SAS pushes BI suite for the masses

Business intelligence software company SAS claims the latest rollout of its suite will ease some of the pains for end users who...

Business intelligence software company SAS claims the latest rollout of its suite will ease some of the pains for end users who need to run analytics applications but are put off by their complexity.

SAS 9.1 is a suite of integration and reporting tools with an easier-to-use front end that supports specific business roles in a company. The release - which has a new client and wizards - will deliver business intelligence capabilities to as many as 80% of a company's employees. 

Eleanor Taylor, manager of business intelligence strategy at SAS, said Version 9.1 targeted the decision-makers in companies. 

"SAS has along history of being able to supply strong analytic capabilities, but it has not reached a mainstream audience," she said. "We're delivering interfaces for decision-makers who have experience and strengths in what they do but not in computing, and they can take analytics and apply them to their decision-making." 

 SAS has embedded in the suite a metadata layer that will filter out irrelevant data and present to the end user only the information needed. There will also be embedded business rules. That way, if there is, for instance, a discrepancy in revenue in a sales report, an end user can drill down and see how the different calculations were reached. 

There are also a number of new wizards to guide users along and help them find the answers they want without having to write a SQL query. The integration component of the software will be tightly linked with Microsoft desktop applications, so that users can run queries through such as applications as Word, Excel and Outlook. 

Those user-friendly enhancements could be a way to open up the suite to users who want to run Online Analytical Processing queries but are intimidated by the software's complexity, said Randy Collica, a senior business analyst at Hewlett-Packard, which runs a variety of SAS.

Collica said he intended to look at the enhanced SAS reporting tool in particular, and he welcomed SAS's additions of Java and XML capabilities to the software,. 

The new version should also help dispel the myth that "SAS can only be used by actuaries", said Mike Schiff, an analyst at Current Analysis. The easy-to-use self-service interfaces should appeal to a wide variety of technical and business users, he added. 

SAS 9.1 will be available in limited quantity in August, and will run on a variety of platforms, including Windows, HP-UX, AIX and Solaris. Full availability is expected at the end of the year, and pricing has yet to be finalised.

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