How to get the most from your Visual Analytics software

Uncover potential opportunities for your business by improving your SAS skills with free online learning

By Travis Murphy

It’s one thing to get access to simple yet powerful software (like SAS Visual Analytics); but it’s another thing entirely to get the tips you need to use that software to achieve your tasks and spot opportunities to apply it.

In my dealings with customers I often get asked the same questions about SAS VA, and when I finish answering these, the customer nearly always says “I wish I had known that earlier, as this could have saved so much time doing …”.

This has prompted me to share some free resources to help you better understand VA and all its functional glory; and empower you to get the most from your investment.

Many people purchase SAS Visual Analytics for a particular use case. They have an immediate business problem and learn just enough to solve that need.

Many people purchase visual analytics for a particular use case. They have an immediate business problem and learn just enough to solve that need. Rarely do they learn more than this initially. Without a broader understanding of the capabilities their software has, when the next business challenge surfaces, they may not know SAS VA could solve that also.

SAS Visual Analytics has a breadth of functionality that can be used to solve the following business tasks, among others:

  • Visual data flow to conduct basic data preparation. You can create data queries to perform joins, add calculated columns, subset and sort data, load new data, etc.
  • Reports and dashboards. You can design reports once, then distribute and publish anywhere (Web, Mobile, Microsoft Office).
  • Interactive charts, visuals, explorations. You can discover insights from any size and type of data, from spreadsheets to Hadoop – and all things in between.
  • Powerful, easy-to-use analytics. You can use forecasting, goal seeking, scenario analysis, decision trees, path analysis and other analytic visualisations. This makes analytics approachable for the entire team.

Another situation we see happen at our customer sites is staff changeover in business lines who purchased SAS VA. Often business units get told they now have this great new software from SAS available to use, and are offered access to use it. This is great, however at the core of “getting the most from your software” is developing the skills to go with that software, and that is often done via trial and error.

You would not allow a mechanic to learn by trial and error on your latest prestige vehicle, yet we often use this approach with our business software. I have heard people say many times that software should be intuitive to use, and not require training or specialist skills – this is only half the picture. I believe that the majority of users should be able to get an outcome with minimal training, like open a dashboard or add a comment to a report. However, like the prestige vehicle example, novices are only given so much guidance: where the water goes, how to check engine oil levels etc., but to service the entire vehicle you need to know much more than that. I have used many vendor’s software in my life and always know that by educating myself on the features which are less obvious, I am able to get the most benefit from the software, and share those benefits across the organisation.

I’ve scoured the internet to find available resources that will assist you in getting to know SAS Visual Analytics, and all that it offers you.  Here are the best channels to start your skills development with SAS:

Free Video Library

This channel has simple “how to” videos which range from a couple of minutes to about ten minutes. These are bite-sized videos focused on completing a particular task in SAS VA – such as loading data, navigating the homepage and more. This is a great resource for people who need a quick refresh from something they learned on a training course and if you are just trying to learn SAS “just in time” to complete a task you have questions about today. These are organised by different functional areas and also include introduction and getting started tutorials. This is a transactional type of resource where you come in and out opportunistically to solve your need at that time.

“Ask the Experts” series

This is a great channel where you can find comprehensive video content delivered in webisode format. Webinar style videos can be subscribed to either as live sessions or on demand. This is a great way to learn and is a step further than the other resources in this post. I particularly like this channel as you get a wide range of people with different experiences in SAS VA and this makes the learning particularly rich. It provides a deep dive on a particular topic which allows for more context than a short video can. You can learn from the experts without leaving your desk.

SAS YouTube Channel

The SAS YouTube Channel is a treasure trove of amazing software demonstrations and webinar content which can show the power of SAS Visual Analytics. We are using YouTube more and more to share the best practices of using SAS software. If you are like me, you may find this an easy way to spend an evening watching your favourite SAS experts share their tips and tricks with you.

This channel is great to see industry examples and applications of VA solving particular problems, not just software feature and function. This channel has more of an end-to-end example of VA in the real world, in bite-size content which is mostly under ten minutes and you get great value. Another great reason to visit this channel is the customer stories about how they are achieving success with SAS Visual Analytics, hearing directly from the source.

These platforms also contain other video content on other SAS Solutions, so keep your eyes open for great tutorials on learning SAS code or broader SAS solutions, like SAS data management offerings. This is only a sample of what is available on the internet for self-paced learning and skills development with your SAS software.

Of course, once you master these free channels for learning SAS Visual Analytics, you can take your skills to the next level with online and classroom training programs, and SAS Certification programs to really know the software and all it offers you and your business. So remember, investing some time for you and your team on the capabilities of SAS Visual Analytics will enable you to spot the next business opportunity while leveraging the software you have.

If you’d like that personal touch and prefer someone to talk to, please don’t hesitate to touch base with me and I can connect you to the right person at SAS.

About the Author

Travis Murphy is Marketing Lead for SAS Solutions in Australia and New Zealand. He has over 15 years of experience in BI, DW, Data Visualization and Analytics. Prior to SAS, he held roles with other large IT vendors focused on business analytics. These roles include product management, consulting, training and presales. In his current role at SAS, Travis covers a broad range of offerings and works with customers in adopting SAS technology and driving better insight from all available data.