Write a SAS book

As SAS software continues to develop, the demand for information grows.

That’s why there’s a big recruitment effort underway at SAS Books to get experts to share their best practices on using SAS.

Recruiter Shelley Sessoms attended the Analytics 2014 conference in Frankfurt, Germany last week to find new writers.

I caught up with her at the conference to find out what she’s looking for and how potential authors can get started.


Here’s the link that Shelley mentioned where you can learn more and submit your proposal.

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The Most Unusual Place You’ve Had SAS

So, what is the most unusual place that you have had SAS?

Okay, I admit it; I used a somewhat provocative title and lead sentence to get you to read this blog.  It must have worked because here you are.  But, do not worry; there are no hidden meanings, untoward innuendos, or inappropriate double-entendres from here onward.  Instead, I am going to rephrase the central question with the hope that you will be inspired to answer it by taking the time to post a comment to this blog.

What I am really asking is for an answer to any of the following:

  • What is the most unusual location you have written a SAS program from?
  • What is the most unusual circumstance under which you have written a SAS program?
  • What is the most unusual computing platform that you wrote a SAS program from?
  • What is the most unusual SAS application program that you wrote?

Given the breadth and scope of the SAS experience readers of the SAS Bookshelf blogs have, I would bet that we will get a very interesting mix of answers to these questions.  Perhaps you wrote SAS programs on a laptop on the beach while on vacation.  Maybe you wrote a must-have-now SAS program at great personal risk during a ferocious lightning storm.  Perhaps you ran SAS programs in batch on a VAX computer back in the day.  Or, maybe you wrote a SAS program that computed the total number of jelly beans that could be stored in a 1-pint container.  Whatever the case, you are bound to have an interesting anecdote.

Being the author of this blog, I will go first.  I’ve written SAS programs in various office settings, at the beach, on airplanes, in hotels, and in a vacation rental at a dude ranch.  But, none of those were the most unusual for me.

The most unusual location that I wrote a SAS program from was sitting at a desk in the screened-in porch of a rental house.  At first read, that doesn’t sound too unusual.  But, the fact is that the previous week a violent thunderstorm with winds of up to 85-miles per hour swept through the Washington DC suburbs shattering an otherwise tranquil Friday night.  At about 9:45 pm, a 100-plus-foot oak tree fell completely across my back yard, through the roof from the plate glass window at the back of my living room, across the living room, across the foyer and projected forty feet into the front yard.  It cut my house in half and missed me by eight feet.  So, sitting in a rental house a mile-and-a-half away from what was left of my home, writing a SAS program was, to say the least, unusual.

I realize that is a bit of an outlier circumstance, but it is the best I can come up with.  How about you?

So, what is the most unusual place that you have had SAS?

Be sure to take a look at Michael Raithel's latest book How to Become a Top SAS Programmer.

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Stay curious! Benefit yourself and your organization

Recently one of our most popular authors, Michael Raithel, a Senior Systems Analyst for Westat, presented a SAS Talks and was interviewed for an AllAnalytics radio show.  Michael is the author of more than 25 SAS technical papers, four SAS Press books, and a popular lecturer at SAS Global Forum and regional conferences.

In his SAS Talks Webinar, Michael discusses PROC DATASETS and the versatility of this SAS PROC.  In his opinion and many other programmers would tend to agree, if you have to choose just one SAS PROC, this is the one for you.  As Michael says “it’s the veritable Swiss army knife of SAS procedures.”  Listen in to hear this outstanding author tell you why.

On the popular AllAnalytics radio show, Michael was interviewed about his newest book, “How to Become A Top SAS Programmer.” He tells that his inspiration for writing it was from years of speaking at so many SAS events, writing lots of technical papers, as well as books plus content for many SAS listservs.  Michael was finding the same issues/questions were coming up time and time again.  Many programmers were wanting advice on what he would recommend if they were new to SAS programming or programming in general, how to advance their career, how they can be the person that other SAS programmers turn to in addition to being more valuable to their organization and the list goes on and on.

