From riding a Segway and taking guitar lessons to No. 2 at SAS — it’s been a busy two years at SAS for Oliver Schabenberger.

As SAS surges beyond $3 billion in revenue and technology continues its rapid evolution toward a world of artificial intelligence in which data analytics will likely become more important, Jim Goodnight is turning to his chief technology officer to become his designated No. 2 at the privately held software firm that’s a global leader in analytics and big data software.

Schabenberger already has proved to be a big thinker and an innovator in a SAS career dating back to 2002 even as he rides a Segway and takes guitar lessons.

He was named CTO to replace Armistead Sapp who left SAS to launch a startup. Schabenberger’s proof as a thinker can be found in the fact he holds several patents in software design and algorithms.

But Schabenberger will take on two hats and a tremendous amount of responsibility as of Jan. 1 when he adds chief operating officer to his resume. And at some point in the future, he will look for a CTO successor, a SAS spokesperson explains.

Schabengerger was named CTO only last year, and he’s already known as a big thinker.

“We live in exciting times. Our relationships with machines, objects and things are quickly changing. Since mankind lived in caves, we have pushed our will into passive tools with our hands and our voices,” he wrote in a blog post earlier this year about artificial intelligence.

Segway toward the top

As a CTO must be, he’s also an innovator.

“I do not like to stand still. I am a lifelong learner, I take guitar lessons during the week, and I am known for riding my Segway around SAS campus and at events. SAS works the same way; we never stand still,” he wrote in another blog.

In being promoted, Schabenberger answers to Goodnight (SAS co-founder John Sall runs JMP, a separate SAS division and doesn’t fall under the COO, a company spokesperson explains). He also is elevated from executive ranks that contains seven other executive vice presidents:

  • John Boswell, Executive Vice President & Chief Legal Officer
  • Keith Collins, Executive Vice President & Chief Information Officer
  • Randy Guard, Executive Vice President & Chief Marketing Officer
  • Fritz Lehman, Executive Vice President & Chief Customer Officer
  • Nick Lisi, Executive Vice President & Chief Sales Officer
  • Jenn Mann, Executive Vice President & Chief Human Resources Officer
  • Don Parker, Executive Vice President & Chief Financial Officer

The back story

In a Q&A, the SAS spokesperson explains what’s going on.

  • So why make the changes now? What factors were involved?

With the exponential growth of data comes more opportunity for SAS to expand into new markets. We need strong alignment between product and revenue generating operations to carry out our ambitious plans for growth and strategic investments.

The Internet of Things, artificial intelligence and machine learning are just some examples of emerging technologies that depend on and apply analytics.

We see incredible opportunity for SAS in these areas and beyond as we strive to improve lives through analytics in a connected world. This is a prime time to get Oliver engaged in this role, supporting Dr. Goodnight in key functions and day-to-day operations that support SAS growth in these areas.

  • Why combine Schabenberger’s roles? Why not promote someone else to be CTO?

Oliver has excelled in his role as CTO, and has proven to be an exceptional and transformative leader who lives the company values and exemplifies our culture of innovation.

SAS is a technology-driven analytics company, and it is essential that the highest-ranking leadership can provide vision, planning and execution. Oliver understands the trends in technology and analytics, and he understands the business at the same time.

This is an optimal situation and just makes sense for him to combine these qualities for the purposes of this dual role.

However, Oliver will eventually look for a new head of R&D to maintain focus on the timely delivery of quality software.

  • Given that he will oversee tech, sales, marketing and customer support will he be the No. 2 exec to Dr Goodnight?

Yes, for SAS.

Please note that John Sall is still the only co-owner and runs a separate division called JMP, which doesn’t fall under the COO/CTO.

  • SAS at one time provided an update on sales for the year ahead of final reporting early next year. Can you tell me how SAS has performed in terms of revenue so far in 2017?

We will provide a pre-briefing of our financial performance in January, as always.