SAS is making a move into the search engine space with Google, collaborating with the global Internet giant to help enterprises make better use of data.

The two companies said Wednesday that they are collaborating on a series or products, the first of which combines the latest version on SAS Enterprise Intelligence Platform and a Google search appliance designed to work with enterprise networks.

“This is the start of many technologies we will work on together to improve the search experience,” said Christina McKeon, a marketing manager for business intelligence at SAS. “We will be developing further refinements and also exploring what we can do with new technologies.

“Everything is aimed at making it easier and faster for users to get information they need.”

Noting that “one of the biggest problems customers have is getting information to non-technical users”, McKeon said SAS is determined to help more users in an enterprise get access to intelligence already gathered.

“At the end of day, improving company performance is based on facts but you’ve got to be able to get to the facts,” she explained. “We’re actually making sure we mask the complexities and that things are presented in business terms so non-technical users can take advantage of it.”

To further simplify the process, SAS said it is has developed user interfaces that will match the skill levels of individual users.

By linking corporate data analyzed by SAS, searchers will get far more information from across the enterprise. For example, McKeon said a SAS-Google search would provide additional data such as what clients were the top 100 customers as well as who were the top 10 performing and lowest 10 performing sales people.

“What this means to non-technical users in companies is that they will be able to type in key words related to a query and get very relevant information within their search,” McKeon said. According to SAS, the additional data will enable users to “think and act more strategically on their business intelligence knowledge.” To address security concerns, searches are limited by an individual user’s access rights.

McKeon pointed out that the Google search capability operating on data already handled by SAS would help ensure knowledge was spread across the enterprise. “One person may have gone in and done some analysis but didn’t email everybody,” she said. The search capability will help “another person get access to take advantage of work already done.”

In order to make searches simple as well as accurate, working with Google was an obvious choice, McKeon said. “One of the things we realized is the fact that Google has become a verb, not a noun any more, when you discuss the popularity of search engines,” she pointed out. “Everyone from 5-year-olds to grandmothers can get online and Google.”

SAS and Google have been working together for several months. No money is exchanging hands as part of the deal, McKeon said.

In a statement, Dave Girouard, vice president and general manager for Google Enterprise, said the SAS-Google collaboration would “help employees spot trends right from their Google search box. We’re aiming to make enterprise search as comprehensive and useful as web search and our partnership with SAS is a big step forward in that direction.”

McKeon called the deal a “major advance” for SAS. “If you look at the business intelligence space, it’s one where a lot of companies are involved in information and how to use it,” she said. “We felt it was important to get ahead of the curve and find as many ways as we can so people can get to that information.”

In order to use Google with SAS products, customers will be the Google “OneBox for the Enterprise” as well as the latest version of SAS 9 software on a corporate intranet or through SAS’ software as a service offering where SAS acts as the data host.

SAS also plans to work with Google on ways to take better advantage of so-called unstructured data — information that a client may assemble across various parts of the enterprise that could be useful if organized and placed in context, McKeon explained.

For example, McKeon said, a car manufacturer might receive complaints from women who complain that there is no place to store a purse. The customers could use different terms for purse, such as bag or pocketbook. SAS wants to develop better means for companies to “understand some of the terms and synonyms used”, organize the data and thus enable customers to better “understand the way information is organized to being able to identify trends”.

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