SAS Institute and the Products from SAS

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Do you wonder which direction the Analytics Industry is moving? What skill swill prove important in the future (software)? What can be possible competitors to the skills that you currently possess? A Question I often get is – Will SAS programming skills and skills on the suite of products from SAS Institute be a stepping stone to success?
Well , the easiest way to get a synopsis is to look up the Gartner Magic Quadrant – a proprietary research tool developed by Gartner Inc., a US based research and advisory firm. According to Gartner, the Magic Quadrant aims to provide a qualitative analysis into a market and its direction, maturity and participants, thus possibly enabling a company to be a stronger competitor for that market.

Their analyses are conducted for several specific technical industries and are updated every 1 – 2 years.

In Feb 2012 they released their most recent report on the ‘Magic Quadrant for Business Intelligence Platforms’.
Quoting on SAS from this report:-

SAS Strengths

• SAS gets high marks for its global footprint and broad industry initiatives. Unlike some other BI platform vendors, SAS focuses on advanced analytical techniques, such as data mining and predictive modeling, where references acknowledge it as a leader of the pack. SAS’s clients also have above average complexity scores (for the depth of use of different BI use cases) on larger than average data sources. SAS customers also access and interpret unstructured internal and external data more often than any other vendor’s clients surveyed for this Magic Quadrant.

• SAS’s solution-oriented analytic application approach to the market is a differentiator, giving the company the advantage of having a wide variety of cross-functional and vertically specific analytic applications out of the box for a variety of industries, including financial services, life sciences and manufacturing. While others are also adopting this approach, SAS remains in the lead. Customers also report an above average sales experience.

• The primary drivers for customers choosing SAS remain functionality and data integration. In addition, references reported that they select SAS because of availability of skills. In the past, we have heard concerns over a lack of available SAS expertise; we suspect that this improvement is linked to the aggressive stance the company has taken to forge substantial partnerships with services firms, specifically Accenture. This broadened ecosystem also expands SAS’ sales channels with multiple partners positioning SAS-based solutions to their customers.

• On the software partnership front, SAS has partnered with a number of database vendors (such as Teradata) to push the execution of its models directly into the database management system without moving the data. Not only does this reduce data duplication and movement, it also allows SAS users to leverage the power and scalability features of the database to run predictive models against very large datasets with high performance.

• Overall, SAS has a wide and loyal user base, many of whom have built careers around these products. References have a solid, positive outlook for SAS’s success within their organizations, as well as in the market as a whole. The company recently reported double-digit revenue growth for 2011.

Cautions
• References report that SAS is very difficult to implement — it was the No. 1 firm in this category. Companies also indicate that the product is considered difficult to use for business users (it was ranked No. 2 in this category). Its dashboard capabilities were rated lowest of all the vendors in this research. SAS is very much aware of these criticisms, and in 2011 embarked on a major development initiative involving hundreds of resources to improve usability and implementation activities. While it is too early to see the results of these efforts in surveys, we expect to see improvement in these areas in next year’s reference assessment. If no improvement is noted, this will directly impact SAS’s Ability to Execute scores for 2013.

• SAS’s dominance in predictive analytics and statistics continues to be challenged on many fronts. In addition to the SPSS suite, IBM also acquired Algorithmics in 2011 to bolster its portfolio; we are seeing greater adoption of open-source “R” in some products and embedded predictive and statistical capabilities in others. New entrants to the BI platform Magic Quadrant Prognoz and Alteryx accentuate these capabilities as core components of their product suites. While SAS still remains the acknowledged front runner, buyers have more options now, and SAS must continue to defend its franchise. The company recognizes this and, for example, has reinvigorated its emphasis on placing its software products in higher education settings for student and teacher use.

• Customer references report that cost is the most common factor blocking further adoption. In fact, verbatim responses to the survey mention cost in many ways — leasing terms, expensive to maintain, ongoing costs and so on — and, again, the company is very much aware of this criticism. With more options now available, SAS should also remain responsive to customers and prospects in these areas. The average tenure of SAS’s reference customers that participated in this survey was five years. Over 10% reported that they are planning to replace or are considering replacing the software in the next three years.

• Despite SAS’s success and awareness as a leader in the predictive analytics space, the company is still challenged to make it onto BI platform shortlist evaluations when predictive analytics is not a primary business requirement. While a little less than 60% of references indicated that SAS was their company’s BI standard, functionality used in traditional BI areas (reporting, dashboards, OLAP and so on) was lower than for other BI leaders in this report. Like last year, ad hoc query remains the one exception, with clients aggressively using SAS BI for that component.

SAS definitely is here to stay. An investment in Analytics Education with a tool from SAS will continue to be an advantage in the job market.

The products that SAS Institute brings to the table cover

Solution Lines

• Analytics
• Business Intelligence
• Customer Intelligence
• Data Management
• Financial Intelligence
• Foundation Tools
• Fraud & Financial Crimes
• Governance, Risk & Compliance
• High-Performance Analytics
• Human Capital Intelligence
• IT & CIO Enablement
• OnDemand Solutions
• Performance Management
• Risk Management
• Supply Chain Intelligence
• Sustainability Management

And the Industries covered include

• Casinos
• Communications
• Education
• Financial Services
• Government
• Health Insurance
• Health Care Providers
• Hotels
• Insurance
• Life Sciences
• Manufacturing
• Media
• Oil & Gas
• Retail
• Travel & Transportation
• Utilities

You can view their products in detail at http://www.sas.com/software/

What I find very useful is the extensive ‘help’ on SAS that is available on the net , sponsored in a large way by SAS Institute.
So bon voyage on the Analytics road !!

Interested in a career in Data Science?
To learn more about Jigsaw’s Data Science with SAS Course – click here.
To learn more about Jigsaw’s Data Science with R Course – click here.
To learn more about Jigsaw’s Big Data Course – click here.