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When you attend SAS® Global Forum - a conference where you’re surrounded by data scientists, programmers and those who grew up as the smartest people in the room – you expect to hear talk about big data and advanced analytics.
What you don’t expect to hear are compelling messages about the importance of art, storytelling…and unicorns.
But Ellen Warrillow, President of Data Insight Group, Inc., couldn’t have been more convincing in her April 19 session highlighting the magic formula for becoming a well-sought-after marketing analyst. Her first hint: It requires much more than good programming skills.
She believes in the marriage of art and science. “When you put those two together, that’s where you get the wonder,” she said.
Wonder? Maybe that’s where unicorns come in.
In a sense, perhaps. Actually, unicorns – a rare breed of marketing technologists who understand both marketing and marketing technology (with a nod to John Ellett, contributor to Forbes) – are those who take the time to be curious and recognize that storytelling and imagery are like an analyst’s Trojan horse. Warrillow says they’re the way you get in.
For the data story to have real power, she believes, it needs to be memorable, impactful and personal. “Ask what the business will do with the results,” she said. “Think about what the listener might tell their boss or their coworker at the water cooler. That will be memorable.”
Today’s data visualization products make this easier than ever before. To build new skills in these seemingly foreign areas, she also suggested tapping into the power of user groups and creative teams in other parts of the organization.
Warrillow offered five tips to becoming that rare breed unicorn:
- Take time to align your analytic objectives with business objectives.
- Ask yourself what questions the business is asking. Insist on time to be curious and wonder.
- Tell stories to help your audience relate both rationally and emotionally to your message.
- Match the picture to the content and ensure it is telling the story.
- Look for ways that new technology may provide you with more efficient and effective ways to do your job.
“It’s a tall order,” she said. “Unicorns are rare and they’re hard to find. But the more you can take the time to understand all the pieces, the better analyst you’re going to be.”
Let the magic begin.
Editor's Note: In addition to the summary included in this blog, you can view videos of the following product demonstrations from the Technology Connection at SAS Global Forum 2016 by clicking on the links below:
- SAS® Cloud Analytics
- SAS® Visual Analytics
- SAS® Customer Intelligence 360
- SAS® Visual Investigator
- SAS® Environment Manager
“For over 40 years, we’ve seen it, solved it,” said SAS Executive Vice President and Chief Technology Officer Armistead Sapp in his opening remarks at the SAS® Global Forum Technology Connection. If his explanation of SAS differentiators and the road ahead serve as any indication, SAS is just getting started.
So what does set SAS apart? Sapp believes it’s:
- 40 years of analytics in action.
- Technology that meets users’ skill sets.
- Innovation driven by strategy.
- Analytics that impact the world.
Since last year’s conference alone, he said, a total of 326 products have released, including 88 deployment tools and utilities. That’s a lot of code, but Sapp reiterated that SAS’ first priority to solve for quality, then performance and then new features remains unchanged.
SAS CEO Jim Goodnight and other presenters announced several new offerings during Opening Session the night before, but an impressive crew of Technical Connection speakers and demonstrations gave attendees a look under the hood.
SAS Senior Product Manager Mike Frost served as the on-stage ringmaster, guiding attendees through real organizational scenarios and dilemmas presented via video.
“Whether you’re a data scientist, statistician, IT analyst, business analyst or even someone who employs or manages folks in these roles, you will be able to see how what we’re doing in SAS® Viya™ will deliver value,” he said.
Technical presenters (in order of appearance), the product offering they demonstrated, and key takeaways included:
SAS® Cloud Analytics – Juthika Khargharia, Senior Solutions Architect, Products, Marketing and Enablement:
- Access analytic applications from a web browser to quickly build predictive models.
- Access to SAS’ API for embedded analytics from any client language and incorporate them into current business applications and processes.
- Zero set-up, with no worries about spinning up a cluster or installing any software. Users get a secure, cloud-based location to store data to analyze and save results of those analyses.
SAS® Visual Analytics – Jeff Diamond, Director, Research and Development
- SAS Visual Analytics is running on SAS Viya.
