In this blog series, Humans of SAS Services, we're highlighting some of the people who make our customers successful – our experts in the field at SAS Services. Our goal is to give you a feel for the human side of SAS, apart from the features and functions of our software. After all, it’s the people who make our company click.
For this post, I interviewed Alfred Mukudu, a senior manager for services delivery in Africa. Alfred is a tinkerer who thrives at the intersection of people and technology, building motivated teams and working with organizations to be better. A customer-centric IT delivery manager, he has more than 12 years’ experience in IT project management and hands-on experience in digital transformation, technology implementations, and strategy execution across the health, commercial real estate and banking industries.
Tell me a little about your team. Where are you located (what regions do you cover) and what are some of the backgrounds of people on your team?
My team is based mostly out of Johannesburg and consists of nine individuals. Six are technical architects and three are in the role of consulting. We’re responsible for covering the entire African continent, and that keeps us very busy. We have almost 50 active projects with customers right now that encompass a full range of needs related to fraud, risk, customer intelligence and – broadly – analytics.
As far as service offerings, we have expertise in three main areas. These include:
- Product configurations.
- Solution implementations that involve determining the right solution components and how they will work in a customer’s environment.
- And managed application services that are customized for our customers.
And in terms of my team’s background… well, that has been key to why our customers are successful. Not only do my team members have a deep understanding of multiple industries and technologies – we also have experienced extremely low turnover in SAS Consulting. On my team alone, we have more than 80 years of combined SAS experience.
Digital transformation seems to be what all customers are talking about today. What are you hearing out in the field, and what seems to be some of their goals?
This touches on why working on the African continent is so great – it’s a massive continent and the diversity of customer issues is exciting. When it comes to the topic of digital transformation, we are seeing essentially two types of customers.
- Starter companies. Those I call “starter companies” are in the serious research phase. This phase involves gathering as much information as possible to see how digital transformation can benefit their organization. These starters are asking for our expertise and guidance around cloud migration, advanced analytics to potentially reduce costs and capture new customers, and very defined AI use cases.
- Innovators. I refer to the second group as “innovators.” These innovators include companies that have been using advanced analytics for a while. They’re starting to ask questions around model interpretability, ethical artificial intelligence and how to most effectively put models into production.
While both types of customers keep us busy, most of my team’s work is with starter companies. In our global situation with the pandemic, travel is not happening and organizations have realized they can’t succeed without a strong digital transformation model. It has been heartening (to say the least) to see even those organizations that are in the early stages aggressively moving toward transformation.
Being able to access and consume more data from more sources (big data) is critical to doing more with analytics. How has your team guided customers to effectively harness all this new data and operationalize it for analytics?
My team sees a lot of maturity from customers in terms of how far along they are with data management – functions like ETL, data wrangling and data quality. What we’re seeing now is that customers want to know more about their total data footprint. Our customers have a lot of trust in the data they control, but not in the data sources outside of their control.
When you consider the number of data sources that are becoming available, silos start to form. So, when you’re moving to the cloud, those silos and duplicate data could cost a lot of money. Simple lifting and shifting of data to and from the cloud can mean spending a lot of money. Organizations need to keep that to a minimum.
One example of a service we’re offering right now is providing a total cost of ownership from a SAS platform and data perspective. We look at all the ways SAS is being used across the enterprise and what the cost would be to move it all to the cloud – with the final goal being cost reduction.
In short, the conversations and engagements we’re having aren’t around “can you perform data management tasks?” Instead, they’re about how you as an organization are looking at your enterprise data functions. These functions range from how to protect privacy, to how you can manage duplicate copies of data to avoid quadrupling cloud storage and cloud movement costs.
Finally, what do you think makes consulting services from SAS unique?
Two things come to mind right away. First, extremely good technical competence. My team finds that many of our customers have been to the major consulting firms to get broad guidance on strategy and digital transformation – so they enter conversations with us after they have an educated opinion of where to go.
They engage SAS for our guidance and expertise on what technology fits the strategy they have in mind. This is where our technical aptitude with SAS becomes a major asset. Whether it’s digital transformation, analytics, machine learning or something else, our technical competence is vital for customers when they want to move from planning to production.
The second thing that makes us unique is our dedication to the customer. I’m proud of my team’s passion, curiosity and the care they have for our customers and their success. When lockdowns began due to COVID-19, our team found new and innovative ways to continue to advise customers, even when we couldn’t go onsite to their locations. Our customers have been so kind and understanding during these times. This means a lot to us – and we’re happy that we can be available when our customers need us most.Learn more about SAS Services