Don’t “flyover” these MWSUG 2015 events!

MWSUG15The Midwest SAS Users Group (MWSUG) 2015 conference is almost here and there’s a lot to get excited about. The event takes place October 18-20 in Omaha, NE. If you haven’t already registered, regular registration has been extended through October 13th. The full conference agenda is now available. We hope you take advantage of this excellent opportunity to meet and share ideas with fellow SAS users in your region.

Even if you can’t join us this year in Omaha, you can still learn a lot from the conference. We’ll be posting the proceedings for this year shortly after the conclusion of the event at In the meantime, you can find hundreds of presentations from previous years (2006 to 2014) here as well – simply select the year under the heading “proceedings.”

So without further ado, here are five “can’t miss” events at MWSUG 2015:

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Five Major Enhancements of SAS Embedded Process for Hadoop for SAS 9.4 M3

The SAS In-Database Embedded Process is the key technology which enables the SAS® Scoring Accelerator, SAS® Code Accelerator, and SAS® Data Quality Accelerator products to function. The EP is the computation engine we place near the data, which reduces unnecessary data movement and speeds up processing and efficiency. The EP also allows products such as the SAS® Data Loader for Hadoop to work remotely with data and it provides the ability to read and write multiple streams of data concurrently.

The EP’s capabilities as part of SAS In-Database technology can vary from one supported data provider to another – as documented here. For this post, we’ll look closely at the SAS Embedded Process for Hadoop.

Alongside the release of SAS 9.4 Maintenance 3 in the summer of 2015, the EP was upgraded with new capabilities as well. The EP now brings more computation to the data by introducing support for new data providers and more analytic capabilities, all of which is delivered through improved installation procedures and running with a new execution architecture. Let’s take a closer look.

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Part 2: Auditing data access, who did what and when?

In my last blog, I demonstrated how to configure a SAS server to write a record to a log file showing who is opening, editing or renaming a SAS table. In this blog we will see how we can process that information. The documentation shows one way to do this via some SAS programs that will parse the log files and create reports.

SAS Environment Manager Service Architecture framework provides some other interesting techniques that we can use. SAS Environment Manager includes the ability to monitor log files and create events based on text that is written to the logs. Events are displayed in the Event Center within SAS Environment Manager and, if the service architecture framework is configured, are also fed to the SAS Environment Manager Data Mart.

By default, SAS Environment Manager monitors the log files for SAS servers and automatically creates events for error messages recorded in those logs. However, it is very easy to configure the log tracking to fire events as a result of other specific log entries.

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Good customer experience feels good all around

One of my new favorite activities is perusing the memorable transcripts from our Live Chat program.

Lida: Hi! Welcome to Live Chat! I'm here to help.
Lida: May I please have your name and company?
Visitor: My name is Bill Smith and I'm with ABC.
Visitor: how many offices do you have within the United States?
Visitor: I was just wondering.
Lida: Visit About SAS. There are several facts about SAS in this document, Bill.
Visitor: gee thanks Lida
Visitor: you sure are the best, do you want to get married?
Visitor: i know this seems rash and out of the blue
Visitor: but I really feel like we clicked here
Lida: Not really. Once is enough.

Our Live Chat program is an example of how SAS is improving customer experience. We know that customer experience is measured along three axes:

  • Success: was the customer's need met?
  • Effort: how easy was it for the customer to accomplish the task?
  • Emotion: how does the customer feel about the experience?

All three are critical, but it's the last one -- emotion -- that really sticks with you. Looking at Lida's chat above, I'd say the customer got what he needed with a small effort (chat is easy!), and what's more emotional than a marriage proposal? (Though I hope Bill wasn't heartbroken by the response.)

Live Chat -- an interaction that typically lasts only minutes -- can't solve every problem. While chat operators can resolve many issues (even technical questions!), some challenges require deeper engagement. Thankfully, SAS Technical Support has earned its tremendous reputation for customer service. They resolve almost every problem (Success win!) and customers usually like the interaction and feel good about the result (Emotion win!). But here's the untold secret about Technical Support: working through a track requires work -- obviously for SAS staff, but also for the customer. Explaining your problem, working through a back-and-forth conversation to narrow the issues that finally lead to resolution -- that requires Effort.

Self-serve is satisfying.

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For some types of problems, this effort is exactly what's required. Customers do not mind putting effort into solving difficult problems. But for many challenges -- for those "How do I" type of questions -- a self-serve approach is more satisfying. That's why the SAS Support Communities site is so popular.

We've recently relaunched with a new look and lots of new features -- features designed to make the site more fun (like badges and new ranks) while also making it easier to find your answers. This helps you to achieve Success (find the correct answer) with less Effort, and we hope leaves you with a positive Emotion when you accomplish your task.

You can make a difference, and feel good about it.

Here's an interesting question: can a customer feel good about a customer experience that doesn't actually solve his or her problem? This is where the SASWare Ballot comes in. The SASWare Ballot is our way of listening to customers and acting on their suggestions. If your problem isn't easily solved today and requires a change in SAS software, the ballot allows you to make a difference for yourself and for your fellow SAS users. Just knowing that you're being heard, even if your challenge remains for today, can still be satisfying. Especially if you've been a customer for a while and have watched SAS software improve based on customer suggestions.

