While the new release of SAS Institute Inc.'s business-intelligence software doesn't ignore the high-end of the data-analysis market, most noteworthy are new features that bring heavy-duty reporting and data analysis to a wider range of users.
SAS 9 offers expanded predictive analysis and forecasting capabilities and can analyze greater volumes of data. The software also includes interfaces that can be tailored to users' roles and needs, such as an insurance actuary who needs to be guided through a data-analysis problem, or clerks who need access to reports yet have no interest in the behind-the-scenes analysis.
SAS 9 also provides stored procedure capabilities, or the ability to record the process of extracting data from a database, analyzing it, and generating a report. Once recorded, those processes can be played back by workers with little or no technical or analytical expertise through Web Report Studio--an easy-to-use reporting tool in SAS 9--and through Microsoft Office desktop applications such as Excel and Word.
"All these things chip away at the problem of allowing SAS to be more broadly deployed," says SAS president and CEO Jim Goodnight. The new capabilities in SAS 9 will put the company more directly in competition with vendors such as Business Objects SA and Cognos Inc. that provide query and reporting applications. Goodnight says SAS competes with those vendors in about 5% of sales calls.
The new analysis-for-the-masses features in SAS 9 will help companies move business knowledge and insight out to the edge of their organizations, says Aberdeen Group analyst Guy Creese. Customer-data-analysis reports, for example, can be made available to a sales force or a customer call center more easily.
That fits the plans of SAS user Quaker Chemical Corp. CIO Irving Tyler says he's trying to make more production data available to plant workers to set production schedules and provide sales representatives with the ability to analyze sales orders. "We want to get information out to as many people as possible," he says. But that means keeping the technology simple; until now SAS has been too complicated for a wide range of employees to use. SAS 9 goes a long way toward resolving that problem, Tyler says.
Tuesday's announcement covered SAS' core products, collectively known as the Intelligence Platform, which is made up of analysis software such as Enterprise Miner and Text Miner, reporting software ,and the new user-interface technology, data-storage management tools, and data-extraction, transformation, and loading tools.
SAS 9 also includes task-specific applications that run on the Intelligence Platform, and SAS will debut new releases of those through the year starting in the second quarter with SAS Marketing Automation and SAS Risk Dimensions. Those will be followed in the third quarter by SAS Strategic Performance Management, SAS Financial Management Solutions, SAS Supplier Relationship Management, SAS Activity-Based Management, and SAS IT Management Solutions software.