Increasing IT’s awareness of SAS: A few good practices


The IT WhispererEveryone loves Top Ten lists. These lists continue to be a highlight on David Letterman’s Late Show, they’re a staple for identifying the best songs, best movies, and best (or worst) of everything else. In fact, if you search for “Top Ten” on Google, you get nearly two billion hits. This blog post could certainly have been titled “Top Ten Ways to Increase IT’s awareness of the value of SAS,” but I’m expecting the list to be much longer than ten with your additional suggestions and comments.

As mentioned in the first post of this series, Why Can’t I Talk to IT, one of the reasons IT lacks awareness about the value of SAS is IT’s different set of priorities. IT considers SAS to be just another application that they must maintain and operationalize, but since SAS looks and acts differently than other applications, it might even cause some unappreciated extra effort in the data center. How can you make this extra effort seem worthwhile?

Highlight the mission.
Is IT aware of how SAS advances your company’s mission? If you are a pharmaceutical company and your mission is to develop safe and effective compounds and devices to combat illness, it’s likely that SAS is used to test and validate their effectiveness and analyze clinical trial results prior to FDA approval. If you are an energy company and your mission is to provide safe, reliable, and affordable electricity, oil, or gas to your regional subscribers, then you may be using SAS to assess risk, determine cost, and minimize outages and supply shortages. As a retailer striving to provide your customers with the most varied and innovative line of merchandise at an affordable price, SAS could be determining price points, keeping track of inventory, and designing marketing campaigns. IT’s mission is specifically focused around a smoothly-running data center, but it is beneficial to highlight the bigger corporate mission and how SAS and IT, in partnership, play a part in it.

Say it with numbers.
IT loves metrics. Make sure to present information about SAS’ impact on the corporate mission and the competitive advantage SAS provides in numeric terms, such as in a year-over-year change. Fraud is down 5%. Sales are up 8%. Campaign targeting has improved 12%. Maintenance costs dropped by $1.2 million. In fact, numbers like this can be used for other good purposes, like when you’re making a case to your boss for a promotion or a raise!

Find a common goal.
Another set of metrics that can fire up the IT organization, and benefit the SAS community at the same time, is performance metrics, and especially how IT can make changes in the data center to improve them. At an in-house SAS Users Group meeting I attended in mid-September, members of the IT organization shared the impressive news with the participants:  the number of SAS users and submitted jobs have both increased, but thanks to a significant review and modification of the environment, response time and job completion time have both decreased. The IT guys were obviously very pleased with their efforts and were inspired to do even more, and the SAS users remarked that they were seeing the benefit of the tweaking. The common goal of a better SAS environment is a great way to get Business and IT working together.

Get to know each other.
Wait – did I say that there were members of the IT organization at the SAS User Group meeting, and that they were presenters? Is IT invited to your user group meetings? If not, perhaps they should be. IT members will learn more about SAS and put a face to the mass of “SAS Users” they support, and the SAS users will, in turn, put a face to “IT,” the folks who keep the systems running and who oversee the data.

Lend a hand.
Speaking of metrics, here’s an interesting idea shared by a friend at a Healthcare provider organization. She occasionally assists IT by using SAS to help them manipulate and analyze streams of data from their communication systems. They’re always surprised by how quickly and easily she can get the job done, and in turn she is doing her part to demonstrate the value SAS can play in critical day-to-day tasks.

Be part of the solution.
Another idea is to share information about the steps you take to get your work done. For example, if the process to acquire data for analysis is very convoluted, say so: “I have to put in a request for exactly which columns of data I want, and for which time frame, with approvals from my boss and her boss at least a week before I want to build my model. And if I make a mistake or need to modify my request, the fulfillment can take even more than a week.” “I have to talk to the owners of all three data stores in order to get the complete selection of data I need.” Describing the situation and the hardships it involves (and the expense of time lost as a result) may lead to changes in how things are done. Amazing as it seems, IT may not even know about the hardship.  Hint: come to the discussion with some reasonable ways to address the problem. As a former manager of mine once told me: “you can complain about anything you want, but be prepared to provide some solutions to the problem, too!”

Help yourself.
Similarly, minor changes made by the business users can have a huge impact, and may make it easier for IT to support you. For example, long-running jobs really should be submitted in batch mode and not interactively; long-running jobs scheduled for off-hours may not take as long to run while there is less traffic on the system, and will not negatively impact resources during work hours. Adjustments on both sides can sometimes lead to mutually beneficial results.

The flip side of sharing the business challenges with IT is listening to IT’s challenges. Do you know what they are? For example, how is the IT organization measured? What are their constraints? What are their priorities and concerns? Willingness to be flexible and to adapt to IT’s constraints and schedule may actually ease bottlenecks, as mentioned above.

There are a number of suggestions here for sharing the value of SAS with IT. I’ve got plenty more, and I’ll share them in subsequent posts. But in the meantime, let me know what has worked for you. 


About Author

Lisa Horwitz

Partner Enablement Manager

Lisa Horwitz has talked with thousands of SAS users, IT personnel, and executives in her 29 years at SAS. First as an instructor, then in Sales and the Customer Loyalty organization and now in Global Alliances and Channels, Lisa has always enjoyed hearing people say “I understand!”


  1. Unfortunately, when IT discovered our existence, we went from getting a question from the business folks, querying the data warehouse and munging the data into the information the business needed with a turnaround of usually less than 24 hours, to an environment of
    write the algorithms necessary;
    identify the databases to be accessed;
    inform IT of these databases and the data we will be accessing, and the kinds of errors that we will see (!!)
    let IT populate the development databases with this data
    test our programs
    have IT transfer them from the development environment to production.
    Hard to do all that in under 24 hours. And of course, when the client asks for a date change or similar; back to square one.

    • Lisa Horwitz

      Has the Business complained about this change in response time? It seems like they must have - any chance they can rally for you by requesting that things go back to the way your team used to handle things? It's hard to understand why IT would purposely want to make things more complicated and convoluted, except as a way to control the process of returning results to Business. So sorry to hear about this - thank you for posting.

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