Natasha Ulanowski

7月 102018
 

Did you know that 80 percent of an analytics life cycle is time spent on data preparation? For many SAS users and administrators, data preparation is what you live and breathe day in and day out.

Your analysis is only as good as your data, and that's why we wanted to shine a light on the importance of data preparation. I reached out to some of our superstar SAS users in the Friends of SAS community (for Canadian SAS customers and partners) for the inside scoop on different kinds of data preparation tasks they deal with on a daily basis.

Meet Kirby Wu, Actuarial Analyst for TD Insurance

At TD Insurance, SAS is used by many different teams for many different functions.

Kirby uses SAS mainly for its data preparation capabilities. This includes joining tables, cleaning the data, summarizations, segmentation and then sharing this ready-to-use data with the appropriate departments. A day in the life of Kirby includes tackling massive data sets containing billions of claim records. He needs powerful software to perform ETL (extract, transform and load) tasks and manage this data, and that’s where SAS comes in.

"SAS is the first step in our job to access good quality data," says Kirby. "Being an actuary, we use SAS to not only pick up data, but to do profiling, tech inquires and, most importantly, for data quality control purposes. Then we present the data to various teams to take advantage of the findings to improve the business."

Many actuaries have some basic SAS skills to understand the data set. Once they output the data, it is shared across departments and teams for others to make use of.

Prior to his work at TD Insurance, Kirby also used SAS for analytics. He ran GLM analysis where he encountered huge data sets. "When data comes out, we want to understand it, as well as performing statistical analysis on it," says Kirby. "SAS largely influences what direction to go in, and what variable we think is good to use."

Kirby left us with four reasons why he prefers SAS for data preparation.

  1. SAS is an enterprise solution, and the application itself is tried and proven.
  2. Working in insurance, there are many security concerns dealing with sensitive data. SAS provides reassurance in terms of data security.
  3. SAS has been serving the market for many years, and its capabilities and reputation are timeless.
  4. SAS offers a drag-and-drop GUI, as well as programming interfaces for users of varying skill levels.

Meet John Lam of CIBC

Since John joined the bank 15 years ago, he has been using SAS for ETL processes. John saves both time and money using Base SAS when he solves complex ETL tasks in his day-to-day work, and is mainly responsible for data preparation.

John accesses data from multiple source systems and transforms it for business consumption. He works on the technical side and passes on the transformed data within the same organization to the business side. The source data typically comes in at the beginning of each month, but the number of files varies month to month.

"SAS is a great tool," shares John. "The development time is a lot less and helps us save a lot of time on many projects."

John also shared with us some past experiences with complex issues where SAS would have come in handy. He once encountered a situation where he needed to calculate the length of time it would take for someone to receive benefits. However, this calculation method is very complicated and varies greatly depending on how the gap is structured.

"When I look back, the process that took us two to three weeks would have only taken us two to three days if we had used SAS," says John. "SAS would have provided a less complex way of figuring out the problem using date functions!"

Meet Horst Wolter, Manager at TD Bank

"My bread and butter is Base SAS," explains Horst. "The bank has data all over the place in multiple platforms and in multiple forms. We encounter a lot of data – from mainframe to Unix to PC, and flat files or mainframe SAS data sets."

Regardless of the platform or data he is dealing with, users always request slices and dices of the data. Horst takes all available data and finds ways of matching and merging different pieces together to create something that is relevant and easy to understand.

The majority of work Horst does is with credit card data. "I check database views that has millions of rows, which includes historical data."

The bank deals with millions of customers over many years, resulting in many records. Needless to say, the sizes of data he deals with are quite large! Accessing, processing and managing this data for business insight is a battle SAS helps Horst fight every day.

Sharing Is Caring!

How are you using SAS? Share in a few sentences in the comments!

About Friends of SAS

If you’re not familiar with Friends of SAS, it is an exclusive online community available only to our Canadian SAS customers and partners to recognize and show our appreciation for their affinity to SAS. Members complete activities called "challenges" and earn points that can be redeemed for rewards. There are opportunities to build powerful connections, gain privileged access to SAS resources and events, and boost your learning and development of SAS, all in a fun environment.

Interested in learning more about Friends of SAS? Feel free to email Natasha.Ulanowski@sas.com or Martha.Casanova@sas.com with any questions or to get more details.

No typical SAS user: how three professionals prep data using SAS was published on SAS Users.

