SAS channel leaders emphasize commitment to reseller partners in driving new technology opportunities

SAS is not only doubling down on its reseller channel, but its strategic vendor channel as well, extending partnerships to strengthen their mutual position in Generative AI and other advanced use cases.

John Carey, VP Alliances and Channels at SAS

LAS VEGAS – At their SAS Connect event here, which continues through Thursday, SAS’s only major channel announcement was their first general distribution agreement, with SYNNEX, and the extension of their relationship with strategic partner Microsoft would fall into that category as well. The key decisions on expanding SAS’s reseller business around new technologies in particular had already been made, however, and SAS’s task now is to make sure that they execute on them strongly.

There was no Partner Day and forum at SAS Explore 23, but there was a Partner Advisory Board meeting.

“This was the first since I joined SAS 13 months ago,” said John Carey, VP Alliances and Channels at SAS. “We reinaugurated it. What I wanted them to take away was that we were betting big on partners within the SAS Go-to-Market, and that there is commitment from the top down to executing on this.”

“We have been making a very focused effort to hear indirect resellers,” said Doug McLaren – Americas Regional Alliance and Channels Leader, Americas, at SAS. “We are really doubling down on the solution provider piece. Because of this, we made a change this year, and moved over 50% of our internal reps who work with partner solution providers to focus on resellers specifically.”

While SAS has had partners basically from the beginning, the percentage of revenues they contributed as a percentage of total income was in the single digits until fairly recently.

“Our objective is to get partners to contribute about 30% of total sales,” Carey said. That’s among partners who fulfill, and doesn’t count ones like Microsoft who are partner influencers. Last year, partner participation was 66% partner attached in some way, with 21.5% being all-out partner sourced.”

A big difference from the past, and going forward, will be the new strategic relationship with TD SYNNEX, the first comprehensive distribution deal SAS has signed to manage all but a select group of named partners who SAS will deal with direct.

“We have tremendous interests around TD SYNNEX and their partner base,” McLaren said. “The key for us is to work with partners to deliver to the midmarket needs.”

TD SYNNEX has over 1600 partners in North America in the Global Data, AI and IoT Solutions division that manages the relationship with SAS.

“When we talked with partners about this, they saw it as an opportunity to be able to be more flexible in the marketplace,” McLaren indicated. “There are new markets and new clients and they see opportunity from SAS growing the size of the marketplace more than other competition. As a result, a lot of new partners are climbing on board as part of this strategy.”

“No one felt that their opportunities were constrained by this in their comments to me,” Carey said.

“In Canada we have about 30 direct SAS sellers,” McLaren indicated. “There’s a point where if they manage too many relationships, they are not effective as a direct seller. The midmarket is a space where partners are better equipped to service customers than our direct sellers. We just need to manage this so that we don’t have conflict with our partners.

In addition to resellers, SAS is expanding its relationships with many of their strategic vendor partners. The company recently invested a billion dollars to build out their solutions portfolio with more tailored industry solutions. A key focus of that will be delivering on the promise of Generative AI’s promise, making sure that customers aren’t taken in by hype being promised by some in what is still a very early stage of the technology’s development. They are also working alongside customers to develop generative AI workflows for industry-specific solutions in key industries, like banking, insurance, manufacturing, retail and the public sector.

“This has only strengthened the strategic partners we have with hyperscalers and owners of data,” Carey said. “Our core relations with companies like Microsoft and Snowflake have been enhanced.”

SAS is working with Microsoft to jointly develop a generative AI integration that combines the scale of Microsoft Azure OpenAI with the ability of SAS to  orchestrate enterprise tasks. This generative AI integration will be available in a private preview in Q4 2023.

“When we looked at our accounts, three years ago, we saw a huge intersection with Microsoft,” said Bryan Harris, SAS’s CTO. “Moving software to the cloud was not a guarantee that things would be faster and cheaper – because it wasn’t, but we wanted to make sure we would have engineering access to the hyperscaler, and our customers expect that. We had to help Microsoft re-engineer some of their compute to do this. There are architectural strategies they know about because of their size, but they don’t always have the expert industry knowledge that we do. That’s where the two worlds really meet. We are now extending that additional relationship around Generative AI.”

SAS Viya is also now available as a private preview in Snowflake’s Data Cloud with Snowpark Container Services.

“In his keynote, Bryan made a clear point that what everyone is doing right now in advanced analytics, SAS has been doing for 47 years,” Carey said. “Now the issue around Generative AI is about ethical use cases, applied use cases and using it in no code and low code environments. We have a core of partners who have been with us in these markets, and with them we will focus on real life applications of infusing Generative AI into our use cases today.”