SAS needs to make up its mind whether it wants to be in the BI game or not. Despite of what SAS’ senior executives had been heard saying occasionally, that “BI is dead,” SAS is not quite done with BI. After all BI makes up 11 percent of the SAS’ very impressive $2.4B annual revenue (with uninterrupted 35 years of growth!) and 22 percent of the company's 2010 growth.
Even though some organizations are looking at and implementing advanced analytics such as statistical analysis, predictive modeling, and, most importantly, model based decisions, there is only a handful of them. As our BI maturity survey shows year after year, BI – even basic BI – maturity is still below average in most enterprises. Add these numbers to the abysmal enterprise BI applications penetration levels in most large organizations, and you get continued, huge, and ever expanding opportunity, that no vendor in their right mind, especially a vendor with leading BI tools, should miss.
There’s also an issue of competitive threat. Stack vs. best of breed is not a key decision point for BI buyers any more. Yes, most large enterprises look for best of breed solutions and tools, but stack vendors do offer best of breed BI and analytics tools today after all of the recent acquisitions. I get many client inquiries asking me whether their decision to roll out SAP or Oracle ERP applications should influence their BI decision (yes, it should), or whether a client running IBM Cognos should consider SPSS. I have never gotten an inquiry asking me whether an analytical solution should drive BI platform decision. Therefore IMHO if SAS does not reinvigorate its BI platform positioning, marketing and sales, it’ll slowly but surely feel more and more squeezed by competition.
It’s really just a matter of marketing and priorities for SAS. It already does have a very broad, comprehensive and a leading enterprise BI platform. It is also adding all of the right features in its future versions such as mobile (see today’s announcement on partnership with Roambi), collaborative BI (very nice integration with Outlook coming soon), BI SaaS and in-memory analytics. It just need to reemphasize BI, incentivise its sales force, and go to market strongly.
(Editor's note: SAS revenue and growth figures corrected 3/9/2011 per author clarifications.)