Building trust in the cloud with Bryan Harkola


By definition, managed application services require a high degree of trust. After all, you’re paying someone else to manage your business applications and, in many cases, your data. To help establish that trust, we want to introduce you to our managed application services team – and have them answer some of your questions about our hosted and remote managed services.

Bryan Harkola, Head of Managed Application Services

If you’re considering a move to the SAS Cloud, we want you to know the faces behind the services that SAS offers.

Meet Bryan Harkola, Head of Managed Application Services.  Bryan sets service delivery standards for SAS hosted or remotely managed services.  Leading a global delivery team, Bryan wants to help you maximize the value of your investment in SAS Software.  Bryan focuses on delivery excellence and superior customer experience. When he’s not at work, Bryan is passionate about learning new skills – from woodworking to robotics. If he isn’t spending time with his wife and three kids he is typically working on a project in his workshop.

Why do you think customers look to the SAS Cloud to host and manage their solutions?

I’ve been helping SAS host solutions in the SAS Cloud now for going on 10 years. Customers pick the SAS Cloud for many reasons, but they really look to us to keep their SAS software running and performant.  By choosing the SAS Cloud you’re trusting us with the security and integrity of your data. Data security and integrity has changed significantly in the time I’ve worked in this space. But our intention is to continue to meet and surpass requirements from some of the world’s most demanding organizations, so you can focus on getting the most from your investment.

If issues arise, you can rely on our teams to resolve any issues based on proven IT service management processes, which are built up and honed from over 20 years of hosting solutions in the cloud.  You can focus on the day job and let us be responsible and accountable for the running and availability of your SAS software.  Who better to administer SAS and host your SAS offering than us?

By choosing the SAS Cloud, you then only have one organization to deal with.  We retain responsibility for everything, so you don’t have multiple organizations to engage with.  It just makes life much simpler.

I think its important everyone understands the difference between a managed application service and software as a service.  Customization and configurability are the main differences.  Software as service offerings are more aligned with off the shelf offerings. Whereas, managed application services are highly customizable.  This means we have experience in hundreds of SAS solutions, as well as support for customers that require highly complex/customized, compliant and regulated solutions.

Can you help us understand the teams involved in the support and assistance with a Managed Application Service?

Our premium service in the SAS Cloud includes support for infrastructure through the delivery of any SAS solution.  This is our hosted managed service.  If, however, you would prefer to keep the data behind your firewall we can provide a remotely managed service.

From the start, whether you choose a hosted or remotely managed service, everyone receives implementation support to get your project installed and delivered to the ongoing service and support teams.  On day one, a Technical Account Manager (TAM) is assigned, who acts as your primary point of contact for all communication with us at SAS.  The TAM really acts as your champion, understanding what success looks like for you and helps drive value.  They work internally with project managers, SAS Admins, Customer Tech Leads, ETL experts and automation teams to ensure a smooth delivery of the base installation and configuration of the SAS Solution.

Once SAS is setup, we often turn the system over to SAS consulting teams or partners who provide additional value add services.  Once the implementation is complete, the team moves into operational mode.  We provide a single Service Level Agreement, meaning we focus on keeping SAS functioning well. Leaving you free to focus on the actual analytics and insights that bring value to your business.

We have more SAS installations deployed in the SAS Cloud than anywhere else in the world. The team currently supports thousands of SAS environments, covering both Hosted and Remote installations.  That’s something I’m really proud of.

What are some of the ways the SAS Cloud teams are helping our customers globally?

We have teams located around the globe. There are Centers of Excellence in US, Latin America, EMEA and Asia Pacific. The Centers of Excellence are focus points for customer deliveries. Their locations ensure proximity to our customers so that our teams can provide local time zone coverage. In addition to the global Centers of Excellence, we also have a Shared Service Center in Pune, India that provides essential 24/7 customer service and support.

Communication is the key to keeping customers informed and happy, and we manage that in many ways.  During the installation phase of the project we are focused on moving as quickly as possible to ensure a fast time to value. The team will keep you up to speed with project kickoffs, customer onboarding, installation updates or weekly meetings.  Once we move from an installation project and into ongoing service and support, the TAM focuses on ensuring we continue to deliver value.  One of my favorite ways to communicate once we’re in production is through CX Dashboard, or scorecard.  The CX Dashboard reports on our service level agreements, system utilization, software versions and specific customer health and effectiveness KPI’s.  It gives real insight into how customer systems are performing and are proving to be a big hit with our customers.

I love when we get to see customers getting value out of the SAS software. And since we are providing the support to keep their service up and performant, they can focus on the core delivery for their business.  We have customers in every SAS industry, including many highly regulated industries, solving truly amazing problems.

How are customers of managed application services benefiting from the SAS and Microsoft strategic partnership?

Following the partnership announcement earlier this year, we have been reimagining how we deliver our services on Microsoft Azure.  We have worked hard to establish a new baseline for how we deploy global infrastructure at scale.  Our initial focus has been on evaluating technologies and new services made available to us from Azure, helping optimize how we deliver SAS Software and our services.

With the partnership, our global footprint has expanded almost overnight.  With the most global regions of any cloud provider, the Azure cloud offers SAS the scale we need to bring our applications as close as possible to our customers around the globe.

We now have direct access to new technologies and engineering resources at Microsoft. That means complex solutions on SAS Cloud have the benefit of technical reviews with Azure experts who know both our Azure footprint and the underlying Azure capabilities. This ensures we get the most effective designs for you.

What’s coming next for managed application services? 

We are constantly looking to improve how we deliver managed application services, including how we setup and operate our customer environments.  We are actively working with Microsoft to look for creative ways to deploy SAS products more quickly in the Azure cloud. Our teams are always working hard to improve the time to value for our customers.

Regarding the new SAS Viya release, teams of SAS engineers continue working on the buildout of supporting enterprise systems, architecture and service delivery around the new technology stack introduced with SAS Viya. Hosted and Remote Managed Services customers will benefit from SAS Viya through the flexibility gained from Continuous Integration and Continuous Delivery. This will help increase SAS software currency, as well as provide shorter time to value and reduced support costs.  There are a lot of developments on the horizon at SAS, it’s an exciting time for us. I can’t wait to see where the Microsoft partnership and SAS Viya can take our SAS Cloud customers in the future.

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About Author

Lindsay Marshall

Product Marketing Manager

Senior marketing professional with 20 years’ experience in the high tech software space. Experienced in Cloud software and services, current portfolio is the SAS Cloud.

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