Strategic moves by SAS Institute (see Part Two of this note) are a response to the requirement that modern business intelligence (BI) suites be able to access and present key business measures for sales, customer service, the supply chain, financials, purchasing, inventory, and many other areas. In addition to these functions, BI suites must also provide the ability to use information building blocks as the basis for comparisons, calculations, ratios, and metrics. Users should be able to dynamically combine business measures to derive key performance indicators (KPI), such as product profitability, margin analysis, book-to-bill ratios, return on investment (ROI), and other vital metrics. Typical data that manufacturing enterprises should know about, on a daily basis, include inventory situation, rejected items, throughput, booked sales, order status, on-time shipments, and warranty levels. In each of these categories, users may want to get behind the numbers and trends to discern the root causes or find out what items, regions, channel partners, or customers are involved.
Part Three of the SAS: Striving to Sustain Leadership series.
For many reasons, SAS's alliance with Amdocs (NASDAQ: DOX) and partnership with Aprimo might be one of the few vendor partnerships where both customers and vendors benefit. By including customer, supplier, and information technology-related (IT) intelligence, SAS has a product functional scope that moves well beyond financial BI solutions to espouse a holistic corporate performance management (CPM) vision. However, the company will still face strong competition in many vertical markets from other leading BI vendors, such as Cognos and Business Objects. We believe SAS could further strengthen its position and enter more vertical markets by espousing a stronger original equipment manufacturer (OEM) or independent software vendor (ISV) partner strategy, which enables third parties to add their vertical, industry-specific experience, and accompanying front-ends and tools to SAS' analytical engine. The resulting packages could be resold into large and mid-market companies in those verticals.
In addition to the ongoing competition from a plethora of traditional BI players, or from statistical package market players, such as Insightful's S-Plus and SPSS, SAS is also facing a new nemesis in Siebel. Siebel designed Siebel Enterprise Analytics from the scratch and with data integration in mind. In two years, this product has grown from a few early adopters to become one of the vendor's fastest-growing, and possibly the largest product lines in 2004.
Needless to say, Siebel has long been a customer relationship management (CRM) archrival to Aprimo in the realm of enterprise marketing management (EMM), but it has also posed challenges to Amdocs in the call center and customer service space within the telecommunication sector. Both Siebel and Amdocs the largest two remaining pure-play CRM vendors and the competition with Amdocs has only intensified after Siebel acquired the billing and customer self-service provider eDocs, in late 2004. Given Siebel's recent intrusion into the BI market, we might even stand to be corrected by calling it a "semi-pure" customer relationship management (CRM) player. In any case, discussion indicates an intrinsic link between CRM and BI, which is possibly best illustrated within the market automation (MA) and customer service and call center markets (see Marketing and Intelligence, Together at Last and Analyze This).
Despite the challenge posed by Siebel and other rivals, SAS' move to build partnerships, especially with Amdocs should meet the growing need of communications service providers (CSP) seeking to build more profitable customer relationships. Until recently, crucial information was locked in Amdocs' disparate systems, such as billing, CRM, orders management, mediation, etc. and given this, CSPs were questioning such systems value. Through the collaboration between Amdocs and SAS, CSPs should now be able to collect this information and derive useful analyses to gauge the climate of the market and the temperament of their clients, and adjust and build services accordingly. Likewise, if successful, the vendors will also find profitability. SAS will be able to strengthen its position in the telecommunications market and extend its functional CRM footprint and Amdocs will be able to drive its MA strategy forward, and justify its new direction to its current customers. For more information see Amdocs Overhauls Its Marketing series, Part Three.
This is Part Three of a three-part note.
Part One profiled SAS.
Part Two discussed alliances, partnerships, and acquisitions.
To compete with leading BI and data warehouse companies and enterprise resource planning (ERP) vendors that are moving into these markets, SAS needs to further open its products to make it easier to employ third-party tools. Also, like Cognos, Hyperion, and Business Objects, SAS should also exploit the current, weaker BI technology position of many ERP vendors to foster relationships with them, rather than viewing them as the adversaries.
SAS may also have to further adjust its business model. Currently, it still primarily provides its software on an outdated mainframe licensing model, deriving over half of its revenues from annual license fees that amount to about one-third of the initial licensing cost of its products. This provides SAS with a steady income, but may not be an attractive option for many prospective customers. SAS should consider moving to a more common enterprise software licensing model with annual support costs in the range of 15 percent of license costs. With its new product, SAS 9, SAS may be showing signs of recognizing that the old model of selling a complex tool kit, and then training its customers' internal staff on the tools, needs to be extended to many levels within the user enterprise. Strong vertical tailoring, more consultancy, and more out-of-the-box functionality to all areas in a business process are other positive signs that should be further exploited by SAS.
In light of SAS' ventures and partnerships, communication companies, in particular, those that currently use Amdocs or Xchange, should be encouraged by SAS' alliance. They can anticipate tighter CRM and BI offerings that are designed for the communications industry. Additionally, the SAS/Amdocs partnership is also a viable alternative to other MA players, such as Chordiant, Epiphany, Teradata, and Unica. Companies currently using disparate SAS and Amdocs solutions may also want to explore leveraging pre-built integration to amplify Amdocs' modules with SAS' data mining and predictive analytics tools to improve customer intimacy (such as up-sell and cross-sell opportunities in the contact center). For more user recommendations, specific to Amdocs, see the Amdocs Amdocs Overhauls Its Marketing series, Part Three.
Ultimately, organizations seeking BI and analytic tools should look at their processes carefully, and not presume that generic tools will give them the complete functionality they are seeking. The implementation of new tools should be incorporated into the enterprise's overall information delivery strategy and involve both structured and unstructured information. Careful consideration needs to be given whether the tools offered by a current ERP, CRM, or another provider will meet the enterprise's needs. Enterprises should also be aware of a vendor's claims of vertical expertise. Enterprises should make sure that the vendors they are evaluating have the necessary expertise about the communications industry, and should even consider expertise in the relevant mini-verticals, to ensure that specific business models, workflows, and processes are understood and can be dealt with accordingly in the new system. After all, specific functionality requires essential structural change to the code, not mere cosmetic changes.
This concludes Part Three of a three-part note.