"SAS began with a statistical analysis program that I developed," begins Dr. Jim Goodnight, chairman and CEO of SAS. "Since that time," he continues, "we have introduced integrated software products to meet virtually any decision- support need in business, industry, government and academic computing. At SAS, we help our customers create value by providing solutions that present a holistic view of an organization one that goes beyond just looking at key performance indicators and taking measurements to determine where a company is, where it is going and whether it is in achieving its strategic goals. We also ensure that every employee understands the corporate strategy and his or her role in helping the organization reach those goals. What's more, we help companies create value on top of what they already have by leveraging the substantial investments they've made in existing operational infrastructures. We do that by providing an intelligent layer that transforms operational resources into knowledge they can act on. We infuse that knowledge into every facet of the enterprise from the power to know customers and the power to know suppliers to the power to know one's organization. Serving as a foundation for these avenues of knowledge is our award-winning technological architecture one that enables every aspect of an organization, across platforms and continents to harness the power of data and use it in ways never before thought possible. SAS is the world leader in providing software and services that enable customers to transform data from all areas of their business into intelligence. SAS solutions help organizations make better, more informed decisions and maximize customer, supplier and organizational relationships. We're the leading software vendor in the business intelligence space per IDC."
It is not only the solutions that draw customers to SAS. Goodnight explains, "Customers also choose SAS because of our stability. We've been profitable every year since the founding of the company, including last. We've never lost money. It's our stability and size that assure customers we're a billion-dollar revenue company."
Originally, the company's name was an acronym for Statistical Analysis Systems. However, for more than 20 years, they've been known monosyllabically as SAS (pronounced: sass), the acronym no longer functional. We know the company for their tagline, "The Power to Know." SAS provides organizations around the globe with the power to know, but do we really know this software giant?
They're the largest privately held software company in the world with no immediate plans to go public but don't assume that being private precludes globalization. Recently, Goodnight and Art Cooke, president of SAS International, shared a SAS historiette to augment our knowledge of the company.
"The main thing about SAS," says Goodnight, "is that we have such broad depth in so many of the things we do especially in the analytical area. Operations, research or quality control, statistics and data mining we're the leader in all of these areas. With our success in the U.S. as well as in Europe, the Middle East and Africa, we've not been discouraged by boundaries in our global expansion."
"We help turn massive amounts of data into information. We have the tools for doing all the extractions from databases of any sort, transformation of that data and loading that data. We also have business intelligence capabilities in easy-to-use reports, charts and multidimensional databases that you can drill down into. However, our real strength comes in our analytical capabilities. SAS has extensive data analysis capabilities to actually put a probability on every customer you have. What is the probability that a customer is going to use your service or stop making premium payments on life insurance? Asset retention, or asset churn, is also something we make sense of for our customers. These are universal business questions," notes Goodnight.
Cooke has been leading the SAS international effort to help global customers address these business questions since he was appointed president of SAS International in October of 2000. Prior to this, Cooke served as president of SAS EMEA (Europe, Middle East and Africa). "First, we grew Europe," begins Cooke. "For two years, we ran all international operations from the UK. In 1982, we entered Heidelberg and this soon became the international center. From there we expanded to France in 1983 and Scandinavia the year after that succeeded by Italy the following year and then Spain. Now we're growing the Asia Pacific region. Slowly, but surely, we built our network of operations and offices. When the wall came down ten years ago, we were able to enter Eastern Europe as well. Rather surprisingly, we found quite a few uses of SAS already there. They weren't exactly legal uses, but they were there," provides Cooke in testimony of the universality of SAS software. SAS knows no boundaries, and as a symbol of this SAS accomplishment, Goodnight has a piece of the Berlin wall dated November 18, 1989, displayed in his office.
Cooke provides a simple explanation for the worldwide acceptance of SAS software as follows: "The problems that people face are similar. Whether people are in Japan, the States or anywhere in Europe, they're all facing the challenges of automation, efficiency and intelligence. Obviously, we must ensure that our software is technologically universal that it supports the local characters, languages, etc. Those issues are addressed in the R&D process. However, the advantages that our software provides are also universal."
"In the early days, we had a few distributors outside the U.S.," shares Cooke. "During this time, we found that we move more quickly if we do things ourselves. Our key driver is the country manager who knows the market and is senior enough to sell at the senior level or has the context to do that. This has been our international recipe for success."
Goodnight, chairman and CEO of SAS
"Internationally, we're also attempting to move our organization from a solutions-based approach to actually selling solution strategies. It's the same challenge we face throughout the world," observes Cooke. "We have the underlying technology and the end-to-end intelligence worked out and very well supported. We have solutions in CRM and SRM. We're trying to get the message out that in the same way you standardize on a database or standard applications, you also need to standardize on an intelligence solution, which SAS also provides. Therefore, rather than having a number of applications, why not go with one solution that can deliver everything you need? It's a challenge for us to get this message through the marketplace because originally we were a tools supplier that evolved into a solutions supplier. Now we focus on strategy. We no longer only talk to the IT people. We talk to the C- level execs." Again, SAS knows no boundaries.