- Users can move seamlessly between data exploration, report design and modeling, as three offerings have merged into this new single user experience: SAS® Visual Analytics Designer, SAS® Visual Analytics Explorer and SAS® Visual Statistics.
- The interface has been rewritten as an HTML5 application.
SAS® Customer Intelligence 360 – Michele Eggers, Senior Customer Intelligence Product Line Director, Products, Marketing and Enablement
- Analytics “the way you need it.”
- Software as a Service cloud offering with volumized pricing.
- Omni-channel, offering the most comprehensive customer intelligence hub.
SAS® Visual Investigator – Gordon Robinson; R&D Director, Products, Marketing and Enablement
- Detection of threats can now be automated. The offering can pull information from websites, social media and various databases, drawing associations between disparate datasets.
- Can be used by analysts to perform efficient investigations.
- Can be configured to meet the needs of many types of solutions, including fraud, public security and more.
SAS® Environment Manager – Evan Guarnaccia, Solutions Architect, Products, Marketing and Enablement
- Web-based window into a seamless administrative experience.
- Can process simple alerts and it can use machine learning to identify problematic conditions that have not yet been modeled.
- SAS Viya architected to make maximum use of the capabilities in these technologies.
Vice President of Product Management Ryan Schmiedl offered closing remarks, talking more about the journey SAS and its customers have been on over the years.
“We are continuing to deliver on our promise to solve today’s problems and tomorrow’s problems,” he said. “It’s powerful stuff, revolutionary things. It’s going to change the market.”
Highlights from SAS Global Forum: Technology Connection was published on SAS Users.
Impressive innovations and exciting announcements took center stage (literally) at Opening Session of SAS Global Forum 2016. Near the end of the session, SAS CEO Jim Goodnight shared news about SAS’ new architecture that had everyone abuzz.
SAS® Viya™ - There’s a new headliner in Vegas
“We are unveiling a quantum leap forward in making analytics easier to use and accessible to everyone,” Goodnight said. “It’s a major breakthrough and it’s called SAS Viya.”
Goodnight was also quick to point out that SAS Viya will work with customers’ existing SAS 9 software.
Goodnight invited Vice President of Analytic Server Research and Development Oliver Schabenberger, who led the development work for SAS Viya, to join him on stage to discuss the new cloud-based analytic and data management architecture.
“We see great diversity in the ways our customers approach and consume analytics,” Schabenberger explained. “From small data to big data. From simple analytics to the toughest machine learning problems. Data in motion and data at rest. Structured and unstructured data. Single users and hundreds of concurrent users. In the cloud and on premises. Data scientists and business users.”
SAS has developed a truly unified and integrated modern environment that everyone can use, whether you are a data scientist or a business analyst. “The beauty of SAS Viya is that it’s unified, open, simple and powerful, and built for the cloud,” said Schabenberger. “Today we are moving to a multi-cloud architecture.”
Goodnight encouraged customers to be “sure to try it out. I think you will enjoy the new SAS Viya.”
The SAS Viya procedural interface will be available to early adopters in 30 days, with visual interfaces scheduled for a September release. Customers can apply to be part of the SAS Viya early preview program.
SAS Customer Intelligence 360 and SAS Analytics for IoT announced
SAS Viya wasn’t the only “star” of the evening.
Goodnight lauded the company’s continuing efforts to globalize and expand ways to make our software faster and easier to use. On the development side, he highlighted SAS Customer Intelligence 360, SAS® Forecast Studio, SAS® Event Stream Processing, SAS® Cybersecurity and the next generation of high performance analytics.
Executive Vice President and SAS Chief Revenue Officer Carl Farrell took the stage to share examples of the many diverse uses of SAS. “Today, our customers are so much more educated on big data and analytics,” Farrell said. “CEOs are realizing that analytics can help them draw more value for their business around that data.”
Farrell singled out several customers including Idea Cellular Ltd. in India, which is processing a billion transactions a day -- something that was impossible before high performance analytics – and Macy’s customer intelligence project that is focused on making real-time offers to customers as they walk through a store, creating a personal and immediate experience.