For example, no one was more pleased than I was when SAS Enterprise Guide added this new feature for copying process flows. (After all, I'm a SAS user too!) It was captured as a Ballot idea back in 2014, received many votes, and was delivered in the latest release. This is just one of hundreds of ideas that began with a few customers and resulted in improvements that benefit all customers.

Today happens to be National Customer Experience Day, but that isn't so different from other days at SAS, where our customers are a constant focus. Here's to your greater success, with less effort, and more good feelings all around!

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SESUG veterans on the value of attending a SAS users event

DePeySchlegelmilchIf you’re looking to advance your knowledge and your career, few activities are better than attending a professional conference, where new ideas, best practice discovery and networking opportunities abound. For many SAS users, regional user group meetings provide a forum to learn from other users and meet successful professionals in their field. Since SAS users events are powered by volunteers, there are a number of great growth opportunities available through volunteering as well.

To learn more about the benefits of attending a SAS users event, the Users Groups Programs Team chatted with Venita DePuy, 2015 SESUG chair and Gary Schlegelmilch, SESUG treasurer, about their first SESUG experience, what inspired them to dedicate their free time in order to keep the organization going and why first-time attendees are so valuable.

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Auditing data access: who did what and when?

SAS Administrators are frequently asked to log and report on which users are accessing SAS tables. This functionality is often requested by companies who, for regulatory compliance, need to track who is accessing data.  In my next couple of blogs I will show how you can audit data access. In this first blog we will look at logging which users have accessed SAS tables.

The obvious first step in this process is to capture the relevant information. In the simplest case we would want to record the user, the table, and the date and time that the table was accessed. Fortunately, we have at our disposal the SAS Logging Facility. The facility is a flexible, configurable framework that you can use to collect, categorize, and filter events and write them to a variety of output devices.

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Competition gives students a chance to shine at SAS Global Forum 2016

SmallGraphicFor students interested in a career in analytics, there’s no better preparation than solving real-world problems using “big data” sets. At SAS Global Forum 2016, students will have an opportunity to showcase their analytical skills by competing in the SAS Student Symposium. The symposium, a new initiative of the SAS Global Users Group Executive Board (SGUGEB) and SAS, is a competition where teams of students and a faculty mentor will access “big” public data sets to answer a question of their choice using SAS software.

I recently sat down with SGUGEB member Kenneth Koonce to learn more about the symposium and how it benefits students and the analytics community.

Larry LaRusso: The SAS Student Symposium sounds like a really great opportunity for students. Can you tell us a little about the competition?

Koonce_2013Kenneth Koonce: The Student Symposium is a tremendous opportunity for students to demonstrate their skills and expertise in extracting meaningful information from masses of data. Teams of between two and four students, along with a faculty advisor, will define a problem and then, utilizing SAS, execute appropriate analysis to solve that problem. They'll then need to submit a formal paper describing the problem, the methodology, results and conclusion. Submissions will be evaluated and ranked by a panel of analytics professionals. The top eight teams will then compete in the finals with oral presentations at SAS Global Forum in Las Vegas in April.

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Presenting at SAS Global Forum 2016 - Is my idea good enough?

SmallGraphicSo you have an idea for a presentation for SAS Global Forum 2016. The idea isn’t earth shattering, but you did figure out how to do something cool in SAS. Still, you have a moment of pause. Questions abound. “Is it good enough? Should I submit it to the Call for Content? If I do, what is the likelihood of it being approved?” I asked myself these same questions when first thinking about submitting a presentation. When users ask me whether they should submit a topic for consideration, my answer is always the same: “Go for it! Your approach and how you used SAS to answer a question or implement a solution may be just what someone in the audience needs to learn.”

Improving your odds of acceptance

In the past few years, the acceptance rate of submitted papers has been around 55%. (This varies based on the number of submissions in a given topic area.) There are things that content reviewers look for in a submission. Your submission will have a better chance of being approved if it has:

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It's all good at SESUG 2015 - What not to miss

SESUG2015Savannah plays host to the 23rd annual SouthEast SAS Users Group (SESUG) conference from Sept. 27 to Sept. 29. Over 300 attendees are expected to gather in this historic city. If you’re planning to attend, I’ve selected a few special features that I hope will help both new and returning attendees make the most of their conference experience. If you can't make it to this year's event, proceedings will be published online shortly after the conference. And, you can always search the entire archive of SESUG Proceedings (from 1999 to 2014) for the awesome talks presented at past conferences.

So let's jump right in. Not to miss happenings at SESUG this year include:

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Specifying Unicode values and colors easier with PROC SGPLOT and GTL

ProblemSolversMany users of ODS Graphics will be excited to learn that, beginning with SAS® 9.4 TS1M3, SG procedures are able to recognize formatted values that contain Unicode values. One benefit of this is that it allows you to include, without using annotation, special symbols such as greater-than-or-equal-to signs or Greek characters in your axis tick-mark values. You have also asked for syntax which can more easily assign colors to your graphs without having to define a style using PROC TEMPLATE. In this blog, we take a closer look at syntax that you can use to accomplish both of these tasks for PROC SGPLOT. We'll also discuss syntax that produces similar results with the Graph Template Language (GTL).

Recognizing Formatted Values That Contain Unicode

For example purposes, I want to produce a box plot that looks at the levels of cholesterol across patient ages. My program, below, uses a data set called sashelp.heart, which contains values for each patient’s age at the start.

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