With a quest for knowledge and drive to solve the business needs, you have unlimited prospects for professional growth and success ahead of you. Delve more into learning about why SAS PROC DATASETS is the PROC for you as well as how to distinguish yourself as that top SAS programmer you were meant to be when you listen in on both of these terrific events.

As Michael puts it…”Stay curious, my friend.  That is the best advice I can give to benefit your career and your organization!”

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Get comfortable programming with Medicare data and SAS

We all know the importance of understanding the data you are working with. After all, the best programmers we know have combined their lifelong pursuit of programming knowledge with a similar pursuit of some specific subject matter.

I have programmed in SAS for about 15 years and have pursued expertise in health care use, cost, and quality measurement for more than 10 of those years. I wrote my new book, SAS Programming with Medicare Administrative Data, to provide information I wish existed when I started SAS programming for Medicare and to offer the new generation of SAS programmers guidance on using Medicare data.

My hope is that this book will help readers accomplish three main goals:

Gain substantive knowledge of the Medicare program. Just knowing how to program using SAS isn’t enough. Users need to understand the Medicare program before they can successfully and accurately use Medicare data in their studies.

For example, unlike most commercial health plans, Medicare generally covers elderly beneficiaries. Therefore, the Medicare population is usually sicker than the populations enrolled in commercial plans. Also, some services do not appear in Medicare claims data, like services paid for by Medicare managed care plans (Medicare Advantage) and prescription drugs administered during a hospital stay.

Why does this matter? Let’s say you are measuring the quality of care provided for a beneficiary with diabetes who is enrolled in Medicare Advantage; without all of the claims for this beneficiary, you might analyze provider performance incorrectly by stating a test (like an HbA1c test) was not performed, when in fact it was. My book provides a primer on the Medicare program and the foundations of subject matter expertise, setting you on the right track for accurate research and analysis.

Build experience by using real-world applications that can be applied to new work. Each chapter features exercises that challenge the reader to apply knowledge of the Medicare program to real-world programming tasks. By the time readers complete the book, they will be able to develop original programs that analyze and yield statistics on enrollment, costs, service use, and quality of care.

What’s more, the examples in the book can be modified for a variety of research tasks. For example, the reader can alter beneficiary enrollment requirements when selecting a population for analysis or swap out diabetes for congestive heart failure when studying chronic conditions. In other words, readers can perform their own original research using Medicare data based on the groundwork provided in the book.

Improve their skills regardless of programming level. The book is written for programmers at all levels. Beginners can use it as a template to program a project from beginning to end, whereas more advanced users can use it to create SAS algorithms that employ methodologies for answering common research questions. SAS users are encouraged to use SAS Programming with Medicare Administrative Data as a reference guide, leveraging the included examples to address more complex real-world programming tasks.

The Medicare research field will continue to change rapidly. My hope is that SAS Programming with Medicare Administrative Data will prepare the new generation of SAS programmers to continue to provide high quality, informative research in this dynamic environment.

Matthew Gillingham is the director of health research systems at Mathematica Policy Research.

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Artisan crafted SAS programs

Madison Avenue has a new phrase to describe the things they are trying to sell to us: artisan crafted.  These days, there are artisan crafted breads and rolls, artisan crafted beers, artisan crafted coffees, artisan crafted soaps, and a host of other artisan crafted products.  Artisan crafted seems to have taken over from the word “scratch.”  There was a time when it seemed like every commercial wanted you to know that their products were “made from scratch”; many of them made from scratch daily.  While many of the same products are likely still made from scratch, apparently they are now done so by crafted artisans.

Dictionary.com (www.dictionary.com) defines artisan as:

  1. a person skilled in an applied art; a craftsperson.
  2. a person or company that makes a high-quality or distinctive product in small quantities, usually by hand or using traditional methods: our favorite local food artisans.

