If you don’t think billionaires don’t get headaches, think again. Jim Goodnight and John Sall have a big one.

Goodnight and Sall, the multi-billion-dollar-fortune-holding founders of SAS, are the best-known public faces of the company. But in sales and marketing circles, the straw that stirred the drink much of time time was held in the hand of Executive Vice President and Chief Marketing Officer Jim Davis.

Now, he’s gone.

The news broke Tuesday afternoon that Davis had left SAS for a leadership position (as yet to be explained) at Informatica. Monday was D-Day, as is decision and departure.

This is not good news for the world’s largest privately held software company which Davis has helped grow to $3 billion a year in sales.

Let’s address later what Davis’s departure for California-based Informatica might mean from a competitive standpoint. Right now, SAS has a huge hole in its lineup.

If Goodnight is the No. 4 hitter then Davis is No. 3 – or if you prefer the NBA: Davis is Kevin Love, Goodnight is LeBron James.

Good companies such as SAS like to boast they have a “deep bench” of talent. Goodnight said as much in a statement Tuesday.

And the achievements of SAS across multiple fronts can’t be denied. Thousands of talented people work there, with Goodnight and Sall among the best ever produced in the world of software analytics. They can sell, too, especially Goodnight who seems at home on a stage pitching CEOs, CFOs, CTOs and CMOs for their business even if the competition is huge (IBM, oracle, others).

But Davis is a sales guy, a marketing whiz. He’s the “suit” who can smooze deals whether in Beijing or Seoul or Paris or London or Dubai. He helped put on the big marketing conferences that draw crowds of thousands to see just what the programming geniuses (which still includes their founders) have come up with.

A techie-sales combo

However, not to be overlooked is the fact that Davis is an IT guy. He’s a computer science graduate from N.C. State.

So Davis knows code, knows hardware, knows how to mix the two.

But the secret to his success as born out by his corporate resume is that he also is an IDEA guy who can SELL.

That’s a hard combination to beat.

No wonder Informatica lured him away.

Davis also was often the front person in dealing with the media. He’s a personable, likeable, calm, cool exec whom never seemed to get rattled no matter how difficult the question.

The Skinny has interviewed Davis many times over the years, talked the ins-and-outs of sales and marketing, and when WTW needed keynotes for its Internet of Things event in September Davis was No. 1 on the list to talk about how to sell IoT. (Venessa Harrison, head of AT&T in North Carolina, was tops on the list on how to make it work.)

Interestingly, WTW also was scheduled to interview Davis next week as part of a new series of short videos (called “180,” as in 180 seconds). The topic: Best advice for entrepreneurs and other execs when it came to the art of closing deals.

The career path

Davis leaves SAS with a remarkable record of achievement. He fought his way up through the ranks of SAS, starting as an Enterprise Computing Specialist in 1994. Before that, he spent two years at The News and Observer (IT manager) and two years at N&O owned Business North Carolina magazine (general manager). He next moved to ISA as senior director of IT for five years in the Triangle.

Then came the move to SAS. And the rest is, well, impressive.

Look at his career at SAS as posted at Davis’s LinkedIn page, which by the way late Tuesday night still showed him as a SAS exec:


Summary: Marketing executive, leader and change agent. Key strengths include building global and cross-functional teams to drive innovative marketing strategies and propel revenue growth. Vast experience combines a background in computer science, excellent interpersonal skills, and strategic business and marketing experience. Corporate leader and spokesperson trusted to solve complex business and organizational challenges. Has a proven track record of successfully setting corporate and market vision and direction, goals, and applying change management philosophies as needed to execute. A speaker recognized as a visionary and thought leader that effectively combines business value with futuristic technology, trends and direction.”


Executive Vice President & Chief Marketing Officer, SAS

2001 – Present (14 years)Cary, NC

Strategic and directional leadership:

• Product Strategy & Management
• Product Marketing
• Corporate Creative Design & Branding
• Video Communication & New Media
• Digital Presence & Online Strategy
• Lead Generation & Field Marketing
• Thought Leadership
• Corporate Communications & PR
• Global Professional Services
• Education
• Publications

Director, Product Strategy & Management, SAS

1999 – 2001 (2 years)Cary, NC

Formalized the product management process.

• Responsible for identifying new product and solution opportunities.
• Responsible for evaluating third-party offerings for potential inclusion via partnering or acquisition.
• Responsible for maintaining and evolving a portfolio made up of more than 200 products and solutions.
• Established a formal process within SAS to develop products and solutions based on market requirements.

Program Manager, Data Warehousing, SAS

1998 – 1999 (1 year)Cary, NC

Established SAS as a leader in Data Warehousing solutions.

• Recognizing the emerging trend in data warehousing, I worked with R&D to develop product specifications for new product offerings, developed messaging, and educated SAS and the market on SAS’ offerings in the data warehousing market.
• Today, products and solutions associated with data management account for ~40% of SAS’ total revenue.

Enterprise Computing Specialist, SAS

1994 – 1998 (4 years)

Bridged the gap between IT and the end user.

• Responsible for working with IT organizations within SAS’ customer and prospect base to help them understand the business value associated with SAS solutions and the ability for SAS solutions to integrate via open standards with preexisting architectures.

Author, author

Davis also found time to write a book: “Information Revolution : Using the Information Evolution Model to Grow Your Business” published by Wiley in January 2006.

So, as his resume and career reflect quite clearly, Davis is a Renaissance man when it comes to IT.

He won’t be easy to replace.