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Specialist expertise backs up in-house 'heavy lifting' to help deliver ROI

When this healthcare firm invested in high-performance analytics and grid computing, it saw the value of using specialist skills and knowledge "straight from the source".

In the age of Big Data, what happens when your business-critical infrastructure starts to near the limits of its capability in the face of rising data volumes and demands for more processing power? With a more scalable approach in mind and an opportunity to gain new insights into its operations, this leading private health company talked to SAS about migrating to grid computing, to enable its existing SAS® software to run faster, to make optimal use of IT resources and also reduce costs.

"Grid computing means you can process high-volume programs faster, as well as improving hardware utilisation and future-proofing your infrastructure," says Jeremy Clarke, Client Services Manager. "In principal, you can also achieve cost reductions, with your systems running faster going forward. When this particular sale was agreed, we offered to support the software team with four-to-five days' consulting, including a 'mini Phase Zero' to make sure the client's requirements were properly understood – to 'cherry-pick' what the implementation team should look at first, what we might support, and the areas that could have the biggest impact."

He adds, "We wanted to be as flexible as we could in terms of the support we provided – our Professional Services exist to help organisations like this to gain maximum value from the software, and we do act very differently from a Systems Integrator. Wherever possible, we aim to do the best by the customer at the minimum level of cost."

Clarke says that, in this case, the health company wanted to take as much responsibility in-house and complete as much work as possible. "They had good resources and high levels of knowledge about their systems and their data, but also recognised the value of being able to tap into specialist expertise at critical times." This included providing ad hoc consulting around architecture and installation, along with training from SAS® Education. Speed was another issue, with the client requiring external support to be provided extremely quickly. Clarke adds, "So we had to be pretty agile to respond fast, and then be highly focused. It was really important to the client to move ahead within very challenging time scales, so we went 'from no engagement to full engagement' virtually overnight."

"We played an enabling role, beginning with support for the initial migration to grid, along with guidance in how to set up the infrastructure, but without delivering formal project management as the client already had that covered," explains Steve Thompson, SAS Project Manager. "As part of this, I was involved in regular calls with the client team over a couple of months and, in particular, provided the client with a fast and efficient route into SAS for the additional skills and resources."

SAS® Professional Services delivered elements of user adoption and a small-scale learning needs analysis to identify and recommend appropriate training courses at various points. Thompson's role continued throughout the migration of the main system and parallel running before the client moved fully to grid, with services provided including hands-on support for platform administration, customisation and specific activities such as migrating metadata.

Clarke adds, "We provided the 'expert services' they wanted at controlled cost, enabling the client to get the maximum value from its software investment, while they handled the 'heavy lifting' in-house. So it was really a 'light touch' approach, with the client drawing on our skills and resources at specific times and on an as-needed basis."

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Healthcare firm

Business Issue:
Expert services and resources to support migration of existing operational systems to a new high-performance analytics infrastructure enabled by grid computing, to meet rising Big Data and performance needs of a successful business
A fast response and a mix of professional services via a light-touch approach, including elements of: Phase Zero, Consulting, Architecture, Installation, Adoption, Learning Needs Analysis, Education, Support
Successfully achieving project goals faster and more effectively, with highly focused expertise and external resources enabled via SAS® Professional Services; successful migration, testing, parallel running and deployment of the new business-critical platform

"We provided the 'expert services' they wanted at controlled cost, enabling the client to get the maximum value from its software investment"

Jeremy Clarke

Client Services Manager, SAS

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