CARY – Randy Guard has to, well, be on guard, at SAS where he is chief marketing officer. He has to make sure the privately held analytics software giant doesn’t miss out on current opportunities while at the same time keeping an eye out for developing trends and emerging areas for growth.

So, when talking about what he calls the “Analytics Economy” in which SAS continues to make waves as a thought and product leader (42 straight years of profits, growth), Guard hits on talking points reflecting cutting-edge:

  • Artificial intelligence
  • Machine learning
  • Internet-of-Things

In a Q&A with WRAL TechWire, Guard talks about plans for 2018, new initiatives, growth of the company, and what excites him most about his job at SAS.

  • What new initiatives are in the pipeline for 2018?

We have quite a few initiatives in the pipeline that are showing strong growth across our markets:

IoT and the recognition analytics combined with streaming data is the key to an emerging and large market.  Having devices connected is interesting, for sure – but it is not driving value.  The analytics both at the data center and at the edge (embedded in the device itself) is driving value.

These devices range from consumer equipment and locomotives to wind turbines and connected automobiles.  We are allowing decisions based on analytics to happen out on the edge where the data and touch point reside.

Artificial intelligence and machine learning are big areas of focus for us. We are innovating on the algorithms as well as focusing on embedding artificial intelligence and machine learning in all aspects of the analytics lifecycle (data, discovery, deployment).   Using analytics to suggest actions to business leaders, analysts and customer service teams is fueling what we call The Analytics Economy.

The Analytics Economy, simply put, is the combination of data + analytics + collaboration. In The Analytics Economy, each insight sparks the next, and the value of insights compound just like interest on a savings account.

This is all possible now because we have accessible data, fueled by advances in compute power and connectivity, and interpreted by ever-more powerful analytics.

  • What were the primary factors in driving SAS growth in 2017?

Last year, increased customer demand for customer intelligence, machine learning, fraud and risk management, data integration, IoT and cloud solutions strongly influenced our continued revenue growth and profitability.

We saw strong momentum in government, manufacturing, retail and sectors of financial services (like capital markets).  We enhanced our artificial intelligence portfolio with new product releases in machine learning, deep learning and natural language processing in 2017.

This focus to make machine learning easy to use and provide quick time to value was well-received by our customers, and contributed to double-digit growth in machine learning last year.


  • What about expansion plans?

In 2016, SAS began construction on a new office tower at SAS World Headquarters in Cary.

Building A will be located directly behind Building C – the Executive Briefing Center.  It is being modeled after our latest building, Q, but will instead be nine stories tall.

It will house a little over 1,000 people, and will be designed as another customer-facing building, with planned educational classroom facilities, and another café.  We anticipate it opening in January 2019.

  • What are you most excited about entering 2018?

 I am excited about analytics being at the forefront of decision making – across many industries and in most aspects of the business.  Data Science is not just for the scientist. A large number of our customers are driving business performance and innovation by leveraging analytics.

We have a strong portfolio of products and analytics talent – both on staff and with our partners – to help our customers succeed.

  •  How are changes in marketing and advertising technology affecting SAS? 

Every provider (either B2C or B2B) needs to develop a better understanding of their customers’ needs and behaviors.  Data and analytics are the fuel and engine for this evolution in marketing.  SAS is relevant along all major portions of the customer buying journey, which includes support as well as the potential for upsell and wallet share growth.

Digital marketing has continually grown in prominence over the past decade. Marketers are even more sophisticated because their customers are more sophisticated and demanding.  Data of all kinds, including real time data, needs analytics to drive a closer relationship and differentiation.  That is at the heart of what SAS does and continues to innovate on.