Everyone is familiar with the old adage “the customer is always right,” a retail-based philosophy that’s been around since the early 1900s. Today, the phrase is typically invoked enacted after customers receive a service or purchase a product they perceive to be subpar. But SAS Institute Inc. and Teradata Corp. have decided to implement the attitude at a different stage in the process–before a product even hits the market.
In mid-2007, just after SAS and Teradata announced their partnership, the two companies agreed to create a comingled Product Advisory Council (PAC) stocked with leading customers and saddled with a mission of providing feedback on in-database analytics offerings.
And, according to both companies, the results have paid off.
“If we had to take ideas all the way to production, we’d probably spend more money and waste more money,” said Paul Kent, SAS vice president of platform research and development. “Instead, we put ideas into the PAC and watch how they chew it over. Seeing the response to ideas is a great opportunity, and weeding out the good ideas from the bad ideas is much easier.”
The feeling is shared mutually among PAC members as well.
Dean Wynkoop, the data manager for market research and development at Cabela’s Inc., said one of the “pain points” for the sporting gear outfitter and retailer was essentially getting SAS and Teradata to more efficiently communicate with each other.
According to Wynkoop, Cabela’s brought on the Teradata platform in 2005 to help leverage data in a SAS environment.
“When we decided to use SAS, we had to retrain the team to use a lot more SQL,” Wynkoop said. “If we could figure out how to translate code from SAS to SQL, why couldn’t that happen under the covers?”
SAS and Teradata took to the idea, Wynkoop said, adding that the in-database analytic tools they released in 2008 allow for more efficiency and faster results.
“They are doing a lot of work to make the whole integration seamless,” he said.
Mike Rote, the global director of the Teradata/SAS Center for Excellence, said the council creates an opportunity for the two companies to look at new products or updates from a customer’s perspective.
“One of the early things we did was a survey of sorts to try and understand some of the most frequently used capabilities in SAS with an eye toward prioritizing what should be done in-database or collaboratively in the partnership,” Rote said.
Wynkoop said the PAC typically provides feedback for future release items, and much of what’s been discussed isn’t currently available. The PAC meets on a biannual basis in different locations, Wynkoop said, but members have also been designated to work in various subgroups, where they interact more frequently.