SAS is addressing industry challenges with technology, while also developing the next generation of IT leaders.
SAS country manager Essie Mokgonyana says SAS is more than just a software vendor. She explains that the company takes pride in knowing the business industries in which it operates.
“Our global footprint and a wealth of knowledge, shared across the globe, mean that our customers benefit from a pool of international resources and knowledge that can help them reach their goal faster without having to replicate the same knowledge themselves – which can take years,” she adds.
According to Essie, SAS has had a presence in the African region for more than 20 years and, earlier this year, developed in collaboration with Microsoft, a South African deployed analytics platform that provides a solution to the data residency and privacy question on the minds of all CIOs at the moment.
The value SAS provides to clients and CIOs does not stop there. “In addition to leading in the AI and machine learning space, we are also investing in generative AI and collaborating with our strategic partners to launch digital twins success stories,” Essie says.
She uses SAS’s CI360 (customer intelligence solution) integration with OpenAI’s ChatGPT and generative AI as examples of how they are using next generation technologies to assist their customers. “CI360 has the capability to help marketing professionals build campaigns with the power of generative AI, but still maintain human control to ensure the AI model learns properly,” she continues.
For CIOs, SAS Viya, a flagship cloud native analytics platform and outperformer in the AI and machine learning (ML) arena, is the answer to CIOs’ day-to-day challenges. “SAS Viya provides CIOs and their business internal customers with a powerful engine that can help them crunch a large amount of data into insights faster than anyone on the market,” says Essie.
Furthermore, Essie says, as generative AI and ML become the norm in the world, CIOs and industry executives are becoming increasingly concerned about the ethics of the models, and there is a solution to that as well.
“SAS has a practice dedicated to ethical AI with technology and Intellectual Property built into our solutions to test and challenge models for bias. We also have a comprehensive offering for ESG (environmental, social, governance), to help companies navigate the complex world of regulation in this space.
“Our knowledge and experience can be leveraged in this area to help guide those currently piloting and deploying AI and ML models into production.”
The modern-day CIO
According to Essie, we are now in the digital age, and organisations realise the effect of technology and consider it a vital component of their business, regardless of industry sector. She goes on to say that the CIO has grown in business acumen and earned a well-deserved seat at the table as a trusted counsel on the digital transformation journey.
“CIOs are seen as key drivers of the digital strategy, and their contribution to the board is highly valued,” she notes. “They are no longer seen as the tech guy in the basement, but a strategic business influencer who can help the business leapfrog competitors.”
CIOs play an important role in ESG efforts in addition to providing a strategic role in the organisation. This is because ESG has evolved into a strategic driver for companies concerned with their efforts to lower their carbon footprint and emissions.
“CIOs are instrumental in reducing the carbon footprint or emissions to the environment, and curbing e-waste by as a minimum implementing effective policies at all stages of an asset’s life cycle.”
Attracting IT talent
SAS has a rich academic history: with currently more than 3,000 education customers/partners in 56 countries. SAS is working with 18 universities in South Africa to train the next generation of data science and AI talent. However, according to Essie, nurturing the next generation of data scientists and IT professionals should begin at grassroots level.
SAS DataFly is a free resource that provides a fun and engaging approach for students to examine data in real time, whether they are together in person or digitally. Students answer to polls created by teachers, and their responses are promptly shown in a data visualisation, such as a bar chart, histogram, or scatterplot. “This way,” she explains, “learners can strengthen their data, mathematics, and science skills as early as primary school, and when the time comes to enter university, they are well-equipped or at least have a head start in terms of those analytical skills.”
SAS has also partnered with the UKZN’s Women in Analytics and the UWC’s Dudes in Data initiatives, which caters to top-performing Grade 11 students with an interest in mathematical sciences. The goal is to introduce young people to the interesting profession of data science as a potential future career path.
SAS, a software company that specialises in advanced and predictive analytics software, business intelligence and data visualisation offerings, has signed up once again as a CIO South Africa associate partner, because the opportunity to engage with some of the greatest IT minds in South Africa was something SAS simply couldn’t pass by.
“Through its unique engagements, CIO South Africa assists organisations such as us to keep our finger on the technology pulse and understand the challenges of our peer group, which allows us to curate and offer fit-for-purpose solutions to our customers,” Essie says.
She concludes that the community also gives SAS the platform to provide thought leadership from an advanced analytics, big data and AI perspective.