Jay Upchurch of SAS: Analytics and Transformation Go Hand in Hand to Current Distinctive Alternatives for SMBs to Survive and Thrive

Every little thing we do at this time creates knowledge. From each click on to each swipe.  And when the pandemic pressured us into sheltering in place, it additionally exponentially accelerated these clicks and swipes…and Zooms…and Uber Eats and Door Sprint orders…. And also you get the purpose.  Lots of the cash-based face-to-face transactions we’d make going into shops have became digital transactions and interactions.  And all of this knowledge can present firms with necessary insights that may assist information firms throughout occasions of disaster into making the precise calls on make-or-break choices.

To get some actual perception into how all the information coming from all these digital interactions could be (and is being) used to assist small and midsize companies throughout occasions of disaster like we’ve confronted the final 12 months, I just lately had an informative LinkedIn Reside dialog with Jay Upchurch;  CIO of SAS, a number one analytics platform supplier.  We spoke at size on quite a lot of points, together with how the position of information and analytics have modified through the pandemic, the chance introduced by AI to assist SMBs not solely survive but in addition thrive in occasions of disaster like what we’re nonetheless dealing with a 12 months into Covid-19, and extra.

Beneath is an edited transcript of a portion of our dialog.  Click on on the embedded SoundCloud participant to listen to the total dialog.

Small Enterprise Developments: How has the position of information and analytics in enterprise organizations modified within the 12 months for the reason that pandemic began, notably with respect to buyer engagement?

Jay Upchurch: You begin with belief. You earn that belief over time. It’s not simply given to you, and also you earn that by way of your interpretation of the information. So to your level of, do you’ve got entry to the information? Are you able to interpret the information? Are you able to analyze the information? And might you make significant motion on that evaluation? And do these actions yield the outcome? After which as that steady cycle will get up and going, belief begins to come back with it. And so, once more, in unsure occasions, and these are actually unsure occasions, nothing is extra necessary than the way you interpret that knowledge and take motion in opposition to that.

For therefore a few years, companies and albeit a number of the greatest leaders on the planet – it doesn’t matter if it’s enterprise or not – they had been at all times considered upon as being heroic due to what folks noticed was, “Nicely, that’s instinct.” They’d a intestine really feel or they had been smarter or one thing. One thing made them higher.  And at this time, in at this time’s enjoying subject, knowledge normalizes that for all of us. Then so it’s a query of, do you’ve got the expertise round you, as you had been saying a minute in the past, Brent, to entry the information, normalize it, remodel it, make it what you want it to be, after which analyze it and make choices out of that? That’s the arduous a part of this trade at this time. And I’d let you know, we discuss it rather a lot, it’s a expertise famine. So one of many issues that we attempt to take care of is, how can we make everyone a knowledge scientist? As a result of there’s solely actually a couple of that come out yearly which are really knowledge scientists. So how can we make knowledge accessible to all, and supply tooling to anyone that may come alongside and do work on it? That half is what’s fascinating to us. One other a part of that we predict rather a lot about is simply the maturity curve that everyone has to undergo when fascinated about analytics and AI.

So, for example, having access to the information, analyzing it, after which simply exhibiting it on a dashboard or a report card, that’s the 1st step fundamentals. And folks study and begin to see an increasing number of streams of information that come within the an increasing number of insights I can get out of it. After which the following mile is, okay, I’ve these insights. Now, what do I am going do? How do I take motion with that? And the way do I automate that? And the way do I put fashions in place and preserve these fashions as a result of the information throughout us continues to vary? Similar factor with this pandemic. We thought we had the precise knowledge in March, April of final 12 months. Take into consideration how that’s modified during the last 9, 10, 12 months and the place we are actually. It’s the identical factor, the mannequin that you just may’ve had particular to COVID-19 again in March final 12 months, in all probability dramatically totally different than what you’ve got at this time.

