Expanded channel portfolio popular with SAS channel partners

The additions to SAS’s product lineup, which will be enhanced later this year, gives partners new opportunities to address issues customers have been encountering and put together new solution sets for them.

Gavin Day, VP in the Office of the CEO at SAS

LAS VEGAS – This year, at their SAS Innovate 2024 event here, SAS launched a significantly enhanced roster of solutions for their channel partners, including a full partner session and a lot of product announcements that have strong channel relevance. The enhanced program portfolio in particular went over well with SAS partners.

“If you are a partner,  product is king,” said John Carey, VP of Global Channels at SAS. “Partners say the velocity is growing, and they really appreciate it.”

The changes to the channel placed an even stronger emphasis on partners than SAS had previously.

“In the partner forum, for the first time we dd territorial alignment which defined territory globally,” said Gavin Day, VP in the Office of the CEO, who wears a couple of hats for SAS CEO Jim Goodnight, including deal readiness, and global consultation, below which there is white space. “Before, the territory wasn’t clearly defined and SAS would show up where the partner was trying to do a deal. We avoid that now. All of the new anouncements are available through partner resale.”

“In Canada, we have always had a strong focus along the 80-20 line,” said Doug McLaren, Regional Channel Leader, Americas. “Last year, we had 14,000 accounts named to direct sellers with the channel being optional. Now we have moved from 14000 to less than 200, and now there are clear swim lanes, with the removal of optionality.”

McLaren also noted that the types of partners SAS has is evolving.

“We have put in place a dedicated partner business development team, which also does partner recruitment of net new models,” he said.

Day also noted that there was an advisory board meeting on Wednesday morning.

“This was extremely important for distribution and resale,” he said. “We wanted to get our partners here along with customers. The number of partner events was up from 30%, and 74% of all new business was influenced by partners.”

John Carey, VP of Global Channels at SAS

“Friends tell friends truths that are uncomfortable, and we got strong feedback from the advisory board,” Carey indicated. “They told us that in some areas, we were still not as easy to do business with as we could be. We were also told we could have been clearer on the move to two tier distribution [following last year’s partnership with TDSYNNEX]. We were always going to have conversations about credit. But we are making sure we enable partners with knowledge of the value that TDSYNNEX can bring, and we are working on the number of partners who follow on conversations with their TD Capital financing arm to lean into them more effectively.”

Anna Ivanova, Vice-President of Professional Services at Montreal-based Munvo Solutions, a SAS Gold partner with the CI Specialization badge, and a  marketing solutions integrator with SAS and other large vendors.

“Retail is a bit more aggressive in our space, while the more highly regulated are less aggressive,” she said.

“We don’t have an AI practice but our customers do,” Ivanova stated. “Instead of SQL programming, they type in natural language, and SAS suggests data sources for you. That’s the theory. In practice there are still obstacles. A lot of our customers find their data is not ready. There are also some technical concerns and some ethical or security ones. So there is still work to be done, but the strong SAS models help.”

Carey also emphasized the importance of broadening out the Viya platform.

“Many of our partners love the SAS platform, but there had been some issues about what it was able to deliver now,” he said. “Viya is a modern platform, and this is the first time all of our solutions can be moved to Viya. Before we didn’t have feature parity, or there were some other issues. The new  models, services and workbench are better because they are true accelerators.”

Day went through the additional value that some of the new offerings provide.

“SAS has added to its trustworthy AI offerings with model cards and AI governance services, which have been something that has been more of an afterthought in the past, but which has been moved to the front,” he said. “The advisory service is not focused on making money, but about getting in front of customers.

The expansion of Viya with Viya Workbench Development is also a strong channel play.

“One leg of the stool is our existing customers, and partners can package Workbench with their own IT and sell to the channel,” Day stated. “It is also a standalone offer, which can be narrowed down to newer use cases, and is really simple to get up and running quickly.”

The new Copilot is all about developer productivity.

“There won’t be another Copilot for SAS, that gives people the tools to be productive,” Day said. “Others will use Microsoft, but our goal with this is about making SAS more productive.”

“This is another indication of SAS’s strategy around expanding our channel market,” Day added. “We didn’t do it before we were ready to execute.”

“We have worked really hard to develop channel-ready products, skewed to distribution and priced for the mid-market,” McLaren indicated. “Everything in retail, health and life sciences is also available now.”