SAS COO: It’s not too late to get started in analytics

Oliver Schabenberger, executive vice president, COO and CTO at SAS

DALLAS — SAS Institute kicked off its 2019 Global Forum here with the company’s leadership making a case for analytics and AI, SAS’ fortes, as key elements to digital transformation, and a journey that every company should be taking seriously. But it’s not too late to get started for those who have not as yet.

CEO Jim Goodnight and COO Oliver Schabenberger both made a case for analytics as a critical element to solving a variety of new and unique business outcomes and manage the ongoing disruption of digital transformation. 

“We need to transform a world of data into a world of intelligence,” said Schabenberger, but he cautioned that this “sounds good, but is easier said than done.”

At a show following a strong theme of making analytics and AI real, and replete with examples of how customers in fields as diverse and oil and gas and oncology are using the company’s ware, it was clear the message from the company was that analytics are here, and analytics are now as a significant driver in companies looking to redefine for the future, and that companies need to get going on it if they haven’t already.

That might put some pressure on companies that haven’t yet started to go deep on data science, but Schabenberger said the good news was that “you’re not as far behind as you think you are,” even if the concept of analytics is one with which you’re just getting acquainted.

“If you’re just starting out on an analytics journey, start small,” he advised attendees.

That means focusing on solving one to three business challenges using analytics techniques. Schabenberger suggested those should be important enough that they’re core to the competency of the business, but manageable enough to show real results in the first year. 

The goal, he said, is to prove — to yourself, to business leaders, and to customers — that an investment in analytics and data science can bear fruit in the relatively short term. Then, he said, champion those wins as a way to drive the ideas and methodologies — and hopefully investments — deeper into the company.

“The goal is to influence the rest of the organization,” Schabenberger said. 

The more customized to the industry-level and business-level specifics of the company, the better, he suggested, noting that the goal is not to compete with Google, Amazon or Facebook on data analytics and AI, but to “drive value in your organization and your industry segment.”

He described SAS’ role as “taking the bite out of digital transformation” by helping provide the tools, skills and methodologies to help customers accelerate their journey — automation to help reduce the skills gap in building out projects, services to help architect business solution, and of course, the tools and software to help bring it to life.

“We want to make analytics more accessible – analytics for everyone, in every way,” Schabenberger said.

Schabenberger’s advice for partners just starting out with their analytics journeys on behalf of their customers — resist the natural urge to start with the data and seeing what data is available and how it can be used. Instead, solutions providers should start with the common thread of identifying the business problem the customer is trying to solve, then figure out what data is available that can help solve that issue. 

“Data collection can be a bit of a vacuum — suck as much as you can up and see what’s available,” he said, and the tendency is to believe that more data is better.

But Shabenerberger suggested partners could play a role in identifying the right data to use and scrutinizing the data  – “small or large” that goes into defining a new solution. From there, it’s the same case for partners working with customers as with individuals working within an organization — find projects close enough to the core to be meaningful, but small enough to quickly prove success, and build from there.

Robert Dutt

Robert Dutt is the founder and head blogger at He has been covering the Canadian solution provider channel community for a variety of publications and Web sites since 1997. 

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