SAS Innovate kicks off with productivity, performance and trust


What do you get when you mix leaders from every industry, a hall-of-fame basketball coach and a best-selling author together in three days? SAS Innovate in Orlando, of course.

As organizations navigate this changing economic landscape, many are turning to analytics and AI to help them stay ahead of the curve. SAS Innovate in Orlando brought SAS executives and other industry luminaries together to inspire attendees to use analytics to outpace tomorrow.

SAS Chief Marketing Officer Jenn Chase hosted and set the tone during SAS Innovative Opening Session, giving everyone a rundown of what to expect throughout the event.

"Business leaders all over the world are telling us they need AI and analytics to be resilient, future-ready and fast – not just to stay competitive today – but to outpace whatever tomorrow brings."

A standing ovation for SAS CEO Jim Goodnight

"Over the last few years, we've been tested in unexpected ways: from a pandemic to stressed supply chains and workforce shortages to financial instability in the banking industry," said SAS CEO Jim Goodnight after being welcomed to the main stage by Chase. "And through this experience, we’ve gained a new appreciation for resiliency. We’ve seen firsthand the importance of operating with speed and agility. "

Because of these challenges, organizations need technology that helps them make the most of the data they have to improve their business and overcome disruptions. "SAS® Viya® brings analytics and AI to everyone, everywhere, letting users of all skill levels get the answers they need in any language on their terms and faster than ever before," said Goodnight.

Goodnight welcomed SAS Chief Technology Officer Bryan Harris to the stage for a discussion about cloud technologies and a playful interaction about ChatGPT.

SAS CTO Bryan Harris with SAS CEO Jim Goodnight on the SAS Innovate main stage

"At first glance, the capabilities of ChatGPT are astonishing. But it often just makes stuff up," quipped Goodnight, eliciting nods and laughter from the Innovate crowd. "A few weeks ago I asked ChatGPT to write bios on my two daughters. It told me that one was a highly awarded chef at the Umstead Hotel. Actually, she's in marketing. And the other daughter, according to chatGPT, has a master's degree in mathematics and leads R&D at SAS … which was news to me."

Harris, who actually leads R&D at SAS, responded, "That’s also news to me, too. Does my SAS badge still work?"

In all seriousness, generative AI is inspiring new forms of human-to-computer interaction to increase productivity. Goodnight and Harris acknowledged that generative AI will play a role in the future of technology. But ethics and responsibility have to play a role in the development of that technology.

"We are going to do this in a responsible way and in a way that reinforces the trust we’ve built with our customers over the last 47 years," Goodnight said. 

Before Goodnight exited the stage, Harris took a minute to thank him for his contributions to the industry, saying, "We are so grateful for the industry you've created and continue to shape." The crowd at Innovate echoed Harris' sentiment with a standing ovation for Goodnight as he exited the stage. 

Performance, productivity and trust

Harris remained on stage to discuss the concepts of productivity, performance and trust, and to discuss the value of using SAS in the cloud.  "We run wherever our customers need us: in the cloud of their choice, on-premises, or at the edge. We have the fastest, most productive AI and analytics platform in the market."

"About two years ago, we looked at where the industry was headed," said Harris. Knowing that productivity improvements in SAS software would equate to cost savings for customers, the R&D team started a cost economics program to help reduce costs in the cloud.

As a result of this program, SAS machine learning algorithms now run 16 times faster than they did in 2020, and SAS Viya is 30 times faster than open-source alternatives. "That means we're 30 times cheaper in the cloud," said Harris.

Harris introduced the SAS and Singlestore partnership, explaining that SingleStore supports transactional and analytic workloads in the same workflow to help reduce cloud consumption costs while improving time to value.

"We are working closely with all partners in the cloud to build compelling integrations with SAS AI and their technologies. Our fundamental mission is to help you all scale human productivity and decision making."

More on productivity

Alice McClure and Shadi Shahin expanded the productivity theme, talking about new SAS Viya capabilities. Roshan Shah, Vice President of Collaboration and Support Center Operations at Georgia Pacific joined them to explain how Georgia Pacific has seen a nine-figure value from its use of analytics.

Decisions based on models are the proof point of analytics, says Shahin. To increase decisions, SAS is focused on removing friction, and increasing productivity for data scientists, business analysts and data engineers.

Productivity is not just about deploying models. It's about crafting the right decision through the use of those models, says McClure.

