The SAS-managed services teams provide cutting-edge technology with dedicated service and support. Will Morris and his Build Services team are experienced SAS administrators and engineers who install, configure and tune SAS software and solutions in the cloud. With decades of experience hosting SAS solutions, Build Services utilizes proven best practices to maximize time-to-value ROI for our customers.
“Build services engage with customers post-contract to provide the technical delivery," says Will. The team reviews, provides architecture revisions, ensures hardware requirements meet workload expectations, and verifies that software licensing and installation plan files match the intended use case and customer needs. Once that’s all lined up, the actual delivery can begin, including infrastructure, platform, and software deployment. The final stage is deployment testing to validate that the environment is built as it was intended.”
SAS in the cloud: Restrictions and security
Build Services is a global team (with primary locations in the US and India) that handles all SAS-managed customers. “Contractual commitments regarding information systems and data access restrictions depict who can support individual customers,” says Will. “Once customer data is placed into the environment, that environment is truly locked in for a customer, and all customer restrictions are strictly adhered to.
"In addition to our standard cloud environment, we also manage a hosting environment that's designed specifically for government customers. Access to these systems is limited to specific teams that are qualified to work within the restricted government domain, even before custom data is present,” says Will.
Security in the cloud is a complex area that SAS takes very seriously. Whether it be physical, logical or application-specific, Build Services works to deliver, enforce and validate all aspects of our cloud deployments to ensure that security levels match customer requirements.
Impacting time to value
“I want to provide our customers with the best experience possible at all times," says Will. "With that comes a need to grow our people and our team’s abilities by teaching them new perspectives and new approaches, constantly challenging ourselves to improve both the technical delivery and customer experience.
“I encourage the team to see things from the customer perspective -- to have conversations with the customer to understand their goals rather than only thinking about them from a technical perspective. To see the team have that 'aha' moment, and then see how that converts into a positive customer experience ... that’s what excites me,” says Will.
“One of our primary goals is to get the environment in the customers' hands as fast as we can so they can realize a better time-to-value on their investment and have the data-driven results they need to run their business," says Will. "I won’t sacrifice value and quality to do that, so there’s a balance to achieve there. We need to put the SAS quality stamp on each delivery to meet the customers' time-to-value expectations and performance and functionality expectations.”
To maximize time-to-value, the team is split across delivery and improvement. There are team members focused on operational delivery, improving efficiency and quality of experience, and there are others driving improvement of the creative design of the solution.
“This means we have people that can work through the process in a high quality, repeatable manner and then people who look at the system to say, 'if we automate that task or do this one additional step, the system would be improved'" says Will. “Bringing those two skillsets together drives optimal delivery for our customers.”
Success for the Build Team is measured in several ways. They combine data reporting, which helps them realize the quality and efficiency of the technical delivery, with tracking initiatives focused on improving and expanding our service offerings. "Although these measures are continually evaluated, we consider our customers' sentiments the final measure of our success," says Will. "Are they happy with our products and services? Are we helping them answer their business questions? Would they recommend SAS to their friends and colleagues? Those are the most important measures of our success."
With the latest release of SAS Viya, we now have initial conversations with customers about the continuous integration and delivery of their SAS-managed services. Decisions around when upgrades and updates are made are customer-dependent in the cloud. Some customers want to have every update as soon as it's available, whereas some of our highly regulated customers will want a less frequent update schedule consistent with their compliance requirements. "We work with each customer to understand what that cycle looks like for them and agree on a cadence that meets their needs from the outset," says Will.
"We're always working to improve the efficiency, effectiveness and quality of our customer onboarding processes to provide customers the best possible time to value and overall experience," says Will. "We continue to drive improvements in automation and software configuration throughout our entire build process so that the solutions are more comprehensive and delivered faster with the highest level of quality."