3月 272009

Ron Statt talks about the SAS onDemand for Academics program and how it makes it easy for colleges and universities to access the analytical power of SAS for teaching and completing coursework. For more information about the SAS onDemand for Academics, visit http://www.sas.com/govedu/edu/programs/od_academics.html.

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3月 272009

SAS Publishing Director Sean Gargan talks about what's new in the SAS Publishing booth at SAS Global Forum 2009, including podcasts with SAS authors and hand held reading devices.

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3月 272009

Alan Hoffler interviews SAS Senior Vice President and Chief Technology Officer Keith Collins about what was shown during the Technology Session and what SAS R&D has planned over the next year.

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3月 252009

Members of the media attending SAS Global Forum met a panel of SAS customers from diverse backgrounds but with a unified message: In uncertain economic times, deploying the power of advanced analytics becomes a necessity rather than a luxury. Panelists included:

  • Aaron Cano, Vice President of Customer Knowledge, 1-800-FLOWERS.com
  • Stephan Chase, Vice President of Customer Knowledge, Marriott International
  • William Kahn, former Head of Single Family Credit Analytics at Fannie Mae and former Chief Scoring Officer at Capital One
  • Ming Teng, Director of Analytics, StubHub

Moderator Anne Milley, Director of Technology Product Marketing, led off by asking the panel how analytics are relevant to business in the current climate.

Panelist Ming Teng is Director of Analytics for StubHub, self-described “huge users of data.”

“We don’t have a large shop with lots of statisticians,” Teng said. Using JMP allows them to perform effective data mining around trends and “operationalize” the information.

Stephan Chase, VP of Customer Knowledge for Marriott International, agreed analytics is increasingly relevant. At Marriott they think in terms of “propensity,” or what customers are likely to do. If you put an offer in front of a customer that is more relevant to the customer’s needs, they are more likely to take it. The natural resistance to change and learning is challenged in environments like this one, Chase said, where “survival anxiety” takes over. People are more willing to try new ideas.

He’s noticed a great deal more demand for the services of his department based on its past success, and an increased willingness to experiment.

"We've been at it a while," he said, "showing that predictive modeling is predictive, and if you give customers something more relevant, they will take it."

Aaron Cano is Vice President of Customer Knowledge for 1-800-FLOWERS.com. His group has used analytics to model new sales promotions. They’ve been so successful that all the entities under the 1-800-FLOWERS.com umbrella are approaching him. Cano referred to what he called “trial by fire analytics." The times are changing, he said. If you want to improve and serve customers better you have to try new things, and analytics can make the difference.

Milley asked the panelists to describe the biggest challenges to bringing analytics to bear on fact-based decisions.

StubHub’s business relies on the ability to plan and forecast based on diverse and seemingly unpredictable factors, Teng said, like sports rivalries and matchups, or announcements of major events like a Britney Spears or Jonas Brothers concert. Planning and forecasting requires tracking the rumors for the coming year.

“We can predict seasonal demand,” Teng said, “but we have to take into our forecasting model these somewhat random events.” While it is ultimately rewarding, it can also be challenging. “Analysts are always looking for opportunities among the white noise and adjusting on the fly,” he added.

William Kahn, former Head of Single Family Credit Analytics at Fannie Mae and former Chief Scoring Officer at Capital One, suggested a top-and-bottom approach to explaining the value of analytics within an organization.

People reveal their risk behavior over three to five years, Kahn said, so you can't wait for actual consumer behavior to drive change. You need to influence the “self-actualized layer” in the organization: the kids just coming in who are enthusiastic and open to new ideas, and the senior levels who are able to evaluate proposed changes and act on them swiftly.

The way to change the culture of the organization to be more analytical, according to Cano, is to leverage analytics to change the discussion about what it means to be successful. As more and more evidence points to the value of analytics, he sees it being used in more and more ways at 1-800-FLOWERS.

3月 252009

1.) Where I could find you if you weren’t at a users group conference?
You’d find me outdoors. In winter it’s skiing (x-c and downhill) and in the spring-fall it’s hiking, mountain biking and camping.

2.) How many times have you been to SAS Global Forum, and what was your most memorable experience so far?
2009 will be my 12th conference. Which is interesting since I guess that means my conference in Seattle will be lucky 13!

Memorable experiences – They’re all about the people you meet at SAS Global Forum
(1) Getting an early peek at the next releases of SAS reporting procedures and tools with developers Sandy McNeill, David Kelley, Dan O’Connor, Eric Gebhart, and others.
(2) Hanging out with all of my favorite SAS Press authors (Art Carpenter, Ron Cody, Susan Slaughter, Lora Delwiche, and others)
(3) Bumping into someone who it turns out is doing the same sort of obscure analysis I’m currently working on. I met a woman at lunch one year who was analyzing data from the same medical device as a clinical trial that I was working on, but she was in a completely different field. It was fun to trade notes on how we dealt with data and analytical issues.

