SAS Takes Analysis Mainstream

Upgrade simplifies predictive analytics.

SAS Institute Inc.s upgrade to its namesake platform will give front-line business users predictive analysis capabilities.

The SAS 9 platform, which the company formally rolled out at its headquarters here last week, offers ease-of-use enhancements designed to give business managers, for instance, the ability to predict customer response and plan marketing campaigns accordingly. In addition, SAS 9 brings those user-facing capabilities together with SAS back-end data management functions of extraction, transformation and loading and of query and reporting, said SAS CEO Jim Goodnight.

Users will be able to access predictive analytics through the seven software solutions built on SAS 9 that SAS also announced.

In addition, SAS is working on a new retail analytics solution, expected to ship as early as the fourth quarter, that will include capabilities for analytical customer relationship management, supply chain optimization and performance optimization, all tailored to the retail vertical market, officials said.

Also key to the companys retail focus will be support for radio-frequency identification tags as a data source for analyzing supply chain and store data.

"Were moving into new areas like the retail space," Goodnight said. "Well have very sophisticated pricing and optimization routines."

Whether enterprises really want to extend predictive capabilities beyond power users, however, is an open question. "That casual users could leverage the tool is a nice goal for SAS to have," said Rick Muldowney, director of guest relationship management at Toys "R" Us Inc., in Wayne, N.J., which uses SAS technology in its marketing campaigns. "But were not looking to move casual users into data mining. Theyre a different set of users."

In other words, an easier-to-use product wouldnt automatically make a user a good data miner, Muldowney said. "They make a lot of nice machines that do automotive diagnostics, but just because I have one doesnt make me an auto mechanic," he said.

New York-based Federated Department Stores Inc., which uses SAS tools for direct mail campaigns, is looking to extend SAS technology to more users, according to Paul Coleman, director of marketing statistics.

"Our upper management wants to not only be able to look at information but play with it. I think they would respond to something like that," Coleman said.

SAS isnt the only choice for predictive analytics. Fair Isaac Corp., of San Rafael, Calif., is developing a "decision automation platform," due to be announced later this month, that will combine predictive analytic algorithms with score cards, decision tables and decision trees.