First of all, congratulations, SAS AR team, for one of the most efficiently and effectively run events.

SAS needs to make up its mind whether it wants to be in the BI game or not. Despite what SAS’s senior executives have been heard saying occasionally, that “BI is dead,” SAS is not quite done with BI. After all, BI makes up 11% of SAS’s very impressive $2.4 billion annual revenue (with uninterrupted 35-year growth!). Additionally BI contributed 22% to SAS 2010 growth,  just below analytics at 26%.

Even though some organizations are looking at and implementing advanced analytics such as statistical analysis, predictive modeling, and — most important — model-based decisions, there are only a handful of them. As our BI maturity survey shows year after year, BI — even basic BI — maturity is still below average in most enterprises. Add these numbers to the abysmal enterprise BI applications penetration levels in most large organizations, and you get continued, huge, and ever-expanding opportunity that no vendor in its right mind, especially a vendor with leading BI tools, should miss.

There’s also an issue of competitive threat. Stack versus best of breed is not a key decision point for BI buyers anymore. Yes, most large enterprises look for best-of-breed solutions and tools, but stack vendors do offer best-of-breed BI and analytics tools today after all of the recent acquisitions. I get many client inquiries asking me whether their decision to roll out SAP or Oracle ERP applications should influence their BI decision (yes, it should), or whether a client running IBM Cognos should consider SPSS. I have never gotten an inquiry asking me whether an analytical solution should drive BI platform decisions. Therefore, IMHO, if SAS does not reinvigorate its BI platform positioning, marketing, and sales, it’ll slowly but surely feel more and more squeezed by the competition.

It’s really just a matter of marketing and priorities for SAS. It already does have a very broad, comprehensive, and leading enterprise BI platform. It is also adding all of the right features in its future versions such as mobile (see today’s announcement on partnership with Roambi), collaborative BI (very nice integration with Outlook coming soon), BI SaaS, and in-memory analytics. It just needs to re-emphasize BI, incentivize its sales force, and go to market strongly.