By Jeff Kelly, 19 Apr 2010, SearchBusinessAnalytics.com
Following is an edited version of the interview, conducted last week at the SAS Global Forum in Seattle. In it, Dr. Goodnight also explains his decision to enter the social media analytics field, how SAS determines which data warehouse vendors to partner with on in-database analytics, and why industry-specific analytic products are the right approach.
SearchBusinessAnalytics.com: SAS Institute's reputation is that of an expert in deep, complex statistical and data analysis. But you also play in the more mainstream BI space. What kind of company do you view SAS as being?
Dr. Jim Goodnight: Well, we announced our own business intelligence product six or seven years ago, and by business intelligence I mean a simple reporting and query tool that is easy for the masses to use. That's the one thing that we didn't have prior to about six years ago. And that's why we were always known as just a statistics and heavy-duty analytics vendor, because we didn't have that very simple-to-use, low-end interface BI tool. We have that now, and we're constantly working to improve it, to make the user interface better. We recently made a move to put a lot of our results into flash, a much more attractive output.
But beyond business intelligence, we want to be known as a business analytics company. You're seeing Business Objects trying to get into that space. That's why IBM bought SPSS, to try to get into that space. Business analytics is the hottest thing going right now. More and more companies are interested in business analytics. And the fact that we've been there for the last 35 years is of key importance. We have more in-depth analytic capabilities than any other company in the world, and we continue to expand.
SearchBusinessAnalytics.com: So when you're pursuing a new customer, is that how you try to differentiate yourself from your BI competitors?
Goodnight: Yes. It's the credible depth of analytics we have versus just basic business intelligence, which is pretty much all the other vendors have. Business intelligence is sort of a marketing term that was made up to say, well, we can't call ourselves a query and reporting company, we need to call ourselves something different. Let's call ourselves "business" … um … make it "business intelligence." And suddenly people that do nothing more than look in the rear-view mirror and report on what happened yesterday are called business intelligence companies.
A lot of customers that we've talked to have been very disappointed in their BI vendor. They thought they were going to get a lot more out of their BI tool. That's because a lot of people think of business intelligence as data mining. In fact, if you ask somebody what business intelligence is, I saw a survey once and the No. 1 response was data mining. Well, the BI tools are query and reporting tools. They don't do data mining. I think that's the big differentiator for us, plus our industry-specific solutions.