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SAS' grip on analytics safeguards market appeal

SAS' grip on analytics safeguards market appeal

Leadership at SAS are resolute: data without analytics is value yet unrealised. To the US multinational, AI is redefining innovation and turning data into intelligence is the only real path to powerful decision making. It is about knowing how to leverage AI, Internet of Things and cloud which characterise digital transformation in business.

At the company's Analytics Experience in Milan this week, Chief Technology Officer Oliver Schabenberger (who also stepped into the role of COO in January 2018) said SAS currently has 30,8% of the global advanced and predictive analytics market. In January 2018, it secured US$3.24 billion in operating revenue for 2017, up 1.25% year-on-year.

According to the company this was influenced by an increase in customer demand for AI, machine learning, fraud and risk management.

SAS executives believe the business has secured this position because of its continued emphasis on R&D, on its partner ecosystem and meticulous attention to market requirements.

According to Schabenberger, in 2017 the company spent 26% of its revenue on R&D – which he said is roughly double the industry standard.

"We have always been a technology research and innovation focused company," he said, referencing the adaption of the business model in response to tech advances in the 80s and 90s, and specifically how the company developed portable enterprise class code before Java.

User experience remains a core focus of the business and Schabenberger described Africa's digital transformation as "alive and well" and a prime region for analytics.

Close to customers

The COO is adamant one of the main reasons for the company's continued growth is its determination to "be close to customers."

SAS' desire to foster and nurture an open, collaborative approach to innovation has helped to ensure its ability to adapt to the changing needs of the market. Schabenberger raised Hadoop and the high performance computing space and relevant storage layers, as an example of the company's strategic manoeuvring.

Today the focus is on driving data and analysis to build intelligence in organic businesses.

"The successful AI and IOT systems of today and of the future are built on machine learning, optimisation and advanced analytics. Artificial intelligence as we currently know it is a continuation of advanced analytics," explained Schabenberger,

But there are challenges to implementing AI. Schabenberger said 'operationalising' AI is one of the main obstacles.

It is why the company continues to underline the need for business leaders to better understand AI and what the best approach should be to extract the maximum value.

SAS' executives have emphasised that the vastly improved algorithms today offer a stronger opportunity for businesses to reinforce decision making and tap into a resource that is 'created by machines, but crafted by humans".

So while there are areas of progress made in AI and evidence of application (autonomous driving and automated real-time data analysis to radically transform processes in supply chain, retail, manufacturing and logistics, among other areas), the business world is still far away from machines that can reason.

Looking ahead, SAS wants to leverage its expertise in combining technologies and actively pursue opportunities in computer vision and being in a position to facilitate analytics on video streaming. Schabenberger describes this as an exciting new field for the company.

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