SAS Jumps Into the Performance Management Fray

SAS’ PM platform release gathers together—under one big proverbial tent—several PM products it has marketed for years.

At its SAS Forum International conference, held last week in Geneva, SAS Institute Inc. unveiled a new performance management (PM) software line-up that includes both domain- and industry-specific product entries.

SAS joins the ranks of established business intelligence (BI) heavyweights—including, most notably, Business Objects SA—that have experienced come-to-PM epiphanies over the last 12 months. (Business Objects tipped its PM hand when it acquired the former SRC Software last July.) In most cases, BI converts have stressed that their new PM product entries are based on core technologies they’ve marketed for years. That was the message last week from SAS.

“When I look at performance management or performance improvement, we’ve been helping companies do that for 30 years now. What happened is there have been lots of different names around lots of different initiatives and market trends, and performance management is the latest one. But when you look at our tools, we’ve always enabled that, but it’s been for specific areas, specific needs,” says Mark Digman, director of industry and solution product marketing for SAS.

In fact, SAS’ inaugural PM platform release gathers together—under one big proverbial tent—several PM, or PM-related products it has separately marketed for years. Consider SAS’ domain-specific offerings: SAS Human Capital Management (a workforce management tool), SAS Financial Management, SAS Activity-Based Management, and SAS Strategic Performance Management are all mature tools.

For their PM platform re-branding, each of these products has been retooled or tweaked to improve interoperability with SAS’ bread-and-butter BI tools, or with third-party applications, such as SAP. For example, SAS last week announced a new Human Capital Management Adapter for SAP, which lets users exploit SAP business rules to help speed implementations. Ditto for SAS Financial Management, which (also via a new SAP adapter) now supports pre-defined mappings between R/3 and SAS Financial Management. Elsewhere, Digman says, SAS Activity-Based Management boasts improved integration with the SAS Enterprise BI Server and with third-party databases, and SAS Strategic Performance Management features improved portal integration.

“Definitely what we wanted to get across in our announcement is our commitment to tighter integration with transactional systems, specifically SAP. We wanted to make it easier to get at that data and pull it into our performance management tools,” Digman explains. “For [our] Activity-Based Management [tool], we’ve improved support for multiple databases. Activity-based management has been most often [performed in conjunction with] SQL [Server] databases, but we now support Oracle. We’re going in the direction of DB2 in future releases, but we wanted to focus on SQLs and Oracles right now.”

SAS also tweaked Activity-Based Management to improve the way it interoperates with its scorecarding software, Digman says. “We also did a lot of enhancements to pull the measures, the metrics, the insights from activity-based models into our scorecarding app,” he indicates. “Now it’s all self-contained. We can run our analysis on profits or cost drivers and move those into your dashboard or scorecard, so it minimizes the challenges of getting at that data.”

In addition to its domain-specific components, SAS’ new PM platform features several vertical deliverables, including SAS Revenue Assurance for Telecommunications (a new offering); SAS Ratemaking for Insurance and SAS Customer Lifetime Value for Insurance (both of which are new products designed to help insurers develop targeted strategies, manage customer accounts, and control risk); and SAS Banking Intelligence suite.

Even more than for its BI chops, SAS is renowned for its analytic and data mining expertise. Not surprisingly, the company hopes to ride the coattails of that renown as it ramps up its PM practice, Digman confirms.

“We want to shine attention on the fact that to do this, you’ve got to have the analytics piece,” says Digman. “What we’re trying to do now is help customers connect the dots, so if you’re looking at performance management, you need to be looking at analysis—that’s optimization, forecasting, data mining, trend analysis, and not just query and reporting.”

About the Author

Stephen Swoyer is a Nashville, TN-based freelance journalist who writes about technology.

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