“The ability to predict future business trends with reasonable accuracy will be one of the crucial competitive advantages of this new decade," SAS CEO Jim Goodnight told students, faculty and business partners at a Jan. 15 Villanova University School of Business event. “And you won’t be able to do that without analytics.”
Goodnight opened with a compelling video illustrating jaw-dropping statistics about the growth of data and its impact on the future. The trends were calculated using analytics, which Goodnight said he believes should be used routinely by anyone responsible for making business decisions.
He not only gave audience members a good look at where technology is headed, but how analytics are already being used to improve our lives in areas such as healthcare, banking and government. He discussed ways that analytics can create competitive business advantage, citing specific examples of customer loyalty program success and changes in the retail industry.
“Pricing used to be an art,” Goodnight told attendees in reference to SAS’ work with mega-chain Kohl’s and online retailers such as 1-800-Flowers. “1-800-Flowers changes prices and offerings on its Web site, sometimes hourly. They can pull this off because they use analytics.” He added that the online retailer’s investments in analytics have paid off. “President Chris McCann recently told the New York Times that analytics helped him cut costs at the company by $50 million last year.”
Developments in social network analysis intrigued attendees at Villanova as well. “By looking at historical data about customer transactions … we’re able to recognize and understand customer behaviors that, as isolated behaviors, might otherwise seem ordinary,” said Goodnight. SAS and Villanova see the future of analytics
Goodnight discussed a related trend which doesn’t offer such a positive outlook: the growing shortage of trained professionals with the analytical skills required to solve complicated problems involving massive amounts of data.
But he had good news to share with the Villanova University audience in this regard. “Here at Villanova University, the Business School has formed a Business Analytics Strategic Interest Group.”
The group includes a dozen corporations, two integrators and two major software companies. “I’m proud to say that SAS is one of those companies,” he said.
SAS also provides feedback based on knowledge of how today’s global competition works, which impacts new courses and changes to existing courses to make them more practical.
Why does SAS get involved in these kinds of efforts?
“We see the future in analytics,” Goodnight said. “And we know there just aren’t enough people out there right now with the training or the understanding necessary to take advantage of all the benefits that analytics can offer.”
“If we think it’s imperative for people who manufacture cement to use analytics to make sure that sidewalks don’t crumble, why isn’t it imperative for corporate executives to go beyond gut feelings to develop global business strategies affecting hundreds of millions of people?”
Goodnight challenges students
There was no mistaking Goodnight’s conviction in his parting message to students.
“Here’s my advice: Take the time to learn about analytics,” he said. “Take the time to discover how analytics can provide you with an objective view of your world, not only as it appears today, but how it’s likely to appear tomorrow. Analytics can help you succeed, no matter what field or industry you choose.”