More on performance

Next, Udo Sglavo and Marinela Profi talked about optimizing cost for performance and maximizing value from analytics. The pair introduced the results of a new benchmarking study from Futurum Group that reveals  SAS Viya is, on average, 30 times faster than commercial and open-source alternatives and scales better with larger and more complex data.

"This is truly amazing, says Sglavo. "SAS Viya is, on average, 30x faster, no matter the size or complexity of the data. This allows you to make decisions faster in the moments that matter."

Why are scalability and speed important? Your data scientists can create 30 times more models for the same costs as before. If costs are your priority, you can produce the same results and lower operating costs in the cloud by more than 86%.

Anupam Trivedi, Senior Director, Credit Control Services at HSBC illustrated the importance of speed by describing the scale and complexity of the work analytics helps him achieve in the banks lending operation.

HSBC processes 12 billion transactions annually, including 10 million loan applications and manages at least 300 distinct strategies and models within its lending environment.

More on trust

For the final theme, Reggie Townsend, VP of the Data Ethics Practice at SAS, gave everyone something to think about when he said, "The potential for bias is well documented. It is unquestionable and inevitable that bias will show up in our data. The question is, what can we do to address it? Would you like to perpetuate the past or would you like to do your part in creating a more equitable future?"

In the process of designing, developing, and deploying SAS software, Townsend's team focuses on a number of important priorities including: inclusivity, accountability, transparency, safety and privacy.

"We have the most comprehensive trustworthy AI platform for data scientists, bar none," explained Townsend.

Dr. Michel van Genderen from Erasmus Medical Center joined Townsend on stage to discuss the importance of trust when using AI in a medical setting. "We all know AI has potential," said van Genderen, "But we sometimes forget that I, as a health care professional, have to use and trust the AI model when making a medical decision. I want to be 100% sure that the model does what it is supposed to be doing, is safe and does no harm.

van Genderen said he found a true partner in SAS for his efforts. "We both understand that it is not about developing models but that the true challenge is about implementing AI at the bedside in a responsible manner."

More on SAS® Viya®

Mike Blanchard concluded the technology discussions with a summary of the SAS solution portfolio.

"Our development philosophy is to include 'Insight by Design,'" said Blanchard. "This is the ubiquitous problem solver. Our solution development teams are tuning the analytics to match the problem – and, of course, each portfolio will leverage different techniques, speed of data, proficiency of user, automated or augmented analytics."

Blanchard welcomed Jay Riola, Executive Vice President of Strategy and Innovation with Orlando Magic to further explain the power of SAS solutions on SAS Viya. Riola summarized how the Magic began using SAS shortly after they moved into a new arena that allowed them to collect more customer data at points throughout the venue.

"SAS opened our eyes to how analytics could help not only revenue but improve fan engagement, product strategies and more," said Riola.

Michael Lewis inspires the crowd

To close the opening session, popular author Michael Lewis joined Chase on stage to discuss sports analytics, Wall Street, and human nature.

"Moneyball is about baseball but it was about so much more," said Chase. "At SAS, we love that it brought data and analytics to the public eye."

Lewis agreed, saying the book to him was about even more. "Forget it's baseball," said Lewis. "It's about getting below the surface to see the value of the athlete beyond appearance. Bottomline, it's about how we misvalue people. Data and analytics enables you to get to the true value of a human being."

SAS CMO Jenn Chase sits down with best-selling author Michael Lewis

Lewis and Chase both agreed it's been fascinating to watch the Moneyball phenomenon take over the sports world, moving from a time when analytics were unconventional in sports to today, where teams are run on analytics.

"Moneyball now is conventional wisdom," said Lewis. "Every team is run by data geeks. Twenty years ago, the power of the scientific method in a place where science doesn't normally intrude was unusual - but today it's  mainstream."

Attendees left the talk inspired and energized to make analytics mainstream in their organizations too.

Couldn’t make it to Orlando? No problem. SAS Innovate on Tour is hitting the road and coming to cities around the globe. Learn more about the tour!

Caslee Sims, SAS Blog Editor, also contributed to this post.

About Author

Alison Bolen

Editor of Blogs and Social Content

Alison Bolen is an editor at SAS, where she writes and edits content about analytics and emerging topics. Since starting at SAS in 1999, Alison has edited print publications, Web sites, e-newsletters, customer success stories and blogs. She has a bachelor’s degree in magazine journalism from Ohio University and a master’s degree in technical writing from North Carolina State University.

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