Farrell also said he was so proud of the SAS work being done outside of business, in the data for good realm, specifically mentioning work in Chile combatting the Zika virus and the work of the Black Dog Institute, which conducts research to improve the lives of people with mental illness.
“Our customers are doing amazing things with SAS that we couldn’t have imagined 40 years ago, and this is just the tip of the iceberg and there’s so much more to come,” Farrell said.
Speaking of stars, Senior Vice President of Technical Support Annette Harris applauded the SAS Super Users for their work in support communities. “SAS users have a rich tradition of helping each other in peer-to-peer forums,” said Harris.
Harris also recognized the 2016 SAS User Feedback Award winner, Jeromey Farmer, a Treasury Officer from the Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis, noting that SAS gained strong insights from Farmer into how SAS can more seamlessly integrate in a complex and secure environment.
SAS Executive Vice President and Chief Marketing Officer Randy Guard took the stage to announce SAS® Analytics for IoT and to talk about some macro trends he is seeing, including the digital transformation taking place in business and technology. He cited an IDC report that stated by the end of 2017, two-thirds of all CEOs will have digital transformation – across their company – at the top of their agenda.
Customers want help in managing their data, including streaming data, and want analytics embedded in their applications, he added. He calls the latter “analytics any way you want it.”
Customers also want software as a service, including self-service, and want to know how to monetize the connectivity and continuous load of data. “That hits our sweet spot in analytics at SAS,” he said. “The transformation is under way and we are investing money to make this transition smoother for our customers.”
40 and Forward
Woven throughout Opening Session were references to SAS’ 40 years in business.
Asked about what has changed over the years, Goodnight recalled that when SAS started, there was one product on a single machine. Now we have more than 200 products on dozens of machines. Back then, a computer could process about 500 instructions a second. Now it’s up to 2 to 3 billion instructions a second. The very first disk drives were two feet across, with tapes containing about five million bytes. Now we can get 1.2 terabytes in the size of a K-cup.
As for key milestones over the 40 years, Goodnight said two things came to mind. One was the introduction of multivendor architecture in the mid-1980s so our software could run on all platforms, and the other was the advent of massively parallel computing.
Not surprisingly, given the milestone anniversary year for SAS, the Opening Session ended with a video retrospective looking back on world news from the 1970s through today, with a cameo appearance by Goodnight from the early days of SAS.
If you want to view a recording of Opening Session, visit the SAS Global Forum Video Portal.
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Editor's Note: There are hundreds of breakout sessions happening at SAS Global Forum in both the Users and Executive programs. Since we couldn’t just pick one to highlight, we decided to put together a SAS Global Forum day 2 session roundup, highlighting some of our very favorites!
Don’t overlook data management when it comes to cybersecurity analytics
There’s a constant buzz in the market around analytics and its role in the cybersecurity space, but often the conversation overlooks the important role data management plays. Data management is a fundamental component SAS cyber experts want to be sure organizations understand – just because the investment is being made in cyber analytics doesn’t mean companies can ignore data quality and data management.
“There are countless solutions and dollars spent to protect organizations,” said SAS’ Director of Cybersecurity Christopher Smith. “All of those pieces – firewalls, endpoints and email gateways – play a vital role, but those systems don’t communicate with each other.” Even with all the investment organizations are making to protect themselves, there is still no greater insight being gained into what’s actually happening inside company walls.
What’s needed is business context, and that’s something isolated solutions cannot provide. While those systems are valuable in identifying what’s good, what’s bad and what can be defined, they offer limited business intelligence.
But the challenge isn’t just about obtaining data, it’s about the speed, type, structure and volume of data being generated per second.
“We are working in a society where everyone is looking for a silver bullet,” said Vice President of Business Consulting and Data Management Evan Levy. “People are buying products to solve problems, but it’s more complicated than that. The volume, need and diversity of content and sources isn’t something we could have ever predicted.”
Levy said that’s where data management becomes critical. Companies have to enlist the proper data management techniques to avoid lagging in security and exposing themselves to added risk with every attack. By looking at what’s actually happening, companies can see what the data is saying and then develop an effective response.
