Rewriting the Book On Business Analytics
I’ve watched SAS Institute quite a bit the past two years. First, as the company built a channel program for its business intelligence software. And more recently, during a road show on business analytics. Instead of pitching products, SAS has been evangelizing customer outcomes. It’s a strategy worth noting. Here’s why.
Road shows and technology events can quickly turn into lame product pitches or — even worse — death by PowerPoint. But take a look at how SAS is connecting thought leaders with prospective customers. During a recent stop in Atlanta:
Jeanne Harris, an executive research fellow at Accenture and co-author of Competing on Analytics, set the stage by describing how “high performance businesses” leverage analytics. (Here’s an excerpt of the book, published by ComputerWorld.)
In one funny but revealing anecdote, Harris described how an insurance company used analytics to find “cream of the crap” customers in a traditionally undesirable market segment: Motorcycle owners.
Not all motorcycle owners, she noted, are reckless. Many are doctors, lawyers and weekend riders who are lower-risk customers than their stereotypical counterparts. One insurer used analytics to find and profit from that niche. Other insurers have since caught on, but they’re still playing catch-up as they seek to brand themselves in the motorcycle insurance segment.
Meanwhile, Sharon Glave Frazee, VP of Health Informatics at CHD Meridian Healthcare, described how her organization constantly uses metrics and business analytics to improve productivity. The key to success with analytics, she noted, involves executive sponsorship. Get your boss to back your efforts, and you’ll gain momentum throughout an organization.
Frazee, for instance, gave the book Competing on Analytics to her company CEO. He read it in the hospital while recovering from a biking accident. Soon after, he made the book required reading for all CHD Meridian Healthcare employees.
But what if your boss ignores your IT vision? Frazee recommends putting your money where your mouth is. In one case, she bet her annual bonus that an analytics project would prove worthwhile. She one the bet, and wound up doubling her annual bonus that year.
Additional anecdotes were driven home by Mark Moorman, an advisor to SAS’s Office of the CTO. In particular, he helped attendees to understand how retailers use a range of metrics (weather forecasts, local traffic patterns, rival locations, etc.) to predict how specific stores will perform on the sales front.
You’d be amazed to hear how some retailers can predict competition from afar — and even from their own newly opened locations. But alas, some of the info Moorman shared was not meant for public consumption on the Web.
In another marketing and communications twist, SAS has also been using Web 2.0 technologies — including its own company blog — to recap the events for additional readers.
Full disclosure: As you consider your thoughts and evaluate the business analytics industry, please note that I’ve consulted on the SAS road show and moderated sessions in Atlanta and Washington, D.C. So I do have a potential conflict of interest when recapping these events.