Adjustments in Knowledge Results in Adjustments in Enterprise

Small Enterprise Developments: It rolls proper into this query that my buddy Alan Berkson has. “How has the information that you just look modified from earlier than the pandemic till now? And what we would see after the pandemic?” As a result of numerous the issues that we used to do, have the ability to go to the grocery retailer and simply go in and purchase a loaf of bread after which pay with money after which stroll out. There was no knowledge on that sort of interplay or trade. Now, it’s a must to purchase your groceries on-line which means the shop is aware of it, and if it’s being delivered, the supply folks realize it. So there’s much more knowledge, there’s much more issues that you could possibly have a look at. And so how has that modified during the last 12 months or so?

Jay Upchurch: Yeah, you’re precisely proper. Knowledge now’s exploding. There’s extra of it coming from numerous totally different areas, and it’s not simply massive knowledge units which are shared or that folks contribute to. It’s popping out of, going again to the grocery instance for a second, Brent, I imply, that’s an awesome case the place IoT is coming closely into play, and we’re getting knowledge out of sensors that individuals are interacting with with out even understanding or realizing it. And so simply fascinated about all of the totally different knowledge units that we’ve and marrying that knowledge up, cross chopping it with knowledge from quite a lot of sources. You talked about it’s chilly outdoors, so if I’m a restaurant, how do I benefit from the information that I do know round forecasts for climate with the information I’ve in provide with the information that I’ve with folks coming in? Possibly updating in actual time with, is everyone ordering one thing scorching versus chilly? How do I bundle for optimizing my revenue?

There’s an entire lot of various knowledge units which are coming now, and individuals are coming to firms like SAS with the query of, “Nicely, how are you going to assist me make sense of all this?” And it’s not solely, once more, fascinated about the information and the sources, find out how to devour it, particularly in a cloud world now, as a result of knowledge comes structured, unstructured, in a stream, after the actual fact, and it is available in numerous other ways. However how do you’re taking motion on that evaluation? And do you’ve got the expertise round you to benefit from it? I believe again to our conversations round small enterprise, that’s an enormous problem for the small enterprise market and actually the mid market too. I’ll let you know, the enterprise guys are having challenges with it as properly. So the place do you get that seek the advice of from? The place do you get these advisory companies from? After which what sort of instruments do you carry to bear to assist put it into motion for your online business?

Can SMBs Survive With out Reworking?

Small Enterprise Developments: When it comes to small and mid-sized companies, numerous them earlier than the pandemic… there have been nonetheless a fairly important quantity of small companies that weren’t utilizing or using the cloud as successfully as they presumably may have. I believe there’s a stat the place possibly 50% or so of SMBs nonetheless didn’t have an internet site. There weren’t numerous them percentage-wise doing e-commerce. So how does the pandemic change the utilization of the cloud? How does it change the makes use of of issues like web sites and IoT? How necessary is it for small, mid-sized companies to start to make the most of these items? Possibly they had been capable of get and do issues to a sure extent earlier than the pandemic with out utilizing these instruments, however can they survive in the event that they don’t make these strikes, begin using these instruments extra effectively and successfully?

Jay Upchurch: That’s an awesome query. I discover it arduous to consider that you just’re going to have the ability to survive with out it. I believe we’re all confronted with the query of, what does the way forward for work appear like? And there are many opinions about when folks might come again to the workplace place, when they could not, when folks return to some regular degree of life. And I believe that there’s nonetheless going to be a protracted story of issues that we’ve realized, issues that we’ve began to simply accept as regular, that may stay or will change into the brand new regular, if you’ll, as we transfer ahead. And I believe within the case, while you have a look at the brand new norm, I believe it forces all companies to change into digitally enabled. I believe some folks discuss digital transformation and everyone needs to have that Uber transportation second the place, “Oh, we’ve bought this concept. We’re going to completely remodel a whole trade,” and that’s not essentially the case.

You’ll see a type of out of 1,000,000. I imply, not everyone’s going to have that second. And so how do you drive transformation in your online business? I inform folks on a regular basis, it’s primarily based in your maturity mannequin, your digital maturity mannequin, and also you’ve bought to take small steps in going by way of and determining, do I’ve a course of? Is it properly understood or is it nonetheless within the heads of some? Is it put right into a system? Are you able to truly automate it and perceive it and use it? After which are you able to optimize it? After which afterward, have you ever earned the precise to finally remodel it? And so there are these pure steps. So I believe you come again to the small enterprise proprietor who might have had an area presence. They’d an awesome native viral expertise that helped develop their enterprise to a sure scale. Rapidly, 180 diploma change. Folks stopped coming in. All people’s doing it distant. It forces you to undertake digital applied sciences.

