CARY, N.C. – SAS and Accenture are ratcheting up their partnership in a global bid to win a larger share of the growing demand for business intelligence software and services.

SAS, one of the world’s largest privately held software firms, and Accenture, a $16 billion management, consulting and services firm, said Monday that they would expand their collective efforts with Accenture devoting more personnel to being trained on using SAS applications and then selling those products.

While Accenture works with other business intelligence providers such as Oracle, an Accenture executive said the firm was making the SAS effort a major point of emphasis in 2007.

“It has certainly become apparent to us that SAS is becoming an increasingly important player in the analytics space, and business intelligence in particular,” said Henry Fleming, Accenture’s senior executive for information management systems, in an interview with WRAL Local Tech Wire. “We certainly want to ensure that we have what we need to meet the needs of our customers.”

Toward that end, Accenture will “create a SAS capability within Accenture,” Fleming said. How many people will be involved has yet to be determined, but Accenture is responding to a growing demand from clients, he added. Fleming said the numbers would be “significant.”

Accenture continues to expand its information management team, growing its numbers to 10,000 from 5,000 since the practice was launched in 2005, he added.

“This is indicative of how hot the space is today,” Fleming explained, “and it will continue to be in the foreseeable future.

“We are seeing an increasing demand across all fronts,” he said in referring to business intelligence. “SAS is certainly one of those products being demanded.”

While Accenture works with “all the leaders,” Fleming stressed that Accenture is expanding its SAS relationship for several reasons beyond its software capabilities.

“We consider a number of factors in deciding who are going to be our close partners in any particular domain,” he said. “Some of those include chemistry between organizations, leadership in markets and leadership in specific business-oriented solutions that our clients are interested in.

“It’s fair to say Accenture maintains a lot of relationships with software providers and with various providers in the information management space. The significance of those relationships is throttled by joint investments to offer joint management relationships to ensure the partnership is of the most benefit to our clients.

“It’s fair to say that we are increasing both with SAS.”

SAS, which achieved a record $1.9 billion in revenues in 2006, said the Accenture partnership is an important part of its strategy to increase sales.

“This is a major effort for us,” said Miles Mahoney, vice president of global alliances and channels, in a phone interview from London. “We view this relationship with Accenture as two fold.

“One, it’s a real opportunity for us to partner up with a world class organization like Accenture that has a very deep domain with expertise in consulting and management. Two, their partnership will help us to scale to meet demands of a rapidly growing marketplace.”

While SAS plans to expand its sales force this year, its total headcount of just over 10,000. Accenture’s information management systems practice alone has 10,000 people.

SAS hopes to leverage Accenture’s relationship with businesses around the world to raise the level of awareness about the SAS product suite.

“They are going to be a very strategic partner for us,” Mahoney said. “Our entire company is mobilizing around working with Accenture.

“In a lot of ways, this certainly is a big step for SAS,” he added. “We really have a shared vision about our goals over the next three, four, five years.”

The expanded relationship with Accenture is part of SAS’ unfolding growth strategy. In addition to hiring more sales people, SAS is growing its first outside sales channels. The Accenture alliance is part of a commitment to further strengthen partnerships in order to better compete with larger firms such as Oracle.