SAS Article #5 How far is too far?

How Far Is Too Far?


We’ve spent the last few months talking about Statistical Analysis Software, the SAS recruitment market and big data, but what happens when the thirst for the collection and granular analysis of data gets out of hand?


They Know My Birthday, Who Cares?


A valid point. There’s not much anyone can do armed with just your birth date. And it is also fair to say that each individual data element is completely inert. But, if you combine enough individual data elements in just the right way, there’s a toxic, Chernobyl-sized explosion waiting to happen…and it happened.


Cambridge Analytica said that it could move the minds of the American voters. The company boasted that it could develop psychological profiles of consumers and voters into a ‘secret sauce’ that would sway them far more effectively than traditional advertising ever could.


CA are accused of harvesting the data of some 50 million (possibly up to 87 million) Facebook users after an application developed by a British academic was downloaded by around 270,000 people. Reuters (San Francisco) writes, ‘[they] logged in with their Facebook credentials, according to Facebook. The application gathered their data and data about their friends, and then [the academic] passed the data to Cambridge Analytica, according to both Cambridge Analytica and Facebook.’


Armed with that data, it is alleged that CA could get an in-depth understanding of the online behaviours, personalities and predilections of those users and could use that knowledge to somehow influence a national election.


Facebook staggered, like a drunk sailor on shore leave, from one PR disaster to another, Cambridge Analytica very quickly went into administration and presumably in 2019 we’ll get a Clooney-directed film starring Ben Affleck about one of tech’s biggest screw-ups.


What Are The Wider Implications For Big Data?


It seems you can’t open a news site on your tablet without hearing reports of yet another data breach, whether it’s a moronic NHS middle manager leaving a laptop in a taxi or a nation hell-bent on election fraud. It happens with such alarming regularity that the people affected by them – you and me – have become apathetic to the whole thing.


It’s like hearing a house alarm in your street. We used to be worried that a break-in was occurring, now all we want is for the bloody alarm to stop squawking because it’s interrupting Love Island.


If someone of ill-repute takes out a mortgage or a loan using your details, it’s almost impossible to trace the source of those details so when it gets reported, it’s treated like any other fraud with no leads – i.e. quickly shuffled to the bottom of Juliet Bravo’s ‘to-do’ pile of crime.


However, the world went into meltdown when the Cambridge Analytica story broke, so why has this one grabbed our attention?


The holy grail of marketing is for businesses to figure out precisely who their customers are and to then create products and services tailored for said customers. The emergence of big data has allowed companies to do exactly that – to a greater or lesser degree of accuracy.


With access to an dataset of personality traits and particular habits, businesses can improve, amend and refine their service offering. For example, if you like watching sci-fi films on Netflix, they will recommend similar shows and films for you based on what you’ve seen before. When you buy a remote control car on Amazon, it will also recommend batteries. For sure these recommendations aren’t always perfect but generally speaking it works well for both parties – they can upsell and you stay on their site for longer, browsing what are ostensibly hand-picked products.


There’s ‘Good’ Manipulation, And There’s ‘Bad’ Manipulation…


Netflix and Amazon are examples of ‘good’ manipulation, in that an algorithm has discovered what YOU watch or buy, and has made recommendations based on that data. However an example of ‘bad’ manipulation is when vast amounts of personal data are aggregated into one place and it’s then used to manipulate vast amounts of people into doing one thing or another.


At a tech conference last year, the former CEO of Cambridge Analytica Alexander Nix said that two people with very similar characteristics – age, gender, income, family, viewing and reading habits etc – can have very different behaviour drivers. By adding this missing piece of the jigsaw to the mix, one can understand why people do what they do and they can be targeted to behave in a certain way, for example, voting.


It ought to be pointed out that what CA did prior to the Facebook thing was not much different to how content providers like YouTube and Netflix recommend videos and what most social networks do when they serve up adverts or push content your way in a non-chronological order. But there were two differences to what they did during and after.


According to, ‘First was the fact that it violated its agreement with Facebook to obtain the data profiles of an estimated 50 million Facebook users. Second, was the fact that people felt manipulated at scale believing that the company had fundamentally undermined the democratic process in several countries.’


A Blessing And A Curse…


Big data could well be the silver bullet for marketers, advertisers and businesses and for the most part, it’s put to good use, but sometimes, it can hurt.


Back in 2012, a father was forced into the embarrassing position of having to apologise to an employee of Target, the second-largest department store retailer in the US after his daughter was bombarded with ads and coupons for nappies, cots and baby clothes. The company had analysed her buying habits and according to, their ‘computers crawled through the data, they were able to identify about 25 products that, when analysed together, allowed them to assign each shopper a “pregnancy prediction” score. More important, they could also estimate her due date to within a small window, so Target could send coupons timed to very specific stages of her pregnancy.’