3.) What was your “official role” at SAS Global Forum 2009?
I was the chair of the Industry Solutions section. I worked with my team of eight Industry Solution Leaders to find keynote speakers, SAS speakers, customers, and contributed papers to cover the topics of interest to people in the Life Sciences, Financial, Communications, Retail, Education, Government, Customer Intelligence, and Energy industries.

4.) Who are the major players that produce SAS Global Forum ?
There are three groups involved in producing each SAS Global Forum:
1. The conference volunteer team: The conference chair and section chairs provide the ideas and the contacts in their industries or areas of expertise. Thanks to them, we can bring attendees the latest information and practical advice that’s relevant to their day-to-day work.
2. SAS: SAS provides a lot of logistical support, and gives us access to top presenters who can teach us about features of upcoming releases of the software.
3. The SAS Global Forum Executive Board is responsible for picking the conference chair, and providing advice and support to the chair. The Executive Board also focuses on projects such as sasCommunity.org that provide benefit to the entire SAS user community, not just those who attend SAS Global Forum.

5.) What new things are you thinking about trying for SAS Global Forum 2010?
Given the economic times, a big focus for me will have to be finding ways we can control our costs without adversely affecting the content of the conference. I will also be working with my team to come up with documentation that potential attendees can use to convince their managers that SAS Global Forum is one of the most cost-effective educational opportunities out there for SAS professionals.

As a manager, another area of interest for me is expanding the content we have available for front-line managers of SAS professionals. This includes management seminars, presentations, panel discussions, and technology briefings.

3月 252009
In hopes of adding to your SAS Global Forum experience, we've kicked off a SAS presenters series. Here, we’ve asked some of the SAS presenters five questions to learn more about what makes them tick, why they chose to present and what they hoped you would take away from the presentation. Take a look at I-kong Fu’s answers.

I-kong Fu, Global Product Manager

I-kong Fu, tell me something about yourself that our readers might not expect.
On occasion, I enjoy trying to make homemade pizzas, and I believe that relates to my SAS Global Forum paper. For toppings and ingredients, off the top of my head, I start with high gluten flour (it lets you make a thinner crust with more air bubbles that still holds up to the weight of the ingredients). A little corn meal keeps it from sticking on the pan - sometimes I use a pizza stone because it transfers more heat. If I’m making more than one pizza, which is usually the case, I'll alternate between the stone and an aluminum pan. I have not bought a pizza peel (one of those large wooden spatulas), but plan to.

For toppings, it varies a lot depending on what we have in the house and what everyone likes. Most of my family likes fresh mozzarella, but one of my kids is allergic to dairy so his pizza has no cheese. My older child loves eggplant and pepperoni, and my wife loves to load up her pizza with fresh veggies. I pretty much like all of the above. Just talking about this, I feel like making pizza now.

Have you been to SAS Global Forum before? If so, what was your most memorable experience so far?
I’ve been to SAS Global Forum four times (including when the conference was called "SUGI"). I don't have a specific best memory. I enjoy meeting everyone to talk about SAS and also having a chance to walk around the area if the conference is in a large city.

What problem or customer pain were you hoping to solve with Ad Hoc Data Preparation for Analysis Using SAS® Enterprise Guide®?
My paper covers a few examples of ad hoc data preparation using SAS Enterprise Guide. Analysts will often comment how much time they spend preparing data: that it takes more time than their actual analyses. To me, that is similar to making a pizza: The value is in the final result, but most of the time is spent on the preparatory work. I try to show how a few different preparation tasks can be done easily using SAS Enterprise Guide's various tasks.

During your presentation, what are the most important highlights or questions that you hoped to cover?
I showed some examples of importing, transposing, binning, recoding, joining, manipulating and creating data, mainly through point and click tasks, with a few simple expressions.
3月 252009
I had the opportunity to sit in on two presentations yesterday that ran back-to-back and seemed to provide a complementary message to SAS users in government and public service. It gave me the idea to post a few comments on both.

Ben Zenick, Doing More with Less
Ben Zenick, the vice president of consulting services and co-founder of Zencos, talked to SAS users about Doing More with Less. He has a deep background in both public sector and technology, so he had a particular commitment to this topic.