The fear today is not what happened, it’s the unknown of what else has happened that we haven’t yet identified. “Once data is created it will always be an asset to the business,” said Smith, which means it must be catalogued to offer value. Effective cyber protection requires sophisticated analytic prowess with rich data history in order to protect organizations from the clever and skilled hackers.
Learning from past mistakes
In his April 20 Executive Conference breakout session, Sterling Price, Director of Customer Analytics at WalMart Stores, Inc., cautioned against relying too heavily on completed analytical projects, assuming that new technologies and massive data sets produce an accurate and relevant result. He used several historical examples, from the Google Flu prediction mishap to the faulty prediction outcome of the 1936 US presidential race, to help prove the point.
Big data, it turns out, is simply the newest phenomenon tempting leaders to believe their outcomes are statistically sound. "We owe our organizations objective analysis based on science, not wishful thinking," said Price.
Here are five points gleaned from his personal experience at Walmart as well as the historical examples he shared:
- Don't fall prey to the belief that results will be accurate and useful because of how much data was used.
- We still need to sample things, but a badly chosen large sample - even a really big one - is much worse than a well-chosen small sample.
- Methodology still matters. Big data by itself does nothing. How we use it defines its value.
- Scalability should be considered up front.
- Don't mistake statistical significance for practical significance. They are not the same.
Arrest Prediction and Analysis in New York City
Analyzing "stop and frisk" data captured by the New York City Police Department can lead to insights that help cops make better decisions about whether to arrest a person or not, say two Oklahoma State University graduate students.
Karan Rudra and Maitreya Kadiyala looked at open source data from the NYPD to understand the propensity of arrest and optimize frisk activities. This type of analysis can potentially reduce the number of stops and impact the arrest rate.
The pair examined 56 variables, including in which precinct a stop occurred, whether a stop led to an arrest, whether the officer produced an ID and shield, and whether a person was stopped inside or outside of a building.
Using SAS® Enterprise Miner™, they built and compared four models, determining that a polynomial regression model was the best. Some findings from their research include:
- In the Bronx and Manhattan, females have the highest percentage of arrests after a stop and frisk.
- In Staten Island, though there are a high number of stops per area, the number of resulting arrests is comparatively low.
- Blacks and Hispanics have a higher percentage of arrests after a stop.
- The overall arrest rate of the data sample was 6 percent.
There are hundreds of breakout sessions happening at SAS Global Forum in both the Users and Executive programs. Since we couldn’t just pick one to highlight from opening day, we decided to put together a SAS Global Forum day 1 session roundup, highlighting some of our very favorites!
The big data behind fantasy football
With millions of users, peak traffic seasons and thousands of requests a second for complex user-specific data, fantasy football offers many challenges for even the most talented analytical minds. Clint Carpenter, one of the principal architects of the NFL fantasy football program, shared strategies and lessons learned behind football fanatics’ favorite application.
Fantasy football combines a high volume of users with detailed personalized data; multiple data sources; various data consumers; and high peak volumes of request. The challenge is to process the data from the stadium playing field and user devices, and make it easily accessible to a variety of different services. If there’s something to learn from developing and analyzing fantasy football over the years, Carpenter said it’s these three things: don’t blindly trust data or specifications; spend time planning upfront to avoid problems in the end; and test for data integrity, performance and for the whole system. “If you test well, you will have happy stakeholders,” said Carpenter. “If you don’t, you are asking for unhappy users and sleepless nights.”
One university’s solution to the data science talent gap
Is it time for a Ph.D. in data science? If you ask Jennifer Lewis Priestly, who happens to be the director of Kennesaw State University’s new Ph.D. in data science, the answer is yes, but there are areas we have to consider and address in order to make it work.
“Closing the talent gap is a problem and a challenge for our global economy,” said Priestly. The demand for deep analytical talent in the United States could potentially be 50 to 60 percent greater than its projected supply by 2018. And that demand is creating a first for academia, forcing companies across industry sectors to chase the same talent pool of students.
But it’s not just the skills gap that has to be addressed, Priestly said we also have to consider the rising master’s degree explosion. Today, analytically-aligned master’s programs are popping up across the country, and most can be completed between 10 to 18 months. But can institutions transform a student into a data scientist that fast? Offering a data science Ph.D. allows students to dive into the complexity of data science, rather than skim the surface.
