New analytics software from SAS Institute Inc., Sightward Inc. and Closedloop Solutions Inc. seeks to remedy the growing problem of diminished sales visibility due to the still-sluggish economy.
The applications from all three developers aim to help companies react faster to rapidly changing business conditions.
SAS, for instance, is developing a tool called High Performance Forecasting, which is designed to bring greater scalability and accuracy than the Cary, N.C., companys previous forecasting solutions, officials said. The tool, due next year, promises greater ease of use and a more granular view of data through use of SAS predictive analytics technology. For a retailer, the scalability of High Performance Forecasting could provide forecasts for every item, store and geographical location, as well as provide data not only for finance departments but also at a more granular level for marketers who need to respond to changing forecasts.
The tool, which is more automated than previous SAS analytics applications, can select the appropriate data model to apply to a forecast, something normally reserved for statisticians with doctoral degrees. The application can also aggregate data into the format and time series desired for a forecast. Finally, it can output data into query and reporting applications and spreadsheets, and it can be integrated with SAS data mining and optimization applications.
The application is expected to be a key component of SAS forthcoming supply chain management application.
Also applying analytics to forecasting is relative newcomer Sightward, of Bellevue, Wash., which this month released Version 2.0 of its Sightward System licensed and hosted software.
This version includes new calculators for variable cost per contact and incentive selection for nontechnical users to predict return on investment and forecast response rates to marketing campaigns. Version 2.0 also enables faster building of data models.
Although not using any predictive analytics models per se, Closedloop is also taking on forecasting with DFC (Dynamic Financial Control) 3.5, due by years end. The platform is designed to sense market changes as they develop and quickly respond with revised financial plans and recommended actions, said officials, in Redwood City, Calif.
Sirenza Microdevices Inc., which sells semiconductors to the beleaguered telecommunications industry, has experienced the forecasting pitfalls of this economy firsthand.
"Before, customers would give us blanket purchase agreements," said Norm Hilgendorf, vice president of sales and marketing at the Sunnyvale, Calif., company. "Now our customers are all living hand-to-mouth and cant give us long-term commitments. We cant see more than one to four weeks out."
Hilgendorf has turned to Closedloops DFC platform, which lets him aggregate data by geography, market, business unit, product and technology and sort the data by different dimensions without relying on endless spreadsheets. While he wont quantify the return on investment, he said hes pleased with the software.