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Twiddy Deploys SAS In Battle With Bigger Competitors

SMB vacation rental business justified the price tag on its BI implementation because it believes the SAS platform will help it better compete with deep-pocketed chains.

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Twiddy & Company, a small property management firm on the coastal Outer Banks of North Carolina, figured it needed a big partner to help beat out the big chains and other players in the ultra-competitive vacation rental market.

So when Twiddy decided to upgrade its entirely manual, ad-hoc processes for managing and analyzing its data, it looked at some of the biggest names in business intelligence (BI)--including SAP and Cognos--before choosing SAS. Much of the story of Twiddy's step up to BI remains to be written--the company just launched its implementation in January. But the early returns are positive, according to company executives.

Family-owned since 1978, Twiddy has 94 full-time employees--with an IT staff of three, including CTO Laura Carver--and roughly 900 short-term rental homes under management. That makes its choice of BI vendors something of an eyebrow-raiser: SAS isn't exactly synonymous with SMB.

"You call up SAS and you say: Hey, we're a real small business and we're not even sure you're interested in us, but we want to explore it," said Clark Twiddy, chief maintenance officer at his family's firm, in an interview. Like other major BI platforms, SAS tends to be priced for enterprise budgets. Without a doubt, there was some initial sticker shock when Twiddy first began talking with SAS.

"We got a great response [from SAS], so we kicked around a couple of prices. Of course, the first price you choke on and say: 'You've got to be kidding me. Holy smokes, how are we ever going to get a return on that?'" Twiddy said. "I totally understand other companies saying: 'How are we really going to get a return? I get the concept and the concept is great, but when I write a check how am I going to service that debt?'"

Though he declined to put an actual number on his company's cost with SAS, Clark Twiddy likened the purchase decision to that of a new, fully fitted maintenance truck--not an impulse buy. Ultimately, though, the company decided the investment would be pay off if it helped achieve the kinds of operational and financial efficiencies that make its customers happier and its own bottom line healthier. Ross Twiddy, the firm's chief marketing officer, said the decision to go with SAS was a "generational leap" based on the company's belief in innovation. In turn, both Twiddys think BI will help it realize competitive advantages in its ruthless market, especially when it goes up against bigger businesses with deeper pockets.

"We think the ability to be here and understand cost efficiencies and resource assignments in our local market is a great way to combat national chains or franchise chains," said Clark Twiddy. "The value of a small firm is very clearly the ability to make precise, time-sensitive resource assignments in a market that we understand, supported by true market data."

Twiddy regularly tracks 15 competitors, all of whom are gunning for the same Outer Banks vacation dollars. Twiddy keeps a particularly sharp eye on HomeAway, a global rental website, as well as hotel chains Hilton and Hampton Inn--"From what I understand, they're not just a one or two-hotel chain," joked Ross Twiddy--both of which have properties in its market area. "I'm sure they have huge pockets that I am insanely jealous of, and they approach problems a little differently," said Ross Twiddy. "This was allowing us to be not the biggest company but the fastest company.

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