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Government Department Uses SAS® Professional Services to Drive Operational Efficiencies

When a government department decided to optimise its use of SAS® analytical software, it engaged SAS® Professional Services to plan, design and implement the new approach.

With recent policy changes leading to greater demand for analytics, one government department recently turned to SAS® Professional Services to help it drive greater efficiency from its use of SAS® solutions, and optimise its software investment.

In particular, it wanted to reduce the time and cost of producing statistics while improving the overall quality of its data. In order to do this, the department's in-house analytical services team requested an architectural review of its existing and future SAS software needs. The Professional Services team responded by benchmarking current technology usage. It then identified how new approaches to technology could drive improvements in the working environment and efficiencies in the production of statistics and associated reports. A proposal was developed and delivered to the department.

One of the key outputs was a recommendation that the department moved SAS from a PC-based to a server-based capability. SAS Principal Consultant, David Ferguson, explained: "The existing desktop approach was complex and costly, and effectively acting as a block on collaboration and a barrier to efficiency. Migrating the capability to a more integrated server-based approach would help address these issues. SAS engaged with the department to outline how the process was going to be managed, the outputs that could be achieved, and to reach consensus on these principles. Workshops involving key stakeholders, business and technical users were employed to help achieve these goals.

"Through the whole process, we had to consider constraints of budgets, time and people," added Ferguson. "There had to be a compromise, looking at what we could best achieve given those constraints."

Scoping the Solution

The next stage was for SAS, in partnership with the department, to develop a practical implementation plan in order to replace the desktop-based approach with one based around closely coordinated server solutions.

The implementation process had three phases. The first was the technical implementation which involved understanding the data and the existing mechanisms that had to be worked within, while helping the department to achieve the statistical outputs promised, and putting in place a best practice approach.

The second stage was ensuring that the department understood the process and was comfortable with it. The third phase involved training all key personnel on the new SAS systems. These three phases ran concurrently, highlighting SAS' integrated approach to professional services engagement.

Once the implementation process was complete, the role of Professional Services switched to helping users with any teething issues that they had with the software. Regular meetings between SAS and the departmental management team were arranged to monitor progress and review concerns.

SAS also looked at moving the department onto a premium support capability, effectively providing more proactive support, including a dedicated customer specialist permanently available to act as a single point of contact for all of the department's technical queries. There were also issues around change management to be dealt with. SAS saw the training process as key to conveying the benefits of the new approach to users, particularly in terms of making it easier and quicker for them to carry out their daily tasks.

Benefits Achieved

The department achieved a host of benefits from the SAS Professional Services implementation. According to a department spokesperson, "There was an excellent cultural fit between the two organisations. Throughout the professional services implementation, we had complete confidence that we were engaging with senior people who knew what they were doing."
The department was also impressed that SAS was confident enough to identify issues in current methodologies and propose new approaches moving forward.

This became especially clear in the help and advice that members of the SAS Professional Services team were able to provide to the analytical services unit team members. As one departmental spokesperson points out, "Throughout the development process, we have had SAS consultants working with us and detailed information available on the website. We also benefit from an excellent SAS support call line with a dedicated contact available to help with issues."

Yet at all times this was a joint undertaking. According to SAS' Ferguson, "The success of the project is down to the partnership approach we adopted from the outset. We focused on understanding the requirement, scoping and planning a solution, and working alongside the customer as one team to deploy it in a way that minimised risk."

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Government department

Business Issue:
Need to handle growing data volumes, while at the same time having to restructure operations and strategic approaches brought about by government policy changes.
Solution:
Broad range of SAS modelling and coding solutions. SAS Enterprise Guide introduced for fast, efficient data analysis. Scoping, design and implementation, plus consultancy and support delivered by SAS Professional Services.
Benefits:
Good cultural fit and high level of trust established between the two organisations. SAS Professional Services were proactive in identifying issues in current methodologies and in proposing new approaches. Partnership approach adopted, focused on working closely with the customer, providing high-quality consultancy and support, and delivering a solution that minimised risk.

"There was an excellent cultural fit between the two organisations. Throughout the professional services implementation, we had complete confidence that we were engaging with senior people who knew what they were doing."

Department Spokesperson

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