Visualization provides one version of the truth about Denmark’s social services

In only eight days, The National Board of Social Services revitalized the data bank that provides an overview of social services on its website. The latest SAS technology for data visualization gives the users a better and faster output.

The National Board of Social Services has overcome the complexity of the national social sector by collecting and visualizing information about all services available to citizens. Users can access interactive visualizations and geographic maps using the system, which is based on SAS® Visual Analytics software.

The data bank has a variety of target groups and uses, including:

  • All caseworkers have access to a single source of information regarding all treatment programs and institutions nationwide, enabling them to easily find the best-suited program for clients.
  • Social services and healthcare professionals have a clear data base that documents the results of all forms of treatment and treatment facilities in connection with substance abuse treatment.
  • Social workers can access information on experts and researchers who work with socially disadvantaged children and young people – all in one place.
  • Citizens and journalists can learn more about treatment programs and facilities in their local area.

These are just some of the most important goals of the new data bank.

Allan Vestergaard
BI Architect, The National Board of Social Services

Difficult working conditions

Today’s challenging working conditions call for improved welfare and more effective social programs in a time of shrinking budgets. Increasing demands on social services make this work even more difficult, while the social sector as a whole is extremely complex. Denmark’s municipalities provide almost all social services and they oversee independent institutions with social workers and professionals who work on the ground with citizens and clients. The road from political legislation to tangible results and help for children, substance abusers and the disabled is far from straightforward.


“Knowledge that benefits” is the motto of The National Board of Social Services, reflecting the goal of benefiting society through data and research. The board is tasked to strengthening the social efforts of Denmark’s municipalities for children, the disabled, the elderly and the socially disadvantaged – and to ensure that these efforts are successful. The National Board of Social Services, which is a subdivision of The Ministry of Social Affairs, strives to ensure that social interventions are based on knowledge of what works. Therefore, the data bank on the board’s website is highly logical in structure and serves as an important component in its dissemination of knowledge to ministries, organizations, municipalities, consultants and others with an interest in Danish social policy.

In 2013, the board began using SAS Visual Analytics for the databank; the first tangible result was faster dissemination of facts. “We want to release our data so that users outside of the board are also able to process data and thus generate new insight,” says the board’s BI Architect, Allan Vestergaard. “With SAS Visual Analytics, we can deliver data and tools to users so that they can work directly with our databank, even though they are in a different geographic location.”

“This was exactly the speed that we needed... It took exactly eight days from the moment the hardware was in place until we had developed and released the first report on our website. It was a great success.”

Allan Vestergaard
BI Architect, The National Board of Social Services

Knowledge portals

The National Board of Social Services collects data in a number of knowledge portals; other entities, including municipalities and institutions, contribute their own updated data to these portals. For example, the procurement portal provides qualitative and quantitative data and practical information on 5,000 providers of social services, including assisted living facilities, 24-hour care centers and treatment centers. Municipal caseworkers can search the portal for relevant treatment programs for their clients, based on parameters including diagnosis, geographic location and price. Other important sources of data include the data base for drug abuse and the knowledge portal for socially disadvantaged children and young people. Data from these portals are placed in a data warehouse and used as the basis for quick visual presentation of facts to the public.

Common language

The leaders of The National Board of Social Services know that there are many different perspectives on methods, quality and good practice in the field of social services. Therefore, they have worked diligently to create a common language through facts. The taxonomy of this language is based on terms defined by the World Health Organization standards, as well as interaction with professionals and experts. The standards are also constantly evolving to reflect the present reality.

Knowing that the users of this information vary greatly, the board decided to differentiate how information is communicated to specific users. Users who want to adapt and further develop reports have a number of options for doing this. Expert users can even customize the method of inspecting and visualizing data, based on their needs. SAS Visual Analytics is an excellent tool for this purpose.

Completed in only eight days

“Our output is now faster and more up-to-date, and the technology plays a key role in performing our primary task,” says Allan Vestergaard. “It took exactly eight days from the moment the hardware was in place until we had developed and released the first report on our website. We installed and configured SAS Visual Analytics and began working directly with our data. It was a great success, and it provided exactly the speed that we needed.”

The board is planning to expand the data bank with additional data fields and reports, enabling the presentation of facts and knowledge for researchers, journalists and interest groups, thereby contributing to a knowledge-based social policy for the benefit of citizens.

Data visualization in two ways

SAS Visual Analytics turns the classic data mart approach upside down in its data design for reporting. Performing aggregations and analytical routines in-memory unlocks more possibilities for data design that takes all types of data into account. Take an example from the public sector, where various authorities use some type of data warehouse to organize their data into facts and dimensions. SAS can be used to combine these tables, add more descriptive column names, add formats and generate a table optimized for analytic exploration and ad-hoc reporting.

Alternatively, data can be imported directly to a local warehouse and then transferred to a local spreadsheet on the SAS server for visual exploration of data with just a few clicks.

National Board of Social Services


To ensure more effective social programs in a time of shrinking budgets.


Correlating and visualizing all information on treatment programs in a web-based application, giving professionals improved opportunities for matching clients and treatment programs, as well as effective follow-up on the results. The solution also gives the public improved access to insight.  

The results illustrated in this article are specific to the particular situations, business models, data input, and computing environments described herein. Each SAS customer’s experience is unique based on business and technical variables and all statements must be considered non-typical. Actual savings, results, and performance characteristics will vary depending on individual customer configurations and conditions. SAS does not guarantee or represent that every customer will achieve similar results. The only warranties for SAS products and services are those that are set forth in the express warranty statements in the written agreement for such products and services. Nothing herein should be construed as constituting an additional warranty. Customers have shared their successes with SAS as part of an agreed-upon contractual exchange or project success summarization following a successful implementation of SAS software. Brand and product names are trademarks of their respective companies.