I’ve read - and heard - that SAS spoils its employees. I’ve been at SAS for six months, and it’s true. A great example is the training. Earlier this week, I was invited to attend a SAS® Hands-On Workshop. The workshop is actually designed for customers, but open to everyone. It’s one of five in a series called How to Compete on Analytics: Try It. The series introduces participants to SAS solutions in:
- Business intelligence
- BI visualization
- Data integration
- Data mining
I went to the BI Hands-On Workshop to get a better understanding of the language that my readers and SAS sales people speak. The workshops are designed for people like me, so there were answers for:
- Business users who are perplexed by a business need and are making the final vendor evaluation.
- Current SAS users who are contemplating additional licenses – sort of a “try it before you buy it.”
- SAS resellers who want a deeper understanding of the software capabilities and SAS education opportunities.
The half-day course flew by. Our instructor, Kari Richardson, walked us through a business scenario for a fictitious chocolate manufacturer (too bad it wasn’t M&M’s). I’m not a programmer, and I’ll probably never use SAS software, but the class helped me see that anyone who can use a desktop computer with Microsoft Word and Microsoft Excel can point and click through this software. At the end of the morning, I had learned so much about the SAS Business Intelligence platform that I wanted to go back to my office and analyze something!
I had the chance to speak to two other participants, Sam Vyas, Director of Business Development for Reporting House; and Lou Gardiner-Parks, Vice President of Card Services, Customer Assistance Strategies for Bank of America. Both men were in the class for very different reasons. Vyas represents a SAS reseller and consultancy. He needed a clearer understanding of the capabilities of the BI platform so that he could sit down and talk to prospects about the software and education support that SAS gives to its customers. Vyas had to leave the classroom once for a conference call and was easily able to pick up where he’d left off because of the thoroughness of the workshop materials and the usability of the point-and-click interface.
Gardiner-Parks has been a SAS user for 12 years. He’s got plenty of experience as a programmer. Now, he’s taking his technical acumen to his senior business role to truly integrate the business side with IT. “My role is as a go between,” he said. According to Gardiner-Parks, the business-IT challenge isn’t necessarily the biggest one. He’s trying to bring disparate data sources together from across one of the largest financial institutions in the world.
Bank of America, known before 1999 as NationsBank, has continued its history of growth.
- Jan. 1, 2006 - closed the deal on the merger with credit card giant MBNA.
- Nov. 20, 2006 - announced the purchase of The United States Trust Company.
- Sept. 14, 2007 - won approval to acquire ABN AMRO North America, LaSalle Bank Corp. and LaSalle Corporate Finance.
- July 1, 2008 - announced the purchase of Countrywide Financial.
- Sept. 14, 2008 - announced its intentions to purchase Merrill Lynch & Co. Inc.
That growth is part of what led Gardiner-Parks to the BI Hands-On Workshop. “The bank has so much information - credit card transactions alone equal billions each day,” Gardiner-Parks said. “One example of a business problem that we are facing is that the call centers want business reporting capability, but I want more interactive reporting capability.”
Gardiner-Parks’ role is to take a look at the bank’s SAS licenses and decide what will need to be added to get the job done. After our workshop, he said that he has a better idea of the classes that he still wants to take and the tools that he and the bank will need.
I can’t speak for everyone who took the class, but Vyas, Gardiner-Parks and I got what we needed. And I had a great time learning more about the SAS solutions. Unfortunately, there aren’t any more Try It workshops scheduled for 2008, but you can take a look at the Try It series, and you can also look at the other training where you and I can be spoiled!