So, if we find the talent and design the program, who will teach all of these students? “We have to put these students out into the market to fill these jobs, but we also have to put them back into colleges and universities to train up our future talent,” Priestly said.
Turning data into stories
Your data matters, but unless people emotionally connect with the data presented, it’s going to fall short. By not offering context, you risk having an audience miss your vision, draw their own conclusions or misunderstand the root of the problem you are trying to solve.
The question then becomes how? How do you actually get someone to engage and connect with the numbers? You’ve got to tell a story. Bree Baich, Principal Learning and Development Specialist with SAS Best Practices, gave her session attendees tips and tricks to turning data into stories that make sense.
“Data storytelling is a real thing, connecting the logical and emotional parts of our brain to not just make sense of the data, but to connect it in a way that causes a response,” Baich said. With an easy, four-step plan, Baich helped attendees see how getting data-driven stories is easier than we think.
- The story setup allows your audience to become curious and garner interest from the start. It’s a way to spark curiosity upfront by using a hook.
- The context paints a picture of the current realities, providing real understanding of the information at hand.
- The options show your audience where you want them to go. Think of it as an opportunity to demonstrate why your option is the better choice that will make a real difference.
- The action leaves a call to action and is key to pushing stakeholders to make a decision or getting customers to purchase.
Remember, data shouldn’t stand alone. Next time, shape it with a story!
As we look at the last 40 years of innovation using analytics, it can be both humbling and inspiring. I mean, who would have anticipated 40 years ago that SAS® would be used to analyze genomic data and help develop specialized medications as a result? Who would have guessed that […]
How to embed advanced analytics in your biggest ideas? was published on SAS Voices.
SAS users are always looking for ways to optimize, maximize, and prioritize just about everything. And that includes the precious commodity of time away from the office, even for users at a premier event like SAS Global Forum. Sure attendees get to learn and share with the best and brightest […]
The post Maximize your conference experience by getting SAS certified appeared first on SAS Learning Post.
Is it just me, or does it feel a little bit like Christmas Eve? I think it's because SAS Global Forum 2016 is right around the corner, and for many SAS users, it's the most wonderful time of the year. If you're heading to Las Vegas, get ready for three days of learning from SAS peers, exchanging ideas, discovering new techniques for using SAS, and maybe, if you play your cards right (see what I did there?), a dash of fun as well. If only there was something exciting to do in Las Vegas...
All this sounds great if you're one of the 5,000 SAS users who will be at the event (April 18-21 @ The Venetian), right? But what if you can't make the trip to Las Vegas? Is there another way to experience some of the great content that will be shared there? I'm happy to say the answer is yes!
This year, SAS will provide dozens of hours of live video streaming from the event, so you can watch select sessions from the Users and Executive Programs from wherever you are. Live coverage will include Opening Session, all the keynote talks, select breakouts, Tech Talks, updates from The Quad, interviews with SAS executives and developers, and more. Additional videos will be available on the SAS Global Forum Video Portal. Here you'll find featured, most popular, and how-to videos, as well as episodes of Inside SAS Global Forum. You can even view videos from past events. Coverage will be available for on-demand viewing after the conference as well.
Video not your thing? No worries. SAS will provide several other ways to stay up to date. For starters, you can read any of a number of blog posts from the event. Posts will come from many different SAS blogs, but all posts from SAS Global Forum will be aggregated here.
If you're on LinkedIn, Twitter or Facebook, you can stay connected with what's happening and engage with attendees on SAS’ social media channels. Join the conversation, comment on some of the cool presentations you attended or viewed, discuss the exciting news coming out of the event, or simply follow along. The channels sure to have the most activity are the SAS Users LinkedIn group, the SAS Twitter account, and the SAS Users Group Facebook page. The hashtag for SAS Global Forum is #SASGF; be sure to use the hashtag in all your posts.
With all the opportunities to follow along, connect and contribute, you can be a part of SAS Global Forum 2016, whether you're attending in person or not. And if you're a SAS user, that's almost as exciting as a visit from Santa.