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SAS Is Fortune's Best Company To Work For

Fortune named SAS its best company to work for, hardly a stunner to anyone in this industry. Here are a few excerpts from interviews we've had with CEO Jim Goodnight the past year, on tech education, the scourge of open offices, and the "plummeting business" of ERP.
Fortune named SAS its best company to work for, hardly a stunner to anyone in this industry. Here are a few excerpts from interviews we've had with CEO Jim Goodnight the past year, on tech education, the scourge of open offices, and the "plummeting business" of ERP.Here's a link to the Fortune profile, which notes that SAS' "annual turnover is 2% in 2009, compared with 22% for the software industry," and that women make up 45% of its workforce. Fortune is rightfully impressed by SAS's many on-campus amenities. When we named Goodnight one of our Innovators & Influencers for 2009, we focused more on SAS's stubborn dominance atop the analytics market. But our piece did make note of its storied culture:

Google before its public stock offering even sent HR execs to SAS's wooded Cary, N.C., campus to learn about perks such as on-site hair stylists and physicians, a health club, and free snacks and subsidized meals. Unlike Google, Goodnight has shunned the move to open workspaces. Employees have their own offices, since he believes people need quiet places to think and create.

Goodnight also spoke at our InformationWeek 500 conference last fall, on a topic--education--about which he's passionate. Here are some insights from an interview at that event, where we asked him about how the U.S. is doing in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics education:


Goodnight: I think we're still far behind. We have to get our students more interested in STEM skills. We've got to get them interested at earlier grades. We have to be really stressing the important of algebra in middle school. Everything comes right back down to teaching kids good, solid basics of algebra. We could use technology to get kids interested in algebra. In North Carolina, we're working with 21 high schools to provide laptops on a one-to-one basis with kids. Kids today are digital. They've got an iPod in one hand and a cell phone in the other. Let's take advantage of that. But schools are still teaching the same way, with blackboards and teachers. We need to modernize our schools and get technology involved. [Using an online curriculum], the teacher becomes more of a mentor than a teacher walking around trying to help everyone.

Lastly, lest Goodnight come off as some sort of kindly tech statesman, a bit of his take on the competitive landscape. SAS funds its perks by winning. Goodnight's competitiveness is always at the surface, as when we asked him about the partnerships and acquisitions we've seen around advanced analytics by traditional business software vendors:


Goodnight: Almost every major company in world has implemented an ERP system, and what they found is they're not getting more information from them. They're looking backwards. They're not doing a good job of forecasting or predicting behavior. With SAP, their whole data warehouse strategy has been a failure. SAP really has to move upstream and into analytics market. That's where everyone has to be going. There's no future in ERP. It's just a plummeting business.

Editor's Choice
Sara Peters, Editor-in-Chief, InformationWeek / Network Computing
John Edwards, Technology Journalist & Author
John Edwards, Technology Journalist & Author
James M. Connolly, Contributing Editor and Writer