And, we don’t need a dictionary to know that “crafted” means fashioned, or created, or made.

So, what does this have to do with SAS?  Well, when you think about it, the SAS programs that you write from scratch are actually artisan crafted.  Sound a bit farfetched?  Think about it.

You use your personal knowledge of SAS to hand-craft a new program.  That program has to be specifically tailored to input the unique shape of the incoming data; whether it is stored in SAS data sets, tables from a relational data base, flat files, or spreadsheets.  The program must be precisely written to subset, sort, merge, or summarize the data as required.  The program needs to be customized to perform the particular calculations detailed in the specifications either in DATA steps or within SAS procedures.  The program has to be custom-made to get the fully processed data into the proper shape for output. Then, the program needs to be fashioned to produce the distinctive result set specified by your users; whether it is a report produced via the Output Delivery System, a SAS data set, or a data set in a different format.

Come on; stop smiling; it’s true!  If you have been programming in SAS for a while, then your SAS programs are indeed artisan crafted.  If you don’t think so, then make it a point to start giving them your own distinctive flair.

You can include artful touches in the programs you write that express both your own unique outlook and your own SAS craftsmanship.  Perhaps it is in the way that you construct a comment block at the top of a program.  Maybe it is how you use the SQL procedure to sort and merge instead of using PROC SORT and a DATA step.  Possibly, it is in the clever way that you macrotize a complicated program so it can be used by your colleagues.  Or, it may be the way that you adroitly use PROC REPORT in conjunction with the Output Delivery System to create professional-quality reports.  Whatever the case, your knowledge of SAS and your own unique perspective allow you to create SAS programs that are as distinct as you are.  So, be proud of your own SAS programming artistry the very next time you write a SAS program.

I hope you enjoyed reading this blog; it was artisan crafted!

Be sure to take a look at Michael Raithel's latest book How to Become a Top SAS Programmer.

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SAS author's tip: Reading excel files with the IMPORT procedure

The Little SAS BookThis week's SAS tip is from Lora Delwiche and Susan Slaughter's new edition of The Little SAS Book. This book, now in its fifth edition, has helped thousands and thousands of SAS users and is a must-have for any SAS book shelf. If you'd like to learn more about this dynamic duo of authors and their bestselling, fan-favorite book, visit our catalog.

The following excerpt is from SAS Press authors Lora Delwiche and Susan Slaughter's book “The Little SAS Book: A Primer, Fifth Edition” Copyright © 2012, SAS Institute Inc., Cary, North Carolina, USA. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED. (please note that results may vary depending on your version of SAS software).



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Pharming for authors

I’m headed to San Diego, June 1-4, for the annual PharmaSUG conference. PharmaSUG is the Pharmaceutical Industry SAS Users Group, consisting of professionals worldwide in the pharmaceutical and healthcare industries who use SAS software in their work.

I am representing SAS Publications in the Demo Room and would love to talk to you about your book ideas, whether you want to write your own book, review a book, or suggest a book idea. We are interested in publishing books that cover a variety of pharmaceutical topics. Even if you don’t have any interest in talking to me (although I am very phriendly), drop by and enjoy a special conference discount on books.

Stop by the Demo Room at PharmaSUG 2014 or email me if you'd like to set aside some time to talk. If you aren’t attending, no worries! We’d still love to hear from you. Email us and we’ll be in touch.

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Looking for authors at Analytics 2014

For the second year in a row, I am headed to the European Analytics conference. This year the conference will be held in Frankfurt, Germany, June 4-5. Last year’s conference was so informative. I learned more about SAS’ analytical power, and I talked to many customers about the books that SAS offers.

From a work perspective, I also talked with numerous folks who were interested in writing a SAS book. And I hope to do the same this year! My goal is to have 50 books under contract by the end of 2014. I expect the attendees in Frankfurt will help me with this goal. Last year’s audience was curious and eager to learn more about our publishing program.

