How To Continuously Improve & Sharpen Your Team’s SAS Skills
06/17/2019 by Jonathan Boase Support
As technologies rapidly advance, techniques improve, and the workforce naturally churns with employee turnover and new hires, managers may struggle to continuously develop the collective talents of their organization’s SAS users. Here are some strategies you can employ to support and encourage users along their journeys.
To target users for continuous improvement, it’s useful for organizations to segment them into three primary groups based on experience: new, intermediate, or advanced. Then, classify the users into four roles based on the job description or career path: business analyst, programmer, data scientist, or SAS administrator.
A single user would be classified as a member of both a group and a role. Within a role, users can progress through the groups until they are an advanced user.
So then, the challenge is, “How do I help users progress and develop their SAS skills?” Training is the primary way to lift users’ knowledge and understanding. New SAS users within any role often have Microsoft Access and Excel as a reference point, so SAS Enterprise Guide, SAS Studio, and the SAS Add-in for Microsoft Office (AMO) are tools that serve as an excellent starting point for all users. All these products can generally be taught to other users in-house by an advanced user either through one-on-one knowledge transfer sessions or formalized training sessions for groups of inexperienced users.
SAS offers training courses on these items. However, if your organization has the expertise, I recommend that these be taught by advanced users who are familiar with your working environment; have knowledge of the servers, storage, and data; and can address the real-world questions your users might have. Trainers who do not know the specifics of your environment will not necessarily be able to walk new users through the basics of how SAS is implemented in your organization. So, internal trainers can provide a less abstract learning experience. When the users go back to their desks, they already know exactly how to connect to the servers and access their data and can become productive more quickly. Alternatively, courses taught by SAS’s trainers are excellent for universal concepts such as learning to program in SAS and more advanced topics.
For users in a business analyst role, Enterprise Guide, SAS Studio, and the AMO might be all the SAS tools needed to fulfill their responsibilities. However, there will be a significant number of users who should advance their skills as a SAS Programmer.
SAS offers excellent Programming 1, Programming 2, and Programming 3 level courses as well as courses on programming with SAS Macros. If you have a large enough group of users to take these courses, it becomes cost-effective to have SAS send the trainer to you instead of you paying for all of your users to travel to a training facility (on top of tuition costs).
Data scientists need to go beyond the techniques taught in the programming courses, and SAS has plenty of training options from which to choose. They offer classes in big data, data mining, text mining, machine learning, predictive modeling, and other emerging techniques.
There is even a training path for your SAS administrators. Someone starting as a new administrator could benefit greatly from a course on the SAS Platform or on administering specific technologies or products your organization licenses.
Many of these topics and products have free, How-To Tutorial videos, and SAS even offers a monthly subscription model to access their e-courses. There are a host of training options available, and these can make a significant impact on your organization’s SAS skill level.
Continuous learning is essential to keeping up with advancing technology. Taking formal classes is a great way to get started, especially for new users as they are introduced to SAS and for experienced users who are learning new products. So, the next challenge is, “How do I help the users deepen their SAS skills?”
To take training to the next level, completing certifications is essential for users to cement what they’ve learned in the courses they’ve taken. Many SAS certifications require proficiency in the specific topics and skills taught in the SAS courses. So, studying and practicing what is in training materials in preparation for taking SAS certification exams will help develop a deeper understanding.
Another way in which users can deepen their skills is to take part in in-house knowledge sharing. There are many ways this can happen including having weekly or monthly “lunch-and-learn” sessions where users can share novel ideas and techniques with other users in your organization or setting up a body of knowledge repository, such as Wikipedia, SharePoint, or even a Slack channel, for all users to read and share code and best practices.
Attending user group meetings and conferences is an excellent way to expose users to the latest ideas and concepts from many industries. As in the iron sharpening iron metaphor, it is mutually beneficial for attendees to share what they know, have researched, have developed, and have written and presented those ideas to their peers. User group meetings and conferences are not only great for networking from a personal career standpoint, but also for networking to connect with thought leaders who can lend their expertise to challenges your users encounter in their everyday work.
The best way to improve your organization’s SAS skills is to invest in training for your new and intermediate users. To help even your most advanced users, it is beneficial to promote earning certifications, sharing knowledge internally, and sharing knowledge externally while networking with other experts at user groups and conferences.
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