Why standard ETL tools are not designed to support analytics

IT folks love SQL (Standard Query Language). Once you know how to program in SQL, you can work with almost any database because it is a standard.  However, SQL is NOT a standard for doing analytics. The SAS programming language pre-dates SQL and even though SAS does SQL, SQL does not do SAS.

SQL is a programming language designed for managing data held in a relational database management system.  SAS is a programming language designed to access data stored in any format, prepare it for analysis, perform analytics, and deliver insights and results based on this analysis.

Why is this important? Because when you move into the analytics world, SQL alone will just not cut it.

The decision to use "standard" ETL tools (which are SQL based) to support analytic environments and analytically derived data sources causes many headaches for IT, for business and ultimately for the organization as a whole. It can also limit what type of analytics can be used effectively and raises the overall risk of failure for analytic based initiatives or projects. In fact, one of the reasons "shadow IT" programs crop up in business units is because the data scientist types understand analytics preparation and exploration means more than what SQL has to offer.

Why is the typical ETL tool not the best choice for preparing data for analytics exploration and analysis? Let's look at a typical scenario.

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Women in Hollywood IT, start your analytics engines!

sashollywoodI had the privilege of attending the inaugural Women in Hollywood IT Society (WHITS) meeting this past week in LA. The meeting was hosted by the Media and Entertainment Services Alliance (MESA) with lots of organization from two female IT executives from Sony Pictures. Sony Pictures already has a Women in Technology group and initiated expanding this to their peers. In attendance were 130 plus IT executives (primarily women) from the various Hollywood studios plus participants from technology vendors and systems integrators.

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At SAS, healthy employees = healthy business

For 38 years, SAS CEO Jim Goodnight has run this company by a simple philosophy:  Treat employees like they make a difference and they will. It was with that philosophy in mind 30 years ago that SAS opened the doors to its on-site healthcare center – with just one employee.

Celebrating its 30th anniversary this week, the SAS Health Care Center (HCC) now has a 53-member staff – including 10 family nurse practitioners, four family practice physicians, three nutritionists, 11 nurses, five medical lab technologists, one psychologist and three physical therapists – all committed to keeping employees healthy, happy and productive.

happyemployeesFor three decades, the SAS Health Care Center has strived to make it as easy as possible for employees and their families to have their health care needs met and get their job done without sacrificing either. Its focus has always been to change lives for the better in a relaxed family-friendly atmosphere that focuses on building strong, trusting patient-provider relationships.

And, trust is apparent – as evidenced by the 90% of SAS global headquarters employees who use HCC services. Seventy-five percent of employees and 50% of their family members currently designate the HCC as their primary care medical home.

SAS is consistently recognized as a leader in workplace culture, and people continue to be surprised at the environment we provide for our employees. What actually surprises us is why more businesses don’t do the same. Not only is it the right thing to do, but it also just makes good business sense.

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Wake me up before you go (go)

If you recognize this 1984 Wham! hit then you also recall girls in ties and blazers, guys in leisure suits, gas for $1.10 a gallon and seeing The Karate Kid at the Cineplex for $2.50 (at night!).

Jimmie_Bldg_D

SAS Health Care's first FNP Jimmie Butts in 1985

If you think music and fashion were suspect thirty years ago, consider SAS’ (then) novel idea to open an onsite health care center with—gasp!—a nurse practitioner. Nurse practitioners were pretty new to North Carolina in 1984, but an increasingly recognized and popular health care provider across the country in a movement that swept from Colorado to the east coast. FNP Jimmie Butts was hired in April 1984 and spent the first 3 months planning for and outfitting the space allotted on the ground floor of Bldg. L and chatting up the 200 or so employees who came to Bldg. B for lunch. From that elementary market research came the soil and seed from which our current Health Care Center grew and flourished. Jimmie was an excellent grower of people and ideas.  She worked her special magic for 10 years and retired in 1994.