I’ll be attending presentations, but also networking during the breaks and social events. I hope to meet as many people as possible. If you’re attending the conference and want to set up a time to meet, contact me today.

If you can’t make it to Frankfurt but want to know more about our publishing process, take a look at our publishing page. And when you’re ready to move forward, send those proposal materials to me. I look forward to hearing from everyone!


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SAS author's tip: Why think %locally?

SAS Macro Language MagicThis week's SAS tip is from Robert Virgile and his illuminating new book SAS Macro Language Magic: Discovering Advanced Techniques. Robert has 30 years of experience developing and teaching SAS classes. And his new book is filled with powerful programming techniques.

If you like this week's free excerpt, you can read more about SAS Macro Language Magic (including getting bonus content) here.

The following excerpt is from SAS Press author Robert Virgile's book “SAS Macro Language Magic: Discovering Advanced Techniques” Copyright © 2013, SAS Institute Inc., Cary, North Carolina, USA. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED. (please note that results may vary depending on your version of SAS software).




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There is more to using information than just the right technology

Aiman Zeid is the author of the new book, Business Transformation: A Roadmap for Maximizing Organizational Insights. Aiman heads Organizational Transformation Services for SAS Institute’s Global Business Consulting unit. He has helped numerous organizations on four continents evaluate their organizational maturity and readiness to deploy business analytics. In this Q&A, he tells us why he wrote the book, what he hopes organizations will gain from it and describes the biggest factors for successfully transforming an organization.

Business TransformationWhat prompted you to write this book?

Aiman Zeid (AZ): I’ve consulted with organizations around the globe and while each region has business and cultural differences, they all face the same challenges when it comes to using information to gain insight. They also tend to think the solution to every problem is a new technology. While technology might be needed, it doesn’t tend to produce tangible business value without a framework for successfully using and deploying it.

In the book you talk about the importance of people, process, technology and culture being in alignment. What does that mean?

(AZ): Think of each of these components as pillars that need to be the same height and strength. If you’ve got a house supported by four pillars and one of them is five feet long and the others are eight feet long, you’ve got an unusable house. If you’ve got great technology, but don’t have the people with the skills to use it, it’s useless. If you have great technology and people, but executives still make decisions on gut instinct, it’s still ineffective.

You suggest the Information Evolution Model (IEM) as a framework for transforming your organization. What is the IEM Model?

(AZ): IEM is a comprehensive organizational maturity model that has been developed by SAS. The model helps you determine where your organization is in terms of generating and using business insight to support decisions and validate strategies. There are five levels ranging from Individual to the Innovate Level.

What level are most organizations at today and where do organizations need to move to?

(AZ): Just from my consulting experience, I’d say most organizations are somewhere between the Departmental (silos) and Enterprise Levels. They bounce back and forth between what I call the Challenged and Foundational levels. Organizations showing signs of the challenged levels just can’t make much headway in using information to make decisions. These are organizations, for example, that have individuals or departments that use data and analytics. They might have some small successes, but without an enterprise wide view of the information and a commitment to use it throughout the organization it can’t really transform the organization. As for where organizations need to be: At minimum, they need to reach that enterprise wide level. That’s the foundational level.

When you talk about the enterprise-wide level, it makes one think of enterprise wide data warehouses or other types of technologies to get all data in one place.

(AZ): This isn’t about having one physical location for information. It is about making sure data is collected, integrated and used across the organization. Sales, marketing, manufacturing and accounting are all using the same data to make decisions.

It seems like a daunting task. If you wanted people to come away with two key messages from this book what would they be?

(AZ): The first is the need for executive sponsorship. This can’t be done without ongoing support from someone from the C-Level. I’m lucky in that for most of my consulting jobs I have access to these individuals and it makes a world of difference in terms of adopting this enterprise-wide view of data. The second thing is the role of a Center of Excellence in inching the organization up the IEM maturity model. I’ve also included some thoughts on how a CoE should not work. That alone should spark some debate.

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