Adoption services and social media maximise new platform's impact
Education and training services funded using flexible Education Units – and including novel use of social media - helped an award-winning insurer develop valuable skills
This specialist insurer had reached a tipping point in terms of management information and its wider IT set-up. A "perfect storm" of rapid business growth, rising data volumes, calls for greater internal controls and compliance with the European Union's Solvency II directive meant a new approach was required. This led the firm to implement a new infrastructure able to handle "Big Data" and high-performance analytics, to provide new business insights and enable the company to better manage risk and reduce costs. Prior to this, the company had no history with SAS, instead it was using piecemeal tools including Microsoft and specialist risk engines for actuarial purposes.
"The company originally invested in our software for Solvency II but it became clear its requirements were far more wide-ranging," says Joanne Baffoe, Consultant Project Manager. SAS® Professional Services were engaged to provide a "one-stop shop" from solution architecture, data integration and installation to ongoing support, while effective education was also considered essential. Client Services Manager Andy Lawson says, "They knew this wouldn't be an off-the-shelf, plug-and-play deal, and they would have to utilise our expertise to achieve what they wanted while they developed an in-house capability."
"I was involved from the start," says Elaine Clayton, SAS® Education. Recognising the importance of training to its plans, the insurer purchased 120 Education Units. "We agreed this would be the most flexible way to meet their needs. They were starting from scratch in terms of SAS skills, and so recognised the value of education and training." Education Units also provide a cost benefit, with a volume-related discount. One unit equates to one person attending a one-day public or custom training course, with a core team of six people being trained first. "We worked as a close team, including the insurer's project manager, to deliver what was needed," Clayton says. "Our Senior Implementation Manager, Shane Flynn, was involved in the bespoke elements of the Adoption Services, while Joanne Baffoe was excellent at getting me in front of the people I needed to speak to.
"We began with public, scheduled courses, then custom training in specific areas such as Data Integration and Data Quality. There were enough attendees to schedule delivery to fit with their needs." With all courses delivered at SAS facilities in Marlow, this flurry of activity was followed by a quieter period as the platform "bedded down". Later training covered Platform Administration, SAS® Detail Data Store for Insurance, SAS® Risk Management and SAS® Enterprise Business Intelligence reporting. Feedback from attendees was very positive, with instructors receiving particular praise. For example, "Instructor was good, well-paced – bearing in mind the mixed ability of the class," and "Without any shadow of a doubt, the best SAS course I have ever attended, due entirely to the instructor... that wealth of information was vast."
Creating a new community of SAS® professionals
With the core team armed with new skills, end-user courses and further adoption services are scheduled, with a SAS trainer gathering data from the customer so custom training can cover more complex areas. Formal courses, however, are only one side of the story: "We wanted to make sure the customer gained as much value as possible, even if the timing wasn't quite right for additional face-to-face training." Clayton's team came up with a novel way to give the insurer more: creating an invitation-only closed group on the SAS® Professionals social network, which has experienced huge success since launching a few years ago. This provides secure access to a range of resources and activities, including specially recorded training modules on SAS® Enterprise Guide®, SAS® Web Report Studio and the SAS® Add-In for Microsoft.
"SAS trainers worked with subject-matter experts from the customer to include typical scenarios and exercises specific to them," Clayton says. "We have also included an option for people to email a trainer with their questions and comments, and we can respond within 48 hours. This won't be a permanent offer, but is designed to provide them with the additional short-term support they require." This use of social media fits well with the insurer's culture: "It's a fast-moving company, people are busy, and they were moving to new offices. Providing training in this way aligns with the type of company they are, so people can dip in as needed. The internal project manager was really excited when we explained our plans, and said this was the perfect solution. From our point of view, it's a 'Rolls-Royce' approach in terms of us being adaptive and tailoring our services, giving the customer the flexibility it needs."
She adds, "We created a community within the customer that's able to share experiences and knowledge, and enabled them to reach out to the experts. They went from zero SAS knowledge to being a discrete community of SAS professionals that's also plugged-in to the wider SAS world. And we're creating an appetite for people to take their knowledge and learning further. Our technology is expanding its footprint in their business, so their education requirements are very likely to grow."
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Move from zero SAS knowledge to becoming skilled in technologies and approaches comprising a new company-wide infrastructure required to support rapid business growth, internal controls and regulatory compliance.
Expert education and training funded via Education Units as part of an integrated mix of adoption and other professional services – including standard classroom courses, custom training and social media to create a bespoke online "SAS knowledge community".
Supporting implementation of a strategic and scalable "transformative" platform, with a core team quickly skilled in new solutions and techniques; working flexibility for the customer to drive rapid adoption and enable greater confidence and self-sufficiency.
“"We created a community within the customer that's able to share experiences and knowledge, and enabled them to reach out to the experts. They went from zero SAS knowledge to being a discrete community of SAS professionals that's also plugged-in to the wider SAS world"”