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Users of SAS9 and SAS Mainframes are faced with a complex question. Modern platforms are rapidly developing into highly capable data & analytics environments with innovations like artificial intelligence, real time insights and a cost effective architecture. At the same time, SAS9 support is being limited and the development of the platform has stopped. 

The urgency for organisations to modernise their legacy SAS environments is increasing, but given the extensive legacy and mission critical function, this is not an easy task. As Analytium we have worked with organisations in different industries, and of different sizes, to tackle this question. 

Whilst the business case for modernisation is different for every organisation, there are universally applicable core principles you can use. In this blog we wrap our observations of the different cases into a single article, which explain what the business case for SAS Modernisation looks like, and which things you should consider.

What Should You Consider?

Any modernisation exercise starts with the end, the business context, in mind. We examine:

  • Financial and operational considerations.
  • Cost and investment.
  • Potential risks and their mitigation strategies.

There is a crucial role of stakeholders and communication in the organisation to ensure a seamless transition. From increased performance and efficiency to access to new features and technologies, modernising your SAS platform can enhance data management and provide a significant competitive edge.

Go to: Strategic Context | The Business Problem | The Opportunity | Economic Factors | Competitive Factors | Market Factors | Business Factors | Key Benefits and Value Proposition | Cost & Investment | Risk & Mitigation | Stakeholders and Communication 

Strategic Context 

Currently, businesses are finding compelling reasons for changes in their data analytics platforms. The strategic context for considering a SAS platform modernisation addresses critical business problems and seizes the opportunities presented by technological advancements. 

The Business Problem

Legacy SAS platforms, although robust, are becoming bottlenecks for businesses aiming for agility and innovation. They often lack the flexibility, scalability, and integration capabilities to handle modern data's volume, velocity, and variety. This limitation hinders deriving actionable insights and real-time data-driven decisions, which is crucial in a competitive market where speed and efficiency are key differentiators.  


The Opportunity

Modernising the SAS platform presents an opportunity to overcome these limitations and leverage cutting-edge technologies like artificial intelligence (AI), machine learning, and cloud computing. This transformation enables businesses to stay ahead by adopting advanced analytics, enhancing data security, and ensuring compliance with the latest regulations.  

Economic Factors 

The economic justification for modernisation includes potential significant cost savings over time due to improved operational efficiencies, reduced downtime, and lower maintenance costs. Additionally, the ability to quickly adapt to market changes and customer demands can lead to increased revenue and market share.  

Competitive Factors 

Data has become a strategic asset delivering its owners with competitive advantage, having a modern data platform is essential to gaining that competitive edge. Companies that quickly process and analyse data can identify trends, optimise operations, and innovate faster than their competitors.  

Market Factors 

The market signals a clear shift toward cloud-based analytics and AI-driven decision-making. With the rise of big data and the Internet of Things (IoT), companies need platforms that handle complex data workloads and deliver insights at scale. Modernisation aligns with these trends and positions companies to capitalise on new market opportunities.  

This strategic context sets the stage for a business case that addresses the need for modernisation, aligns with the organisation's larger objectives, and lays out a clear path to achieving tangible benefits.  

Business Objectives 

Designed to be industry-agnostic, the objectives of SAS platform modernisation ensure benefits across various sectors, including banking, pharmaceuticals, retail, and more. The following summarises the core goals for organisations seeking to enhance their data and analytics capabilities:

  1. Business and technology concept. Data analytics womanComprehensive Data Analysis: Modernisation enables sophisticated data analysis, which is critical for strategic decision-making across all industries—whether it's risk assessment in banking, clinical trial data analysis in pharma, or customer segmentation in retail.  
  2. Real-time Data Processing: Facilitates real-time data processing, allowing businesses to respond swiftly to market changes, regulatory requirements, and customer needs. This ability is paramount in sectors like banking and pharma, where timely data significantly impacts compliance and product development.
  3. Scalability and Flexibility: Ensures that the SAS platform can scale to meet growing data demands and adapt to industry-specific applications. Effective scaling supports businesses in managing large data volumes and complex analytics without performance degradation.  
  4. Knowledge Empowerment: Aims to empower users with the skills and knowledge to leverage the SAS platform fully. This includes tailored training and mentoring to meet the unique needs of each industry, from financial modelling to bioinformatics.  
  5. Self-sufficiency and Reduced Dependency: Seeks to enable organisations to become more self-sufficient in their data analytics operations, reducing dependency on external support and adapting to a culture of continuous improvement and innovation.  
  6. Industry Compliance and Security: A modern SAS platform helps organisations meet industry-specific regulatory compliance and data security standards, crucial in sectors like banking and pharma, where stringent regulations govern data handling and privacy. 

By achieving these objectives, the SAS platform modernisation project will deliver a versatile, powerful, and secure analytics environment that supports diverse needs across various industries.

Key Benefits and Value Proposition 

When constructing a business case for SAS platform modernisation, it's important to distill the benefits and value into concise, impactful points that resonate with decision-makers across industries.

