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SAS' Expert Team Enables Army to Optimise Value of Information

Working on-site, a group of SAS consultants is using state-of-the-art SAS® analytics and reporting solutions to extract maximum value from the British Army's data resources.

Manpower planning will become increasingly critical to the British Army as it contributes to Government fiscal consolidation efforts over coming years. The number of regular soldiers will fall by 20,000 to 82,000 by 2020, with the result that the country's land forces will be about half the size they were during the Cold War era.

Defence secretary Philip Hammond has focused on the Army being a "forward-looking, modern fighting machine." To achieve this vision in a more constrained fiscal environment, the Army will need to gain a greater insight into the vast volumes of information it holds, often on disconnected systems, and then use that information to support evidence-based decision making on resourcing issues and a range of other topics, including asset engineering, occupational health and contingent operations.

At the moment, data is not sufficiently integrated to provide the actionable intelligence senior personnel need to confidently make these decisions. To overcome this challenge, the Army realised that it needed not just high-quality data management and analytics software but specialist help in implementing, maintaining and exploiting it. In this way, it could bring together all of the disparate manpower information assets, make sense of that data in the context of the Army's business and interpret those findings to achieve meaningful and actionable results.

Delivering an On-site Capability
After a detailed assessment process, the Army decided to implement SAS® data quality, analytics and reporting solutions. The decision was based partly on the fact that SAS technology was more intuitive and easier to use than competitive systems, but a major factor was that SAS was able to come in and support the development of the solution on-site.

The Army has now implemented the full SAS® 9.2 suite of statistical analysis, data management and reporting software solutions. This includes SAS® Enterprise BI Server and SAS® Enterprise Miner™, a business intelligence software solution that employs data mining to analyse everything from skills levels achieved to training requirements to personnel ready to be deployed on operations. SAS® Enterprise Guide® is used to streamline data analytics and reporting, and empower the on-site SAS team to extract value and insight from data sets. The SAS solutions also enable the Army to keep data quality high, correcting input errors and de-duplicating data sets – a vital first step in any project of this type.

Critically, SAS is providing an invaluable service through its on-site team, who combine domain expertise with an in-depth technical knowledge and ability to ensure that the Army is able to 'sweat its data assets' effectively and obtain the maximum value from the vast volume of information it holds.

Using the full SAS 9.2 suite of solutions, the on-site team of SAS consultants first focused on helping support the manpower and resource decision-making process by integrating data held mainly in two previously unlinked systems. The first deals with personnel administration and cost. The second, a manpower system, concentrates on allocating people to specific roles and departments. Today, this role has evolved significantly and the on-site team now effectively delivers a broad based Information Exploitation service to the Army which looks at a vast range of issues across its headquarters.

Supporting a New Army Model
By blending disparate data sources, the in-house SAS team can use the SAS solutions set to ensure data quality and data integration levels are high. It can then carry out coherent analysis of these. As Elaine Drummond, Head of Public Sector UK, SAS, explains: "This, in turn, enables us to provide the Army with a greater level of insight into the skills and talents of their workforce, including, amongst many other things, critical information about how many people have passed a certain examination grade, what the specialisms of particular individuals are, the grades they have achieved and training courses they have completed. All of this information is key to efficient manpower planning."

The quality of the software is vital. However, by working on-site at the Army headquarters the team of SAS experts has been key in unlocking the value of these solutions. Part of this is about building strong relationships. As Mark Briggs, SAS Capability and Integration Manager, Management Information Branch, Plans Directorate Army Headquarters, explained, "The Army wanted reassurance that it was buying a professional services capability that could deliver the required outcomes quickly and efficiently. Being on-site allowed us to demonstrate the flexibility of service we could offer while building trust with key project stakeholders."

The other key element is the ability of the SAS team to ensure that the Army can fully exploit the software and its range of capabilities. They can do this because they have not only in-depth expertise in SAS technology but also a detailed awareness and understanding of the issues that the Army is facing.

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The British Army's Land Forces Headquarters

Business Issue:
In a period of cuts and restructuring, the Army is challenged to effectively leverage the vast volume of data it has at its disposal to drive key manpower and resource planning decisions.
Solution:
The Army has now implemented the SAS 9.2 software suite. This includes SAS Enterprise BI Server and SAS Enterprise Miner™, a business intelligence software solution that provides insights to power better enterprise and data mining capability. Specialist domain expertise and consultancy provided by the team of five SAS consultants working on-site with the SAS Solution set help the Army gain actionable insight into data held in disconnected information systems.
Benefits:
On-site team of domain experts from SAS using high-powered SAS data quality, analytics and reporting capability enables the Army to integrate disparate sources of data relating to manpower and resources – and to draw that information together to make better, more informed manpower decisions. Now using this capability for a range of other applications.

The Army wanted reassurance that it was buying a professional services capability that could deliver the required outcomes quickly and efficiently. Being on-site allowed us to demonstrate the flexibility of service we could offer while building trust with key project stakeholders.

Mark Briggs

SAS Capability and Integration Manager, Management Information Branch, Plans Directorate, Army Headquarters.

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