The Institute for Veterans and Military Families at Syracuse University uses data and analytics to serve those who have served their country
Each year in the US, nearly 200,000 service members begin the transition back into civilian life. For many, this can be a challenging time, marked by questions about what the next phase of life holds, issues related to finding and establishing a new career, as well as securing needed resources and support for a successful transition.
Launched in 2011 at Syracuse University, the Institute for Veterans and Military Families (IVMF) is committed to advancing the lives of these veterans and their families. The IVMF offers career skills programs that provide career training, entrepreneurship education, professional certifications, and job placement support – all at no cost to the service member, veteran or family member. It also conducts national research, policy analysis and program evaluation, and works with communities and nonprofits across the nation to enhance service delivery for veterans and their families.
… One of the obligations we have when they take off that uniform should be to knock down as many barriers as possible. Everything we do at the IVMF is about knocking down those barriers, and SAS is key to this mission. Dr. Mike Haynie Syracuse University Vice Chancellor for Strategic Initiatives and Innovation; Executive Director IVMF
With analytics skills in high demand from employers, and with SAS® certified professionals receiving higher salaries and better career opportunities, the IVMF offers two free SAS programming courses and certification exams at numerous military installations around the US and online as part of its Onward to Opportunity – Veterans Career Transition Program (O2O-VCTP) curriculum.
The institute also uses SAS Analytics to drive its programs and operations, enabling the organization to gain greater insights on performance and impact on those it serves.
“The importance of our SAS relationship cannot be overstated,” says Dr. Mike Haynie, Syracuse University Vice Chancellor for Strategic Initiatives and Innovation, and Executive Director of the IVMF. “I applaud their leadership for engaging in this meaningful work impacting the lives of so many transitioning service members, veterans and their families by not only providing us with data insights to serve them better, but also by offering critical training and certifications enhancing their employment options.”
From gatekeepers to enablers
Over the past three years, the IVMF has taken significant steps to grow its analytics capacity. “It was a must do,” says Dr. Nick Armstrong, IVMF Senior Director for Research and Evaluation. “Today veteran and military family needs are unique and evolving. To serve them best, our organization must be evidence-based and data-driven, with a relentless focus on continuous learning, improvement and performance.”
Additionally, the IVMF has experienced substantial growth in recent years. As new programs launched and enrollment numbers swelled, the size and complexity of its data grew in lock-step. “With multiple programs, we quickly found ourselves in a situation with data living in silos,” says Bonnie Chapman-Beers, IVMF Director of Evaluation and Innovation. “To understand how we were doing as an institute, we needed to find a better, more efficient way to integrate and manage multiple data sources across the enterprise.”
At the same time, the number of staff, funders and stakeholders requesting information was also on the rise. Requests for reports escalated. “The sophistication of their ‘asks’ grew as well,” Chapman-Beers says. She knew that supporting her growing organization would require the proper tools and strategies for transitioning from gatekeepers of the data to enablers of data-driven decisions.
IVMF – Facts & Figures
Service members transition from the military to civilian life annually
Of transitioned service members say that getting socialized to civilian culture was a significant challenge
Professional staff and students conduct research and deliver programs across the US and 9 countries
Analytics delivered by SAS® Viya®
The IVMF now relies on SAS technology for data management, data visualizations and business intelligence. SAS Data Management Studio – paired with data management strategy coaching from SAS – enables the institute to combine its data sources into a single data warehouse to serve the analytic needs of the organization.
With a central analytics and data management platform, the institute can generate and distribute insights more quickly across the organization and to its stakeholders and partners. SAS Visual Analytics supplies IVMF decision makers with interactive reports. According to Chapman-Beers, this was a tectonic shift in efficiency. “SAS is like night and day,” she says. “It allows us to instantly produce results we can act on. Not only has it saved us a significant amount of time, but it’s increased the precision and quality of our work.”
Underpinning the technology is SAS Viya, an analytics framework that allows everyone—data scientists, business analysts, developers, executives, funders and stakeholders—to collaborate and realize innovative results faster. “Prior to SAS Viya, our technology had been limited to a small group of people,” Chapman-Beers says. “With Viya, we can expand its use to the institute and beyond, making smarter decisions, faster.”
Increased speed and performance
While use of SAS has benefited the institute in different ways, one common theme among the various divisions is time savings. For the teams focused on delivering insights to the institute and its partners, the technology has allowed the staff to focus on more strategic best practices for their data management and reporting efforts.
The second major benefit of the SAS technology is increased performance. Haynie says the ability to understand the impact of their work through strong measurement and evaluation allows IVMF’s staff to dive deeper into their daily work. “That’s what SAS is all about for me,” he says. “It helps drive our decision making and is one of the strongest differentiators we have as an organization.”
Ultimately, SAS has helped the IVMF stay true to its purpose. “When we ask a small minority of Americans to shoulder the burden of war on behalf of the large majority, one of the obligations we have when they take off that uniform should be to knock down as many barriers as possible,” Haynie says. “Everything we do at the IVMF is about knocking down those barriers, and SAS is key to this mission.”
More on IVMF
Building Analytics Capacity in the Social Sector: A white paper about IVMF's data and analytics journey.
Q&A with IVMF’s Maureen Casey, Chief Operating Officer, and Mike Haynie, Executive Director.
Meeting a Mission: Increasing Stakeholder Transparency with SAS® Visual Analytics: A presentation from Analytics Experience 2017 on IVMF's data visualization journey.
Using Data to Innovate, Inform and Inspire: Data Disruption and Transformation in a Nonprofit World: A breakout session from SAS Global Forum 2018.