Five most significant benefits and value propositions, each accompanied by practical examples:  
  1. Improved Performance and Efficiency: Modernising the SAS platform can significantly improve performance.
    For example, Coca-Cola Bottling's successful BI platform implementation is a powerful case study demonstrating potential efficiency gains. Businesses can expect faster data processing, enabling quicker decision-making and a more agile response to market changes.  
  2. Cost-Efficiency: Transitioning to modern analytics platforms like Viya and Altair can be more cost-effective than traditional options like SAS9 and Mainframe. This cost-effectiveness stems from reduced processing times and lower total costs of ownership. Automated routine tasks also contribute to operational savings.
  3. Scalability and Flexibility: Modern platforms provide the scalability to handle increasing data volumes and the flexibility to meet specific industry needs.
    For instance, a financial institution could leverage this scalability to manage transaction data more effectively, while a pharmaceutical company could adopt analytics for drug discovery and patient data management.  
  4. Cybersecurity and Compliance: Modernising SAS platforms enhances security features and compliance with industry regulations.
    For example, businesses migrating sensitive data to cloud platforms can benefit from robust security frameworks, ensuring the protection of customer data and regulatory adherence.  
  5. Skill Development and Cloud Literacy: Addressing the skill gap is crucial, as many organisations are not fully 'cloud literate'. Training and certification programmes can develop necessary internal skills.
    For example, workshops to improve 'data literacy' ensure employees use the new system effectively and efficiently.  

These benefits materialise in practical improvements in daily operations, strategic decision-making, and long-term growth. By focusing on these core advantages, businesses can build a compelling case for investing in SAS platform modernisation, regardless of their industry or specific challenges.

Cost & Investment 

Understanding the investment required and associated costs is very important when considering SAS platform modernisation.

The key cost and investment components include:  
  1. Software Upgrade Costs: Upgrading typically involves costs tied to new licenses or updates. However, SAS Institute provides these upgrades within the license fee, offering significant savings.
  2. Hardware and Hosting Expenses: Depending on the deployment model, costs may relate to hardware upgrades or cloud hosting services. These expenses should be weighed against benefits like improved performance and scalability.
  3. Internal Resource Allocation: Internal teams (IT, business users, procurement) must invest time and effort. Even with external support, internal stakeholders are crucial for project success.  
  4. External Consultancy and Support: Engaging external consultants adds costs, but their expertise ensures a smooth transition and effective staff training.  
  5. Project Management: Effective project management, covering planning, communication, execution, and quality assurance, has associated costs. Examples illustrate how long-term efficiency gains and productivity improvements offset initial training investment. 

Measuring these costs against modernisation benefits, such as improved efficiency, competitive advantage, and long-term savings, is essential. Consideration of opportunity cost—namely, falling behind competitors leveraging advanced analytics—is also vital.  

Risk & Mitigation

Identifying potential risks and developing mitigation strategies ensures the modernisation process runs smoothly.

Key risks and corresponding mitigations include:  
  1. man coding on laptopRisk of Downtime: Minimised by carefully planning the modernisation process, scheduling it during off-peak hours, and having a rollback plan to revert if issues arise quickly.  
  2. Data and Metadata Loss: Mitigated through thorough backups and data integrity checks before, during, and after migration to ensure data is accounted for and discrepancies addressed promptly.  
  3. Scale of Modernisation: Managed by adopting an incremental approach, modernising small sections at a time to maintain competitive advantage while reducing risk.  
  4. Resistance to Change: Countered by involving business users early, providing training, and communicating benefits. Demonstrating the value and ease of the new system encourages user adoption.  
  5. Resource and Risk Issues: Managed through precise project planning with identified risks and mitigation strategies and engaging experienced SAS partners for expert guidance. Examples include rigorous testing to avoid inaccuracies and centralising data governance for consistency across global operations. 

Organisations can ensure successful SAS platform modernisation with minimal disruption by recognising these risks and implementing appropriate mitigation strategies.

Stakeholders and Communication 

Effective stakeholder communication is critical for the success of the SAS platform modernisation.

Key aspects include:  
  1. Identification of Stakeholders: Identify all involved parties (IT, business users, procurement, and executive leadership) and understand their roles and interests.
  2. Communication Planning: Develop a comprehensive plan outlining objectives, messages, channels and frequency updates to keep stakeholders informed and engaged.  
  3. Involvement and Commitment: Engage stakeholders early and ensure active participation by forming a representative project team and maintaining a point of contact for issue resolution.  
  4. Addressing Concerns and Objections: Open discussions on migration costs, potential downtime impacts, and project benefits are essential compared to the status quo.  
  5. Knowledge Transfer and Training: Ensure stakeholders are well-informed and can use the new system effectively through workshops, documentation, and hands-on sessions to familiarise them with new features. Examples include continued mentoring for IT groups and regular updates to business users to mitigate resistance.  

Effective stakeholder management significantly impacts the success of the modernisation project. By addressing these aspects comprehensively, organisations can realise the benefits of SAS modernisation efficiently and effectively, setting a clear path towards a more agile, efficient, and competitive data analytics platform.

Your Next Steps

We started this blog entry with two huge drivers behind modernisation exercises: the capabilities of new platforms and SAS retiring SAS9 as an analytics platform. Neither developments will stop, rapidly increasing the need for organisations who use this platform to take action. Evaluating the business case to modernise your environment is a great starting point.

In an upcoming webinar we are discussing different modernisation paths we have seen and implemented in the past. This will give you further insights into what direction your organisation might go. If you are considering your options, we highly recommend joining this session. Of course we are always happy to discuss specific challenges, do not hesitate to get in touch with our team.

Are You Keeping Up with SAS Platform Modernisation Challenges?

The cost, complexity and the question "What's next?" can be overwhelming.

Discover your path, it may seem complicated but it is necessary, so don't let uncertainty hold you back.

Analytium specialises in navigating SAS modernisation, providing clarity and direction. learn about the modernisation paths that align with your organisation. 

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Sander de Hoogh
Post by Sander de Hoogh
May 15, 2024
Sander is the commercial director of Analytium, where he brings his passion for innovating with technologies to drive the adoption of Artifical Intelligence with Analytium's customers.