SAS rides CRM trend

Officials from SAS Institute said the company is well positioned to take advantage of the growing interests in CRM among an increasing number of IT departments.

With high-end analytical capabilities at the core of its applications, Dawn Kung, Hong Kong and Guangzhou managing director at SAS, said the business intelligence software developer has an edge over competition by not just being able to assist companies compile intelligence reports but also identify trends that help to reduce churn and increase customer spending.

"People are beginning to understand the power of analytics, especially in tough economic conditions. We have got some crown jewels here -- we did analytics before analytics was cool," she said.

With plans for an initial public offering later this year, SAS, thus far the world's largest privately-owned software company, with reported revenue at US$1.2 billion in 2001, is extending its activities through acquisitions and strategic partnership. In the CRM area, the company is broadening its offer from mere analytical to operational applications, including management capabilities for marketing campaigns, customer contacts and call centers, according to Kung.

Hong Kong still important

In early March, SAS launched its Enterprise Marketing Automation application, as part of its Magnificent Seven intelligent software series. The move to the operational CRM arena will, Kung admitted, eventually create head-on competition with existing partners such as Siebel Systems Inc.

Nonetheless, despite success in the CRM market, Kung said that the company has encountered difficulties in marketing its supplier relationship management package in the SAR, as there is a lack of reliable data concerning local firms' business and financial statistics compiled by a third party, such as Dun & Bradstreet Corp.

"Hong Kong has lagged in this area as no centralized information (about local businesses) is available. This makes analysis less accurate," she said.

Although the company's Hong Kong office, with its 50 employees, contributes only a small fraction of the company's total revenue, Kung, with responsibility in overseeing the southern China market, maintained that the SAR (Special Adminstrative Region) is an important showcase for other markets, especially the Chinese mainland.

"Given the maturity in the financial and marketing spheres, the SAR remains an early adopter for many of our more sophisticated products," said Kung.

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