the other databases. We provide all the tools to access it, such as simple query and reporting, which is what all the other vendors call Business Intelligence. But we also provide analytical tools, data mining, operations and research tools, and things such as marketing automation. It’s all on that same platform. It’s the depth of what we offer that is so much superior to what Business Objects and Cognos can offer.

Your executives have discussed how SAS has gone through three phases since its founding: from tools, to horizontal offerings, and now products tailored to specific industry verticals. What will be phase four?

Our BI offering is very much part of the tools space. Our horizontal solutions cover things such as human capital management, supply relationship management and financial management. [In] vertical spaces we’re in right now, there’s a lot of [focus] on financial services, pharmaceuticals, retail, telecommunications, and we’re also doing work in the manufacturing space. All those phases are still carrying on; they weren’t distinct. All of these vertical areas are quite active for us right now. I can’t think of a phase four to even start, we’re still working on phase three, and we’ve got a long way to go. Our goal is to dominate everything outside of the transactional space. We leave that transactional space to Oracle and SAP, but we want everything else. Taking that data, pulling it out, working with it, analyzing it, producing results, modeling and predictions.

Will the imminent acquisition of Siebel Systems by Oracle, and Siebel’s new focus on operational analytics have a big impact on the BI market?

“Not really. I think Siebel wasn’t really able to sell their CRM products, so they’re trying to figure out what other markets they might get into. We see them as just a little bit in the analytics space, but not a lot. That’s obviously the direction they’ve tried to go in. They basically used to be the ERP system for the call centre, so how do you take that data and do things like cross-selling, forecasting which customers might leave you.”

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