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SAS® Adoption Services help global card provider make the transition to smarter ways of working

A flexible programme of SAS® Education deliverables, including role mapping, on-site training, workshops and hands-on 'SAS® labs' enabled this credit card provider to speed the adoption of more effective working methods.

The company had long planned to move from coding in Base SAS® to the more flexible and intuitive SAS® Enterprise Guide® to help improve compliance, data governance and efficiency, as well as reducing costs and complexity through a more standardised and auditable approach. However, with teams using Base SAS for some years, this move was met with uncertainty and reluctance reticence in some quarters.

"A number of people perceived this as dumbing down," says Nigel Armstead, Education Manager, SAS. "It was clearly a significant change, particularly for individuals who felt their specialist coding skills gave them a certain status." As a result, an important aspect of driving adoption was educating people on what the change would actually mean: explaining the benefits in detail and demonstrating how SAS Enterprise Guide would help individuals to work more effectively – and better perform their analytics roles. "This engagement was really about overcoming barriers and changing behaviours over time," Armstead says.

A Senior Data Manager from the client's Information Management team worked closely with SAS® Education and SAS UK's Adoption Practice to get as many people as possible using SAS Enterprise Guide. In less than a year, it went from being a niche tool used by a handful of personnel to the solution consistently used by 180 people as their default interface, with month-on-month improvements in usage. "The client is extremely happy," Armstead says. "We've received very positive feedback on all the learning interventions that we have delivered."

Flexible learning interventions

The SAS approach was multi-faceted: from instructor-led training courses to hands-on workshops and simulations using the client's own data, with individuals able to work at their own pace. "We also ran SAS laboratories, inviting people to bring their own code, and helping them get it into SAS Enterprise Guide," Armstead says. At the same time, Orientation Sessions for larger groups were based on user feedback from the workshops. In a typical month, over 100 individuals in the UK, USA and India would undergo some form of learning. "This was a significant commitment, with the client investing over £200,000 in Adoption Services over two years," Armstead adds. "It was also important we could provide consistency with our people." The core support was team-based around Principle Education Consultants Rachael Griffiths, Simon Arnold and Chris Dillon – with Rachael the main contact. Armstead says she fulfilled the role of 'trusted adviser' and de facto contact for every aspect of the two-year engagement.

Enabling change through targeted learning

"When I became involved, the client's objective was to get 100% of users from Base SAS to Enterprise Guide," says Rachael Griffiths, Principle Education Consultant, SAS Adoption Practice. "It was soon clear this wasn't achievable, so was revised to 90–95% – still a considerable target." From the original Learning Needs Assessment, a high degree of resistance was obvious, plus a certain disbelief that change would actually happen. Griffiths says, "The company had tried SAS Enterprise Guide previously but it hadn't been properly implemented, with various issues around the architecture, and users reverting to their old ways. People said, 'Oh, this won't happen'. My job was to say, 'This is going to happen' – then make it so. Users could see our relationship developing: that, despite all the barriers, we were in this together, and SAS was serious about making it happen."

A role mapping and competency exercise was conducted, with user interviews identifying gaps and leading to a range of learning interventions being proposed. "An essential element was spending a great deal of time with people, and really getting to know them," Griffiths says. SAS recommended a new learning strategy, most of which was agreed and implemented.

The first step was training for people with no previous SAS experience via a two-day workshop, with a one-day workshop for users who'd undergone some training previously which needed refreshing. "It was all about pitching learning interventions at the right level, and not being overly prescriptive," Griffiths says. "We wanted people to understand that SAS Enterprise Guide would do the hard work for them: we weren't taking something away from them, they were gaining additional capabilities that would enhance their value, enabling them to perform better. That fear of diminishing in value was genuine, and can be more acute in an economic climate like today's. A key element was streaming learners – so the right people received the most appropriate learning.

"We were able to say, 'These are the skills you need, and SAS will make sure you have those skills, so you can work as professionally as possible, in turn helping the company be more effective. So actually, your job becomes more secure.'" The SAS team distilled key learnings into a troubleshooting checklist of seven things users had to complete to get the new approach to work. Once people had worked through the checklist and if they still encountered problems, they could return and work in focused groups as part of code migration labs. Griffiths says, "It's great to see those 'light bulb moments' when people realise this is going to help them: SAS Enterprise Guide will make their life easier and help them do their job better. You could hear people having those conversations: we'd turned them around 180 degrees." The next steps include evaluating ongoing support for starters and providing advanced sessions for experienced users.

With this two-year programme complete, the client asked the SAS UK team to become its single point-of-contact for SAS training globally for all risk users, managing an annual budget of more than £120,000 across the UK, Europe, USA and India. Nigel Armstead says, "This successful programme has strengthened and deepened our relationship – not only with this part of the business but also with the wider global group."

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Global card provider

Business Issue:
Transitioning a sceptical user community in multiple countries from Base SAS to SAS Enterprise Guide - overcoming barriers
User Adoption Services via SAS Education and a single point of contact: Learning Needs Analysis, planning/delivery, role and competency mapping, instructor-led training, workshops and simulations, SAS labs.
Communicating the new approach, overcoming multiple barriers and driving rapid uptake - improving processes, productivity, governance and performance.

"It's great to see those 'light bulb moments' when people realise this is going to help them: SAS Enterprise Guide will make their life easier and help them do their job better. You could hear people having those conversations: we'd turned them around 180 degrees."

Rachael Griffiths

Principal Education Consultant, SAS UK

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