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Innovation at the (grid) edge

Ask a utility executive about “the utility of the future” and you’re likely to get as many different answers as people you speak to.  Whether they’re energy service providers, customer energy advocates or masters of microgrids, the mechanism for maintaining utility revenues is uncertain.

At a recent meeting of the GridEdge Executive Council, we prioritized a list of the top 5 disruptive forces that could affect the utility business and shake up “business as usual.”  These are the five issues that rose to the top of the list: Read More »

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Beyond sensing and shaping... Beyond supply and demand

What is your primary goal as a supply chain professional? It’s not about demand sensing, demand shaping or even supply planning and demand planning. At the end of the day, it’s about profit optimization. Albeit important, demand sensing and shaping are only a piece of the equation and if isolated, decisions can be detrimental. You can manipulate demand and send it skyrocketing, but destroy your profits and your customer service. You can increase your supply and create a glut of inventory. You can improve your supply and demand of the “wrong” product and sub optimize your profits.

In a previous post I discussed the importance of demand sensing and shaping within the context of improving supply chain performance. With these activities, profit optimization is really the main objective.

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You snooze, you lose.....

This was probably my favorite of the myth-busters webcasts I have been spewing about, and now I definitely want to meet James Dallas so we can discuss and nod emphatically at each other’s insights on this topic!

The “You can’t have analytics without IT” myth is the fourth myth covered in the webcast series that busts four analytics myths. The series features Keith Collins SAS CIO and James Dallas, former CIO of Medtronic. It also features interview clips from IT peers in multiple industries.

As I've stated before, with technology being so prevalent in every line of business, as well as in our personal lives, today's IT leaders have to come to the table with more than just geek knowledge.  The IT leader must understand how to drive significant change with technology as an enabler. But the change management required to move to a data driven analytics culture is much more difficult – and important.

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Series: Understanding analytics' role in BCBS 239 - Conclusion

Three months ago, I introduced the SAS series on the Principles of BCBS 239 written by my colleagues.  We wrote the series to help banks in their compliance with the Principles of BCBS 239.

An integrative, consistent process reaching across all banking disciplines is now the desired goal of many banks primarily due to the advent of BCBS 239. Today's high-performance technologies offer all the capabilities not only to support effective risk data aggregation and risk reporting, but also to implement it in a truly cost-effective way. Adopting such technologies is the only reliable and fast way to achieve genuine competitive advantages, and SAS can help you do just that.

The 14 Principles of BCBS 239

The 14 Principles of BCBS 239

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Solving the scholastic chess facilitation puzzle

Young digital natives are learning chess at an unprecedented rate. Three-year-olds learn chess from the tablet and quickly become more knowledgeable than their parents. But unlike most tablet games, chess is a gateway to Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) education. We grown-ups must optimize the chess-to-STEM pipeline, but how?

Consider this scenario -- you are helping out at a local elementary school chess club. You hear a tussle at one of the boards. It’s two of the second graders. The conflict: is it checkmate? An easy question if you are an avid chess player, but what if you are not? There is so much demand for scholastic chess that there are not enough experienced chess facilitators to go around.

Could technology help? Here are some forward-looking possibilities: Read More »

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Data visualization dos and don’ts

Data visualization tools are a great way to create impactful reports.  A well designed report can give users an understanding of their data quickly and easily.  And with tools like SAS® Visual Analytics, users can now quickly visualize and understand vast amounts of data.  However, with all the visualization options available within these tools, creating a report that quickly and effectively delivers information can be a daunting task.  This is especially true for those users new to creating these types of reports.

Recently I was working with a group of SAS Visual Analytics customers who were fairly new to creating reports using visualization tools.  While they had been creating reports in other tools, especially Excel, they struggled with how to leverage a data visualization tool.  They were excited by the sheer number of visualization options available to them, but they quickly fell into the trap of trying to do too much in a single report.

In order to continue on with their report creation, we had to take a step back and start with some ground rules.  This process led to the following list of Do’s and Don’ts.  While this is in no way meant to be an exhaustive or all-inclusive list, it is a great foundation to help guide report creation. Read More »

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