”I wanted to provide SAS users in the public sector with innovative options for utilizing technology to increase the level of customer and constituent satisfaction, create jobs and manage and monitor policies, while having access to fewer resources, less money, and more regulation,” Zenick said. “Of course changes to the economy that have occurred since I was invited to present have put more emphasis on the concept of "Doing More with Less."

According to Zenick, now is a great opportunity to invest in technology. “A lot of the money from the stimulus bill will be appropriated to technology spending projects,” he said. “There are a lot of ways for users of SAS to truly make a difference in what we would all consider trying times. Analytics have opened the door to make very big impacts in the economy and the service you provide. The time to make a difference with technology is now.”

What are public sector pains?
According to Zenick’s research, total budget shortfalls for US states are projected to exceed US$145 billion by 2010. But the states’ remedies – reducing services, increasing taxes, etc. – only reduces demand and worsens the economic picture. Zenick hopes to stem this worsening landscape by offering the idea of using analytics technology to reduce cost and increase revenue opportunities.

Fraud, waste and abuse in healthcare claims: As of 2007, approximately 20 percent of each state’s budget goes to Medicaid program costs. Within that 20 percent is approximately 10 percent that is related to improper payments which could include fraud . Opportunity to use analytics to find potentially suspect claims before you pay.

Increase tax revenue collection through increased efficiencies: Analytics helps identify those who have a propensity to pay after a mistake has been made, identifies more accurate collection methods and forecasts future revenues.

Increase economic development efforts: Analytics reduces time spent collecting, compiling and searching for data. The technology also allows developers to proactively recruit firms by providing workforce demographics and available properties.

Zenick summed it up with a few words: “How do you make sure that you have the resources in the right place at the right time?” he posed. “These are all examples of using analytics for resource allocation – Doing More with Less. Analytics is an extremely important factor in reducing cost and increasing revenue.”

Jonathan Hornby, SAS Response: Doing More with Less.
Jonathan Hornby, Director of Worldwide Marketing at SAS, provided the second presentation in the two-parter - SAS Response: Doing More with Less. He tackled analytics product areas where government and public services could focus their energies: cost, strategy and human capital.

“These are solutions that help an organization understand how value flows and how resources get consumed,” said Hornby.

Strategy: Why is execution so low?
According to Hornby, developing a strategy at the executive level is only a small part of effective execution of a strategy. Today, there is an abundance of data. The problem lies in knowing what to do with it. During his research with some of the world’s sharpest minds, Hornby found that the first step to an effective organizational strategy focusing on Doing More with Less would be a plan for analyzing and using the data.

“It’s all about communication and understanding how metrics, objectives and goals are connected,” Horny said. “Do they correlate? Do they tell the story of how your organization needs to act?”

According to Hornby, too many organizations pick metrics and objectives that don’t move the dials. And often, organizations track far too many metrics, which rob individuals of time as they try to decipher them. All of this comes at great cost, which leads to the next section.

Cost: What is the pain?
The first step is to understand what things cost. SAS® Profitability Management does that, and for commercial organizations, it calculates profit too.

“Less than 50 percent of executives understand what drives cost, profit and value,” said Hornby. “That is the result of a March 2007, Business Week survey. If that’s true, there is much room for improvement, especially now that we are doing more with less.”

Hornby pointed out that there are many ways to cut cost without cutting bone – cuts across the board that have unintended consequences. Analytics can help organizations see waste in productivity and allow companies to get the maximum value moving forward.

Once you can “see” the cost to provide a service – either in aggregate or for a specific transaction – the next step is to understand why. That’s where SAS Activity Based Management comes in. It provides a great environment to model how cost, profit and value flows through an organization. With this knowledge, organizations can identify bottlenecks or areas ripe for improvement, unlocking vast sums of money.

People: Why worry?
According to a 2007 study by Deloitte, 39 percent of those surveyed believe they are hiring the right people for government or public service jobs. That’s even with the rigorous hiring processes in place. Further research shows that 58 percent of the workforce will be eligible for retirement in 2010 and 71 percent of those are senior executives.

According to Hornby, analytics can help organizations anticipate and map the skills gaps they are facing through attrition from retirement and churn. SAS® Human Capital Intelligence can help manage and alighn your workforce strategically.

Wrapping it up
Finally, Hornby shared a strategy/brainstorming tool. “I am currently working with Joel Barker using his ‘strategic implications wheel’ to help President Obama think through the cascade of consequences for all the regulations and stimulus plans,” said Hornby “It’s much like brainstorming. Set up an idea that you think is going to work and then bring in a crowd. Ask everyone to think of one positive and one negative implication. Then, as a group, repeat the process one more time for each of those ideas. You’ll see that there is a range of possibilities.”

For more ideas on how government and public service can do more with less, www.sas.com/economy.