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Q&A: SAS CEO Dr. Jim Goodnight

SAS really thrives on competition, Goodnight says. "Give us somebody to go after, and that's a great motivator for my developers and my sales people alike."
Business Intelligence Pipeline: BI is a market being entered to one degree or another by big companies such as Oracle, Microsoft and SAP. Then there are the established vendors like Business Objects, MicroStrategy and Cognos. Where do you see SAS fitting competitively in this increasingly crowded environment?

Goodnight: We're going to fit very nicely, especially within our current user base. They already have SAS and can upgrade to our business analytics suite for a very, very small amount of money. I think from a pricing standpoint, we're extremely competitive. From a feature standpoint, we've got just about every feature anybody else has. We miss a few here and there, but then we've got some that they don't have either. So I think that all in all, as far as Cognos or Business Objects or MicroStrategy goes, we can win a heads-up beauty contest with them on features. We're not concerned about that.

We've been competing with companies like Oracle and SAP and IBM almost since the beginning of the company. We're not concerned about the competition. In fact, I think SAS really thrives on competition. Give us somebody to go after, and that's a great motivator for my developers and my sales people alike.

Business Intelligence Pipeline: You said in February that sales grew 15 percent overall in 2004, and you credited some of that growth to data warehousing, integration and BI tools. Which of your product categories are positioned for the most growth this year?

Goodnight: This year we've got a very nice revenue stream building up for marketing automation. We should by all accounts be the number one vendor in marketing automation by the end of the year (Editor's Note: Goodnight cites Unica and Teradata as main competitors.). Also the BI space--we've got a huge pipeline building up there just from our existing users. I've seen it. We made a big show of this at our user conference a couple weeks ago in Philadelphia, and over 450 people took a two-hour training course on how to use our BI tools. There's an awful lot of interest among our users. Right now, our biggest problem with BI is trying to get additional education and training people on board to meet the backlog. Also right now, ETL is still strong, and of course data mining is still very strong with us. We're number one in the marketplace in data mining.

Business Intelligence Pipeline: Almost all the BI vendors say they want to be the "enterprise-wide standard," and customers seem to be moving toward using intelligence applications from a smaller number of vendors. How will SAS meet the growing demand for standardization?

Goodnight: Our biggest advantage over the low-end vendors is that our BI platform allows you to integrate all of the analytics and the entire power of the SAS platform. You can create what we call stored processes that you can invoke from your BI server. So if you need to do some forecasting or some fairly robust analytics, a SAS programmer at your company can write a stored process that you can invoke at any time for forecasting or analytics work. That's something the other vendors just don't have. We go everywhere from ETL to building data warehouses to doing data mining on them, to doing Web-based reporting or the simple low-end query and reporting, as well as the high-end analytics. All in one platform.