A day in the life of a SAS Administrator: Understanding the roles we play


I can’t believe that it has been almost two months since SAS Global Forum in Washington DC!  As always, I was reinvigorated and came back with even more ideas on how to improve the way that we do things, apply new lessons and try some things out – along with reminiscing over the experiences and seeing some fantastic friends!.

One of the many joys that I get out of SAS Global Forum is to teach and learn and grow from the feedback I get from the SAS community. This year, we, at ThotWave, presented a workshop entitled “The Role of the SAS® Administrator: A day in the life in a modern SAS Enterprise”.   This workshop was decidedly a departure from previous technical presentations in that there were no semi-colons harmed in the making of this workshop – but rather, we talked about a subject near and dear to my heart – the context of our career and the skills we need to be successful now and into the future.

As a recovering Social Psychologist, I spent a lot of my time helping organizations define, prepare and execute on enterprise analytics strategies.  While there are certainly lots of technical work around architecture, design, installation, configuration, testing, monitoring and improvement – the context of those activities are done with organizations that have implicit cultures and expectations – especially how they deal with change.   Overlay your own individual knowledge, skills, abilities with your personal and professional goals – we often find ourselves potentially becoming lost in what’s really important versus what is most urgent.

The role of professional SAS administrator is still relatively young. In fact, up until SAS® (circa 2004), the systems manager was usually responsible for installation and the annual update of the license file but had little to no interaction with how people actually used the software. Today’s modern SAS administrator spends her day in architecture discussions, strategic planning, monitoring and yes, applying maintenance updates and performing the daily care and feeding of the SAS environment and supporting the user community.  As the role of the SAS administrator matures, so does the need to understand SAS solutions and what they might mean for their fit and function within the modern enterprise.

In this SAS Global Forum workshop, we discussed the various roles of a SAS administrator:  strategy, architecture, installation, monitoring, maintenance and support.  We explored this in the context of the some of the new and evolving SAS solutions such as SAS Data Quality and SAS Master Data Management, SAS Visual Analytics and SAS Business Intelligence as well as analytic solutions such as SAS Forecasting and SAS Data Mining.  Topics also include discussions of Hadoop, Cloud, multi-tenet architectures, SAS Grid Computing and storage technologies.   The roles are not unlike the skills that we discussed back in SUGI 24 where we highlighted some of the skills that SAS programmers should equip themselves with as they entered the then next millennium!

In case you missed our recent workshop, we wanted to share some of the concepts we discussed and provide you with a copy of the Mind Map we created as a way to think about your role as SAS Administrator.


Click for an interactive version of the map.

Click for a short video describing the map.

Remember, Happy Data, Happy Users!



About Author

Gregory Nelson

President and CEO, Thotwave Technologies, LLC.

Greg is a certified practitioner with over two decades of broad Performance Management and Analytics experience. This has been gained across several commercial, education and government, providing highly transferable skills. He has extensive experience and knowledge of research informatics and regulatory requirements and has been responsible for the delivery of numerous projects in clinical and business environments. He collaborates with stakeholders across organizations, gathering and analyzing their requirements and architecting solutions that are embody thinking data® – data which is more predictive, more accessible, more useable and more coherent. Greg has a passion for turning data into knowledge through Business Intelligence, Analytics, Data Warehousing, Master Data Management, Data Governance, Data Quality, and Research Informatics. He has developed strong partnerships with senior management within business and information technology organizations to support transparent project delivery and risk management; he manages stakeholders’ expectations of project delivery. Mr. Nelson holds a B.A. in Psychology and PhD level work in Social Psychology and Quantitative Methods and certifications in project management, Six Sigma, balanced scorecard and healthcare IT.


  1. One other thing I believe most Admins are asked to do (and don't believe I saw anything about) is monitoring & reporting on User Utilization. That is, the whats/whens/hows of SAS users logging into the environment and accessing something.

    I am seemingly always asked the following:
    What Users are currently logged into SAS?
    How many users logged into SAS yesterday, last week, last month, etc?
    What was the average amt of time a user stayed logged into SAS yesterday and last week?
    What was the most commonly accessed Library and/or Dataset (by users) last week?

    I find getting answers to these above questions can sometimes be quite challenging and not easily found...

  2. Hi Greg,

    I heard it was a thorough and useful workshop for SAS Administrators.

    Great video and mind map outlining the many roles of a SAS Administrator. How it has evolved over time...


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