11月 072017
 

SAS Tips and TricksThere is certainly no shortage of terrific tips and tricks in various SAS blogs from some of our most distinguished SAS in-house experts. But, there's another group of equally qualified experts who don't often get to share their expertise on this channel: our customers. So, I went on a quest to get the inside scoop from various SAS users, polling Friends of SAS members to get their feedback on their favorite SAS tips.

We asked a few of these Friends of SAS members who are regular SAS users to share with us their top SAS tips and tricks for improving performance or something they wished they had known earlier in their SAS career. Based on that, we got a wide range of tips and tricks from a number of different SAS users – ranging from novice to expert and across various industries and product users. Check out some of them below:

FUNCTIONS

Functions are either built into SAS itself or you can write your own customized code that act in the same manner, all of which help in analyzing and processing data. There are a variety of function categories that include mathematical, date and time, character, truncation, and miscellaneous. Using functions makes us more efficient, and we don’t have to re-invent the wheel every time we want to figure something out. With this being said, some of our regular SAS users have a thing or two to say about dealing with functions that may help you out:

“Before you program any complex code, look for a SAS function that will do the task for you.”
     - John Ladds, Past President, OASUS

“Insert a line break in a concatenated string, such as: manylines = catx('0a'x,a,b,c);”
     - Aroop Ghosh, Principal Consultant, Webtalk Communications

“Use the lag function to create time related variables, for example, in time punch data”
     - Yolanda, Analyst, TD

“A good trick that I have recently learnt [sic]which can make the code less wordier is using the functions IFN and IFC as an alternative to IF THEN ELSE statements in conditional processing.”
     - Sunny Giroti, Master of Business Analytics Candidate, Schulich School of Business

“IFN can be used in place of IF THEN ELSE to shorten code”
     - Neil Menezes, Senior Business Anlyst, CTFS

“Ron Cody’s link from SAS.COM. It has many SAS function examples.”
     - John Lam, CIBC

SYNTAX/SHORTCUTS/EFFICIENCIES

You know what they say: time is money. So for a SAS programmer, finding shortcuts and ways to work more efficiently and faster are important to get a job done quicker. Here are a few ways SAS users think can make your life easy while working with SAS:

“Use missover to ensure no records are skipped when reading in a file”
     - Scott Bellefeuille, IT Solutions Developer (Merchant Services), TD Bank

“Pressing keys 'Ctrl'+'/' to comment out a line of code.”
     - Bunce Leung, Execution Manager, RBC

“Variable Lists - being able to refer to variables using double dashes to indicate all variables between first and last in a dataset is super useful for many procs. The later versions of being able to use the prefix and colon to indicate all datasets with a prefix is a great shortcut as well.”
     - Fareeza Khurshed, Manager (Statistical Services), Alberta Treasury Board and Finance

“I like to use PERL in SAS for finding stuff in character variables.”
     - Peter Timusk, Statistics Officer, Statistics Canada

“Title "SAS can give you an Inheritance". Have an ODBC driver on your local PC but not on a remote server? No problem. Use rsubmit with the inheritlib option. Your remote server will now inherit the ODBC driver and be able to access a database you thought you could only reach with your PC.”
     - Horst Wolter, Manager, TD Bank

“If you want to speed the processing of your program. Run your join statements on the "work" library. It is must faster.”
     - Estela Tavares, Economist, Statistics Canada

“When dealing with probability, can logistic be used in all cases? Trick Q - as A is N0. What about the times, probability is 0 and 1. What if the data is heavily distributed on 1s and 0s.”
     - Mukul Pandey, Student Business Analytics, Schulich School of Business

“Proc tabulate can perform descriptive statistics better than proc freq and proc means.”
     - Taha Azizi, Senior Business Insight Analyst, TD

Your turn

Were any of these tips and tricks useful? Do you use them already? What are some of your top SAS tips and tricks? Please be sure to share in the comments below!

Looking for more tips and tricks? Check out this video featuring six Canadian SAS programmers, including a few Friends of SAS members, who share some of their favourite SAS programming tips.

About Friends of SAS

If you’re not familiar with Friends of SAS, it is an exclusive online community available only to our Canadian SAS customers and partners to recognize and show our appreciation for their affinity to SAS. Members complete activities called 'challenges' and earn points that can be redeemed for rewards. There are opportunities to build powerful connections, gain privileged access to SAS resources and events, and boost your learning and development of SAS all in a fun environment.

Interested in learning more about Friends of SAS? Feel free to email myself at Natasha.Ulanowski@sas.com or Martha.Casanova@sas.com with any questions or more details.

SAS tips and tricks: Users-tell-all edition was published on SAS Users.