In modern business, innovation is not just a competitive advantage – it’s essential. Our Resiliency Rules study found that innovation is one of the five key elements needed for businesses in the modern landscape. But how do you drive innovation? By listening to your customers.  

At SAS, innovation is embedded in our DNA. Originally, SAS was created to help farmers analyze agricultural data. As co-founder John Sall humorously noted, “We designed SAS to analyze data on nine cows. ... I guess we overengineered it.”

Today, nearly 50 years later, SAS is using data and AI to solve problems around the globe. While our software (and the world around us) has undergone massive changes in the last five decades, our commitment to solving our customers’ problems has remained unchanged. In this article, you’ll get a look into what’s fueled 50 years of innovation for us and a few tips on how you can accelerate your own innovation.

The key to successful innovation

I once had a mentor tell me that if I wanted to be successful, I needed to sit with customers and learn about their problems. He told me, “Solving their problems is what will make you successful.” That advice has stayed with me throughout my career and guides what I am doing now.

Thanks to our customers, we’ve got loads of really good innovative solutions. I also like to think it’s part of the reason they like working with us—we partner in innovation.

Take ITV, a streaming service provider, for example. We worked together to create a custom implementation of SAS 360 Match to meet their needs. “When we have a challenge or see an opportunity, we have a conversation with the brilliant minds at SAS,” says Alex Maison, Head of Digital Ad Platforms at ITV. “We often come back with something better than we were thinking.” This partnership has enabled ITV to stay ahead of the market and automate its monetization of ad programming for its 40 million viewers.

If you want to increase innovation at your company, you must start with your customers. Forming these kinds of relationships will help you stay inspired and ensure you’re developing something relevant to your market.

Make time to listen to your customers

Listening to customers can’t be relegated to one department at your company if you want to be a leader in innovation. Collaboration between departments like sales, marketing, R&D, customer success, and more is key to ensuring you’re gathering enough input, especially as your company grows.

At SAS, we’ve implemented a variety of channels to help us prioritize the voice of the customer. Surveys, feedback sessions, customer advisory boards and analyzing our customer data have all played a role in helping us stay connected with our customers’ needs. If you’re a business leader, I’d encourage you to think about your connection to your customers – do you know what their problems are, or do you need to dial back in to fuel your innovation?

Become an industry expert

One thing I think sets SAS’ innovation apart is the industry expertise we’ve gained through decades of collaboration and conversations with our customers. As a company, we’ve been at the forefront of major changes in virtually every industry we serve.

Banking, one of our longest-standing industry partners, has seen a slew of transformational changes. Regulatory changes, online and mobile banking, and security concerns have all changed the ways banks around the globe operate. Each shift has required robust data solutions. SAS has been at the forefront, developing advanced technologies like AI to combat fraud, enhance security, and create new ways for banks to serve their customers. Almost every industry we serve (including healthcare, government, retail and manufacturing) has had a similarly rapid evolution.

Through all these changes, SAS has been dedicated to becoming experts in our customers’ industries. We know that if we want to solve our customers’ problems, we need to know what they’re up against. I would encourage any leader to do the same—become an expert in not only your customers’ technology needs (or whatever need your product meets) but also in their industry.

You can do this by talking with your customers, reading industry news, attending industry events and reading materials from industry leaders. When you intimately understand an industry, the solutions and products you create will be more effective and successful.

Our history as a company gives us unique insight, and we draw on our earned industry expertise to guide our innovation. So far, we’ve created a host of highly specialized industry solutions that are solving problems all around the world. And we’re not done! As long as industries and technologies continue to change, we’ll continue to innovate.

If you’re ready to accelerate your innovation, focus on understanding the unique opportunities and challenges in the industries you serve.

Looking ahead

As we look at the world around us, it’s no secret that the pace of change continues to accelerate. The last five years alone have wrought a staggering amount of change, and emerging technologies like GenAI are again reshaping consumer expectations. Thankfully, these also provide many opportunities for innovation.

At SAS, we’ve helped usher our customers through other massive technology and industry changes, and we’re ready to do it again in the era of GenAI. I couldn’t be more excited about the innovations in our software, our investments in AI and how we’re making it easier than ever to access and use data and advanced analytics.

Focusing on solving our customers’ problems is how SAS became the founder of analytics and AI, and continuing to focus on solving those problems is why we’re the future. I, for one, can’t wait to see what problem we solve next.

Discover more about how our innovative solutions can transform your industry.


About Author

David Carrick

Senior Vice President of Global Solutions

As Senior Vice President of Global Solutions, David is responsible for setting the solutions vision for SAS. Additionally, he focuses on working with the Executive Leadership and Solutions R&D Leadership teams to create solution’s that solve our customers hardest problems.

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