I’ve been to a fair number of SAS User Group International (SUGI) and SAS Global Forum conferences over the years, but I don’t think I’ve been to one as productive, well-organized and fun as this year’s conference in Washington DC. Part of what made the conference very relevant for many of the record number of attendees was the significant number of papers, presentations and demonstrations geared to the SAS Administrators and IT professionals who support SAS users.
One extremely popular session was the SAS Administration Panel session on Monday morning. Margaret Crevar, whom many of you know as a regular contributor to the SAS Administrators blog series, was the moderator of a lively discussion that ranged from managing metadata for large numbers of users to questions about security to monitoring SAS usage. The panelists, Michael Raithel, Senior Systems Analyst at Westat and author of several valuable SAS books, Paul Homes, founder of Metacoda and specialist in SAS Platform Administration, and three members of SAS R&D provided helpful and practical responses.
The other administration- and IT-focused sessions I attended were also full to capacity, and I was pleased to see a comfortably full room for my own presentation, A Guide to SAS for the IT Organization. Based on a show of hands, the attendees were about evenly split between IT staff, SAS administrators, and those who perform both IT and administration tasks.
One presentation of particular interest to me addressed a way for IT and business users to collaborate through the creation of a dashboard built and deployed with SAS® Visual Analytics. The process, outlined by the authors Michelle Homes and Tricia Aanderud, involves determining which metrics the dashboard users will want to monitor, designing the dashboard, collecting the data and using the SAS Visual Analytics Designer to create the dashboard. I asked Michelle to summarize her paper for me, and this is what she sent me in an email I received after the conference:
In line with bringing SAS Shop and IT folk together, Tricia Aanderud and I gave a presentation at SAS Global Forum 2014 on why SAS® Admins Need a Dashboard, Too. Our presentation was about overcoming the invisible barrier between business users and SAS Admins/IT folk to build a SAS Visual Analytics dashboard that monitors an existing SAS Enterprise Business Intelligence (EBI) environment.
We showed that by getting SAS Admins and the business to work cooperatively to build a SAS environment usage dashboard, both teams can benefit from its ongoing monitoring and management of user activity, SAS business assets (data, metadata, stored processes, reports, and so on) and system performance. The presentation goes through a journey of a new department rollout, from design principles to consider when developing a SAS Visual Analytics dashboard to finding the data, bringing it into SAS Visual Analytics, building the dashboard and monitoring it over time. We presented the dashboard in SAS Visual Analytics 6.3 and used Metacoda software and Visual Analytics Explorer for some additional analysis and insight, uncovering some interesting user actions.
Tricia and I could easily relate to the business versus admin team focus with our own journey in writing the paper: Tricia based in the US, primarily worked on the dashboard and myself in Australia, focused on the administration and analytic components and we had additional challenges such as time-zones and language (more in this pre-conference article by Tricia).
At our presentation we enthusiastically showed how to combine the data management and visualization savviness of the BI developer with the planning and system management of the SAS administrator, keeping the audience interested throughout the 50 minute talk and ending it by giving away a pair of pink fluffy dice that completed our dashboard. Through the responses we received such as “I didn't know this was possible" to "this is what we need,” our presentation seemed to instill an air of opportunities and ideas for both business users and SAS administrators.
If you were able to attend SAS Global Forum, I hope you found it as valuable as I did. Check out Margaret Crevar’s SAS Administrators in their natural habitat blog post from April 9 for a complete list of administration and IT-focused papers and presentations at this year’s conference. Share your thoughts about this great assortment of relevant papers and your experience at SAS Global Forum. I look forward to hearing them!