Another record year for revenue in hand, SAS is adding employees as it gears up for a major push into high-performance analytics in 2013.

While the rate of revenue growth in 2012 slowed to 5.4 percent from 12 percent the previous year, SAS still stretched its 37-year streak of growth and profitability dating back to its founding with revenues of $2.87 billion.

However, SAS anticipates a return to double-digit growth in the coming year as it places more emphasis company wide on two new products that didn’t launch until three and four months into 2012:

  • Visual Analytics, a capability to transform reams of data graphically, and
  • LASR Analytics Server, a high-powered means of crunching and analyzing data on powerful Intel servers that delivers actionable information in near real time rather than several hours, if not more.

“We are confident we will achieve double-digit growth this year,” said Jim Davis, chief marketing officer at SAS, citing the new technology and a shift of reliance on financial services sector, especially in Europe. “We saw the trend coming over the last year,” Davis said, noting the changes in the struggling European market. SAS’ efforts in other areas such as on the new technology “produced big spikes in places like Europe, the Middle East and Africa in the last quarter as the new strategy panned out.”

As 2013 begins, Davis said “We are investing for high growth over the next two years” with LASR a key point of emphasis.

SAS has a technological advantage with LASR over rivals and plans to drive that message around the world, Davis said.

The launch of Visual Analytics and LASR helped boost SAS to a big lead in the “big data” predictive analytics marketplace based on a report issued by research firm Forrester in January. SAS and IBM, which was second in the quadrant rankings, were listed by Forrester as “unshakeable leaders.” Forrester noted that SAS “is a leader because it scored well in all categories.”

“We’re very proud of that ranking,” Davis said.

LASR is the term SAS coined for the product which the company believes is the cornerstone of its future. Davis said SAS is in the process of a broad conversion of its product suite to run in the LASR environment.

The high-performance focus involves every sales person, Davis said. He labeled the new technology efforts as a major “step change,” one he called the “biggest change” for the company since SAS code was rewritten to become platform neutral some 30 years ago.

7% Employee Growth

SAS expanded its employee headcount 7 percent in 2012, finishing the year at 13,442. New hiring added 5 percent to the total at the privately held company’s Cary headquarters to more than 5,000.

And SAS continues to hire with more than 100 current openings, Davis noted.

Seeing market opportunities to drive growth with the LASR offering, Davis predicted “some additional building projects” in the near future beyond work that already is underway.

The newest structure being built is geared toward the high-powered analytics business and will include nearly 700 offices, Davis noted.

While growth wasn’t as fast as in 2011, Davis said SAS Chief Executive Officer Jim Goodnight and the management team realized that 2012 would be a year for changes, retraining and shifting focus to LASR and Visual Analytics.

As a result, SAS increased the percentage of overall funding directed to research and development to 25 percent from 24 percent the previous year.

“We knew we would spend a lot of time on R&D, a lot of time educating our sales force and the market about new technologies,” Davis explained. “We knew that in effect we would be retooling, and we actually are very pleased with what we have done.”

Inside the Numbers

While overall sales grew, SAS reported some changes in shares of business produced by various sectors.

For example, the top category, financial services, produced 38 percent of revenue, down 2 percentage points from 2011.

Government and services also declined, each dropping a point to 14 percent and 12 percent of revenues respectively.

Growth sectors included:

  • Life sciences, up 1 point to 7 percent
  • Manufacturing, up 1 point to 6 percent
  • Retail, up 1 point to 4 percent
  • Healthcare, up 2 points to 5 percent

Rather than be concerned about market shifts, Davis said the changes reflected a “more balanced portfolio” with SAS “not putting all its eggs in one basket” of financial services.

Global Growth

Revenues grew across all global markets, SAS reported.

The Americas generated the most dollars at 47 percent.

Europe, Middle East and Africa produced 41 percent of sales.

Asia-Pacific accounted for 12 percent.

The geographical breakdown was almost identical to the previous year with the Americas at 46 percent, Europe Middle East and Africa at 42 percent and Asia Pacific at 12 percent.

Earlier this month, SAS was recognized as the second best company to work for in a survey by Fortune magazine.

[SAS ARCHIVE: Check out a decade of SAS stories as reported in WRAL Tech Wire.]