Our university system has recently set up a site license contract for SAS software. The system is made up of several four-year institutions and a number of community colleges. Our system IT/IR office has decided that SAS VA is going to be the standard visual analytics tool across the system
We have had it installed since July 2016--that's about 7 months.
Among the community colleges, we have about 10 or 12 institutional researchers who are very interested in using SAS VA to do . . . well . . . visual analytics. Among the four-year institutions, maybe another 10 or 12.
Yesterday, after 7 months, we got our first training session on SAS VA. The system people who have been setting up SAS VA gave us an hour and a half intro. In that intro we were told four things:
1. Because of how difficult it is to control security in SAS VA, it took this long to set up SAS VA to the point where we could be allowed to use the application.
2. We could only do reports based on tables that the system IR office has prepared for us. Right now, after seven months, that would be four tables.
3. Our system uses the Banner Student Information System to handle the data for all ten campuses in the system. We have been using the Banner Operational Data Store (ODS) to do research and reporting for the various campuses. But we cannot connect SAS VA to the ODS to extract, manipulate, and analyze data. As of yesterday, that is too difficult to do and too dangerous. The system administrators have not figured out how to control security for SAS VA, so none of us can use VA to query the ODS and analyze data.
4. We cannot create our own tables (whether SQL, CSV, Excel, whatever) to feed into SAS VA to query or analyze. Too dangerous, not secure enough. We can only use the tables that the system IR office has produced for us.
Does this situation make sense to you?
We have licensed this supposedly remarkable tool that is designed, I'm guessing, to let us explore data and discover patterns in that data, and we are being restricted to using only the tables that a central office produces for us. Yesterday, after an hour and a half of instruction, most of us could only partially generate three tables of numbers that were derived from the tables that had been prepared beforehand for us to use.
I would especially welcome comments from higher education institutions using SAS VA. What has been your experience using SAS VA? Are your IT restrictions as narrow as ours?
knowing who did the installation sounds like a good idea. Although, I have some remarks to make here.
While probably your training was about the usage of VA (functional usage) I can guess you got no training about administration of SAS, and even less of SAS VA. A SAS solution such as Visual Analytics requires to have assigned a role of a SAS Administrator. This administrator will require both functional and technical skills, to be able to translate your requirements (security, integration with ODS, etc) into technical implementations. But also to be able to coordinate all those actions and the involved teams (SAS Technical Support, users, developers, IT, etc) and even raise questions to the proper teams or SAS. Also, if it is true that there is a mis-installation there, the SAS Administrator will detect the issue inmediately.
And I believe you miss this role very much. If you get a colleague this role and the proper training and experience, you should not have those issues. Instead, you would have projects that will implement every requirement.
For now, i would strongly suggest to contact your SAS account manager or SAS Consulting services to evaluate the best way to move forward and get to know who you need to contact to.
That being said, let me answer some of your questions:
1. Control security is not that hard if you know what to do. Also, if you get the appropiate tools (such as Metacoda) it won't be only easier, also quicker. Feel free to contact @MichelleHomes or @PaulHomes, I am sure they will be happy to help you there).
2 & 3. When you speak about ODS, I understat you don;t mean the SAS ODS procedure, but a name of one of your systems as you well explained. If that is the case, what we will need to know is the format of the data generated by ODS, and also if it is capable of generate the data in other formats. Examples: leave the data on a database such as DB2, Oracle or MySQL, or as Excel or CVS - comma-delimited file). If this is possible, and I would be surprised if not, then load this data into VA is pretty much possible with a Data Query Builder query or just dropping the data into AutoLoad.
4. I don't understand about that it is not secure to generate data in those formats, but this is not SAS related, but IT related. We can probably help you a bit on it. What is the security question here? Maybe encryption of data would help! There are many options
Please let us know what you think and I hope this helps a bit.
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