So I truly assume that the pandemic helped take the governor off the automobile somewhat bit in relation to how briskly you may go to undertake a few of these new cloud native applied sciences. And I’ll let you know, at SAS, and this not an infomercial for SAS, however we’ve been confronted with this for fairly a while. I imply, attempting to determine how we remodel our personal merchandise to being extra digitally native, extra cloud native, and find out how to drive adoption. You talked about knowledge a minute in the past. The world round us proper now’s altering at such a speedy tempo that our platforms, the instruments that we give our prospects available in the market to have the ability to use, has to embrace open supply, the open supply group, the brand new applied sciences which are coming. We now have to stay open, as a result of it might be horrible for us to say, “Nicely, right here’s your software, however ignore this knowledge set or that knowledge set. We don’t wish to offer you entry to no matter, our software doesn’t permit it.”

Our software and platforms and our trade options are solely pretty much as good as the information that feeds it and your personal thoughts’s creativity and find out how to interpret these outcomes. [inaudible 00:08:50] panorama, it’s modified. I imply, there’s so many alternative instruments that on the market at this time. There are small area of interest instruments which are straightforward to come back in and undertake plug in and plug out after you attempt them. There are massive methods that clearly are persevering with to be extremely disruptive and provides us new energy and every part else. Any individual’s bought to assist make sense of all of that, after which run your campaigns throughout that in a manner that’s significant when it comes to the way you measure your engagement. And typically that’s a problem in and of itself, simply making sense of the ecosystem that you just’ve, attention-grabbing sufficient, volunteered to tackle.

The Want for Pace

Small Enterprise Developments: We’re getting all this new knowledge, such as you talked about. It’s coming from quite a lot of locations. Who was speaking about issues like Clubhouse final 12 months? In all probability no person, however now that’s a channel and there’s in all probability going to be some attention-grabbing knowledge popping out of that. Increasingly of us are concerned with reside streaming and in digital occasions, so there’s all these items coming at customers and firms alike, and it’s coming from quite a lot of areas and it’s coming with this unrelenting velocity. And but nonetheless it appears like for those who don’t do one thing with that info rapidly, you lose a chance to create a significant interplay. So what about velocity and the velocity of information, but in addition the velocity to have the ability to react to the information and switch it into one thing significant, match on this equation?

Jay Upchurch: Yeah. The scary factor is that the information is coming at you at a fee of tempo that you just actually can not devour. We discuss our occasions processing know-how, which is once more a kind of know-how that lets you devour actual time knowledge off of sensors at unbelievable speeds. So my level there may be that it’s going to be tough simply to even sustain with, and that’s the place the fashions that you just create has to have know-how that may ingest that knowledge, interpret that knowledge, and provides again a outcome that’s significant. There’s no manner that anyone in at this time’s day and age can interpret all that knowledge, correlate it, and are available again with an perception in a handbook method. So the platforms, the instruments, the options which are accessible, SAS, non-SAS, every part that’s on the market empowers the enterprise. And it doesn’t matter for those who’re small, medium, or massive.

I believe the opposite factor about velocity is we’ve a pure hesitation as people to not be as curious as we ought to be. I talked about this in an article that I printed a few month or so in the past, and it simply talked in regards to the energy of curiosity, and it’s truly certainly one of our core values at SAS that we actually stress. It’s a must to be curious in regards to the knowledge. The info will paint the image for you for those who permit it, however you’ve bought to empower your group, the folks round you, your self, to be curious. And it’s humorous, as a result of as youngsters, we’re naturally curious. And I’ve bought three sons, there’ve been loads of occasions the place I’ve needed to beg them to cease asking questions. Disgrace on me for that, as a result of I don’t wish to suppress that pure curiosity as a result of afterward in life, it’s truly what helps you achieve success, and it’s what helps you achieve success with knowledge and analytics, is your personal private curiosity.

