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5/2/2011
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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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Before signing on with SAS, Twiddy's data management was painfully ad-hoc. A core piece of the company's daily operations involves maintaining the 900 homes in its portfolio--each of which is unique and privately owned, creating data challenges that hotel chains don't have to deal with. Matching the right internal and external resources to the right properties is key to the long-term strength of Twiddy's bottom line. "We track an enormous amount of information on how to assign resources to these homes," said Clark Twiddy. "Before SAS and before business intelligence, we literally had people combing through work orders trying to find trends or processes, and we relied almost exclusively on manual searching for data."

That led to waste that wasn't sustainable. Twiddy works with 1,100 different vendors for a variety of service needs, for example. Implementing BI has allowed the company to achieve pricing efficiencies that save Twiddy and its homeowners money. It has also seen time and resource management improvements since deploying SAS. For example, it had a seasoned 15-year employee devoted full-time to managing the company's 100 or so pool and spa vendors. "With SAS, we're able to automate that," Clark Twiddy said. "We're able to pull her off that manual job assignment and she's able to use her experience and work on more complex problems."

Like cost, IT resources--or lack thereof--tend to be a BI inhibitor for SMBs. That was true for Twiddy, too, so it used Pinnacle, a SAS-endorsed reseller, to assist with implementation, which included hooking up three different data sources. Carver, the CTO, said that outsourcing the deployment shrunk the timeline down to a matter of days. Twiddy sent eight employees to train on-site for two weeks at SAS headquarters, just several hours drive down I-40 in Cary, NC--the in-state connection certainly didn't hurt the vendor's appeal.

There were some early hiccups--Carver said the company discovered it wasn't properly backing up its information post-launch, which resulted in some lost data early on. "In the process, we've learned a little bit more about, of course, how to back up the data correctly, but [also to] work a little smarter and streamline what we originally did three months ago," Carver said.

Providing the early days of its experience with SAS are an indicator of things to come, Twiddy executives said they'd consider expanding their use of the vendor's applications and services for things like web analytics or even its reservations software system. Regardless, taking the long view--which Clark Twiddy said made the price tag easier to digest--remains a key decision driver for the company.

"What gives us a long-term competitive advantage?" Clark Twiddy said. "I don't believe it's a pickup truck, although that's critical to what we do. I don't believe it's a new server, although that's critical to what we do. I think the tools, knowledge, and discipline that come from [making] data-based decisions over a long term is how we'll continue to remain a market leader."

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