Monday, December 21, 2009

Three Thanks and a Wish

It’s pretty traditional around the holidays to do an assessment — a year in review kind of thing. Given that we are just getting started here at Burtch Works, I decided to forego that tradition for a simpler one. This year, I’d like to offer three thanks and a wish.

First, I’d like to thank my family for their support during this period of transition. Change is good. Change is inevitable. Change is hard, especially on husbands and children, or so mine keep telling me. Doug describes his role as the person who does everything I don’t want to do. And I have my son Jay hooking up and troubleshooting the computers at $5 per hour (we are a start up!). Becky and Jackson made some beautiful signs out of our logo that are all around my office. So thank you to my family for taking this exciting new ride with me.

Second, thanks to those who have worked with me to get Burtch Works up and running. This last month or so has been a whirlwind of activity, and your talent, enthusiasm and dedication are stamped on every inch of this new endeavor. Lauren Eck, Katie Ferguson and Sandy Marmitt have jumped in with energy and excitement, creating a vibrant and fun new office. I’m looking forward to writing a very positive year-in-review post next December.

Finally, thanks to all of you for your warm thoughts and good wishes, which have helped launch Burtch Works on such a positive note. I am thrilled, excited and busy … really, really busy … so I know that 2010 is going to be a good year.

And now for my wish. I could wish that I could figure out all the bells and whistles on our high tech phone system, but with Lauren’s help, I am sure I will get there. I could wish for better economic times, but every sign I see is that things are turning around. So instead, I will simply wish you a joyous holiday season and the very best for you and yours in the New Year. May it be a year of peace and prosperity, and, if you desire, a year of positive change.

Happy Holidays!

Linda Burtch

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Kicking SAS?

Not if James Goodnight, statistician and CEO of the SAS Institute, has any say in the matter. Recently, the New York Times reported that the venerable software giant that created the statistical tool of choice for countless business statisticians for over three decades is under seige. New competition is threatening SAS's longstanding, comfortable position as the undisputed leader in business intelligence software.

This summer, IBM took a serious step into the business intelligence realm with their purchase of SPSS and Cognos. In a direct threat to the SAS reign, it has been widely reported that IBM intends to build a 4,000-person-strong business analytics and optimization group to provide global business support.

As the industry leader, SAS has not, upto this point, had to be concerned. In fact, SAS resisted integrating with the open programming environments and information transparency that has now turned their legacy world upside down. Free, open source coding, such as R, has been quickly adopted by academic institutions and labs, and SAS was slow to recognize the importance of this shift. Within a few short years, many graduating statisticians will be using R in the workplace, potentially usurping SAS's domination.

But SAS founder Goodnight is on the move. According to senior VP and chief technology officer Keith Collins, SAS has seen the error of it's closed-minded ways and is committed to engaging with the open source community. SAS has other strong assets that could help it maintain its dominant position in the market, including a loyal workforce with a turnover rate of just four percent. The company has worked hard to earn its reputation as a low-stress, family friendly workplace. Even despite recently reducing software development time from 24 to 36 months to 12 to 18 months, you would still be hard pressed to find an employee who has worked a 60-hour week more than two weeks in a row.

It will be interesting to see how the new strategies at SAS and the aggressive actions of its competitors will affect the rapidly expanding world of business analytics. Like Thanksgiving feasts on tables across the country last week, data and information have become the bounty of the business world. Businesses need flexible, agile tools to help them digest it in all ways that will keep them healthy and growing. To complicate matters further, static information of old - such as sales and operations data - needs to be combined with new, dynamic sources of information, such as social networking buzz, Web behavior and now easily accessible public records. Nervous yet, Mr. Goodnight?