So I believe from a velocity standpoint, don’t be afraid to leap in and have these science experiments. Play with it and see. Perceive the affect of transferring knowledge out and in and what that does to your fashions. I believe there’s one other facet of velocity, and that’s mannequin administration. Your fashions atrophy as a result of the information round you modifications, once more. At a fee of velocity that we can not actually comprehend at this time. And so it’s a must to be aware that what labored for you yesterday might not essentially give you the results you want at this time. And so there are many functions, once more, SAS, being certainly one of them, the place we stress that mannequin administration, that mannequin, that analytic life cycle, if you’ll. So that you’ve bought to guarantee that simply since you’ve stood one thing up and also you’re working with it that you just’re persevering with to care and feed and increase on it.

After which I believe the final one which I’d say on velocity is you’ve bought to guarantee that, once more, it doesn’t matter what measurement enterprise you might be, you’ve bought to guarantee that your science experiment is one thing that may scale up with you as you develop. And that’s an attention-grabbing place once more, the place you come again to belief of, are you leveraging instruments? Are you leveraging datasets? And are you leveraging features of your online business that you just belief that may help you scale and develop up? As a result of this factor can tackle a lifetime of its personal for those who permit it. So, once more, that’s a spot the place we as SAS really feel like we’ve achieved a fairly good job during the last 4 years. And when the market round you strikes and having the information and the perception to know confidently find out how to pivot your online business into a brand new space for, once more, for your online business survival, that’s actually one of many issues that I believe most firms beneath respect round analytics.

Analytics, AI and SMBs – A System for Surviving and Thriving the Pandemic

Jay Upchurch:  Lots of people take into consideration analytics and attempting to place analysts into motion extra as a way to an finish for price containment or revenue maximizing, or whatnot. But it surely truly permits you a lot greater than that. If I take into consideration the digital twin functionality and the best way to check new concepts and discover them in a manner that may be a lot much less dangerous than possibly previously, that’s one of many issues I believe is de facto impactful. We’ve bought a buddy of mine who talks to me rather a lot in regards to the taxi enterprise, and he mentions how dangerous the taxi trade has been disrupted all through the pandemic. And there’s an instance of a agency that has pivoted extra into meals supply and utilizing the fleet and the methods for routing and for scheduling for meals service as a substitute for conventional human passenger service.

Small Enterprise Developments: Proper.

Jay Upchurch: And it’s a type of issues the place you’re like, “Yeah, you understand what? That’s a logical pure extension of using know-how.” However once more, using knowledge, using analytics lets you pivot into that trade seamlessly and meet, once more, the place the demand is. So that they already had the provision aspect of it found out. That, to me, is de facto attention-grabbing.

AI is de facto simply taking analytics and placing it way more into automated motion and instrumenting and coding and past that.

By way of some pure language processing, as an illustration, in customer support, you generally is a small enterprise and apply these applied sciences and abruptly function at enterprise scale. And once more, again to our dialog on how you’re taking experiments and switch them into scale, that may be a massive a part of what I believe some firms battle with in attempting to determine, how do I transfer these past simply the experiments of the world?

AI is fascinating. I used to be on a panel a few month in the past for North Carolina Know-how. It’s an area, statewide agency that does rather a lot to assist promote startups and SMBs, any know-how throughout North Carolina. And on that panel, we talked rather a lot about AI and the way forward for AI, and the truth that we’re simply now beginning to meet the guarantees of what AI was again within the ’70s and ’60s when it began developing and other people began dreaming about all of those various things. And now, as we begin to put an increasing number of of these in actuality, the enjoyable factor is folks don’t even notice how a lot of it’s beneath the hood and your each day actions. You don’t even notice it’s there, it’s round you, it’s collaborating on the planet and it improves your life with out you even actually even realizing it.

And so I believe as small companies and medium companies, as we transfer into that and we embrace that, I believe it should truly give us extra aggressive benefit. It provides us the power to function at scale that we might have 15, 20 years in the past checked out and been envious of the enterprise. And now we are saying, “No, no. We are able to compete. That barrier to entry is now a lot decrease”.


That is a part of the One-on-One Interview sequence with thought leaders. The transcript has been edited for publication. If it is an audio or video interview, click on on the embedded participant above, or subscribe through iTunes or through Stitcher.