Art Cooke, presdident of SAS International
The SAS technology that is now demanded and distributed throughout the world has an interesting origin. Goodnight elucidates, "We got started in the mid-'60s at North Carolina State University (NCSU) developing a system to analyze the data that was being collected on campus. The experiment station helped the agricultural experimenters design their experiments, and it was our responsibility to analyze the data of those experiments. All the improvements you see or that you've seen over the years in corn, livestock, poultry and various feed grains are due in large part to the work of agricultural universities. We began analyzing that data and building a system that would help us pull the data from myriad sources into a single data store and then operate on that data store with procedures. Rather than using a program to read data directly into the program for analysis, our idea was to read the data in first and put it in a data set where we could use manipulative routines to make transformations, merges and updates of those data sets. Those data sets were then fed into analytical procedures for analysis. This allowed us to write a procedure one time to analyze the data. Over the years, we gained recognition by other companies some early adopters of our technology included pharmaceutical companies and State Farm Insurance. As SAS matured at the university, we began licensing our software to raise money for the university. Even before we incorporated the company, SAS became an early favorite in the business of analyzing data both in forecasting and prediction."
"In 1976 we had our first user group meeting. We had approximately 300 attendees, and we were so impressed by the fact that there were so many happy, satisfied users that we started to think that this technology had the potential to grow to be too large for the university," admits Goodnight. "We were already at the stretching point because we needed more room, and the university did not have the space available. We also needed to hire more staff, and the university couldn't permit us to do this." Aware of the university-imposed boundaries, Goodnight continues, "Consequently, we reached an agreement that allowed us to leave the university setting. Since then, we have been very supportive of NCSU we continue to support them with software licenses, professorships, scholarships and grants."
While universities such as NCSU often encourage students to think globally and act locally, Goodnight and Cooke have the fortune to think and act both globally and locally. Explains Goodnight, "We are moving forward to grow this intelligence strategy to help our customers and potential customers manage their businesses and turn the massive amounts of data they have into usable information for forecasting. We want to give them an idea of what's coming as opposed to waiting for things to happen. They can do the forecasting, the risk management and the quality control. It's an exciting time."
Thankfully, SAS is not too good to be true. However, Goodnight and Cooke caution that customers should not accept less than the real thing. "A lot of companies talk about business analytics when really all they're talking about is frequency counts or bar charts," says Goodnight. "There's so much hype out there right now around the analytics market. Other companies don't come near the depth of analysis that we perform. These companies tout really, really simple global statistics. Mean and sum are about as complicated as they get. They don't put probabilities on which customers are going to be leaving this week or next week. They can't do the complex analysis on the data."
Continues Cooke, "We have had a number of discussions with financial analysts around the issue that when they cover the BI vendors in our space, a lot of them don't mention SAS. They tend to mention four vendors in our space. However, when you add all the revenues of these vendors, the sum doesn't equal ours. A few financial analysts are beginning to mention SAS prominently, and all of them are starting to realize that we're an 800-pound elephant. They're starting to understand and believe in what we do." These financial analysts should have followed the lead of the company's customers who have been believing in the company since 1976.
SAS Fact Table
Year Founded: 1976
Even in the workplace, SAS is not tethered by the restrictions of traditional boundaries. SAS employees enjoy some unique and awesome benefits such as a 36,000 square- foot gym and 22.5 tons of M&Ms delivered to every floor of every SAS building throughout the course of each year. Other benefits include, but are not limited to, on-site healthcare and daycare, subsidized lunch, flexible work hours and a seven-hour workday. "Continued recognition for being one of the greatest places to work in America is always very satisfying we've created an environment where people enjoy working," notes Goodnight. "We're a company that is concerned about our employees, our employees' families, and the work/life combination in general. This marks the fifth year in a row that we've been in the top 10 of the Fortune best places to work in America."
While occasionally Cooke relaxes by playing chess, it's no secret that Goodnight often spends his recreation time programming. With enthusiasm typically reserved for athletic feats or recounts of weekend getaways, Goodnight describes a recent endeavor. "I spent two or three weeks last summer programming for a new Web- based drill-down table. I saw the effort that was being expended to make these reports drillable where you have to create hundreds of URLs that are linked to the top URL, and some of the URLs are linked to other URLs, and it's just a lot of work. One morning, at approximately 6 a.m., I came up with a method of doing drill-down reports using just one URL that's extremely fast. So I came in and began programming immediately because it was such a needle in me."
Boundaries exist in almost every aspect of life, creating unseen but understood barriers. The focus that Goodnight demonstrates through his problem- solving and programming abilities enables the company to transcend both physical and academic boundaries. It is the successful company which recognizes that boundaries inhibit progress and impede success. Unfettered by traditional restrictions, SAS knows no boundaries. The result is unparalleled success for the company, its employees and its customers.
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