Target knew she was pregnant before her father did. The curse.


The blessing however, is that imagine if the same kind of analysed data could let you know you were about to have a heart attack or a stroke before the manifestation of any physical symptoms – potentially saving your life?


We’ve Crunched The Data And We Conclude That…


…big data is a force for good, mostly. The market for data analysts, statistical programmers, research scientists, security and protection managers and mathematicians is on an upward trajectory in the same way that chimney sweeps were in the middle of the 19th century.


Take a look at the IT jobs on our website and to talk more about our daily requests for capable, experienced candidates in the big data and SAS sectors, call Adam Jouning today on 01582 742 682 or email

SAS Article #4 – Doublespeak – Can You Do Science AND Business?

You’re either a scientist or you’re in the corporate world, right? Wrong.

The two are converging together and data analysis graduates who can stand up in the corporate world are becoming incredibly sought-after. And the money, oh, the money…

Take the case of Maria Jimenez. She is a Colombian graduate who believed that in order to get a foothold in the ultra-competitive corporate world, she would need an MBA. Not so, as she found out.

Her first job was in the IT department at Tecnoquimicas, a Bogotá-based pharmaceuticals company. After a while, she noticed that the managers of her department were making strategic business decisions based on the data from medical outcomes and staggeringly, out of a department of over 100 people, she was the only one with an undergrad business degree.

The. Only. One.

She realised very quickly that ‘what they needed was someone with a business head who could also speak the language of software engineers’. She further discovered that people like that were as rare as rocking horse poo, she ditched her plans for an MBA and she enrolled on a data science course.

Two years ago they were few and far between. As at April 2018, a Google search for ‘data science degree UK’ returned courses at LSE and the universities of Warwick, Nottingham, Manchester, Brunel and Birkbeck. That was just on the first page.

So, why are so many of Britain’s most illustrious universities offering undergraduate (and post-graduate) degrees in data science? One postulation is that it’s being driven by big business. Data science (statistical analysis, big data, call it what you want) is becoming a component part of how big corporates operate and there is a genuine fear, across the board, of being left behind.

The Statistical Analysis on Statistical Analysis….

The bulk of the most recent statistics come, unsurprisingly, from the US but they are almost directly comparable to those from the UK. It’s worth noting that over the last three or four years, applications for traditional, two-year MBA courses at US universities have gradually declined, whereas applications for Masters degrees in data science are what is described as a ‘growth market’.

  • 74% of US-based big data courses reported an increase in demand in 2017 *
  • This compares to just 32% of full-time MBA programmes *

* Source: Graduate Management Admission Council, Application Trends Survey Report 2017

In an overview of US business school courses  that reported applications growth, there was a….

  • 43% increase in full-time, one-year MBA courses
  • 47% increase in online MBA courses
  • 49% increase in Executive MBA courses
  • 38% increase in Masters in Management courses
  • 30% increase in Masters in Finance courses
  • 74% increase in Masters in Data Analytics courses

* Source: Graduate Management Admission Council, Application Trends Survey Report 2017

In yet another survey, this time conducted by UK-based education consultancy CarringtonCrisp for their annual global survey of prospective business school students, it turns out that big data courses rose to second from 13th in terms of popularity for men (behind finance) and from 13th to eighth for women behind, amongst others, management, accounting, HR and psychology.

According to CarringtonCrisp’s co-founder Andrew Crisp, ‘demand for big data courses is driven by an increase in lucrative job opportunities advertised for people with such qualifications’.

He continues, ‘the training business which provides a lot of skills development in the field often highlight in its emails the shortage of skilled data scientists in London. I suspect demand is simply a function of students seeing employers seeking to recruit people with these skills.’

Show Me the Money

Back to the US and from a 2015 report by PwC and the Business Higher Education Forum covering just under 48,500 advertised data science roles suggested that the average salary was a few dollars under $95,000 (or about £68,000). Interestingly, at least two-thirds of said roles required a Masters degree.

Full Circle…

At the start of the article we mentioned the marriage of science and business and nowhere is it better demonstrated or explained than by Roy Lee, the Programme Director for the Masters in the Science of Business Analytics at New York University’s Stern Business School.

‘We have a strict limit of 70 students because if the numbers were higher, the more ‘techie’ students would feel less able to share insights with their business-minded classmates, which is crucial for breaking down barriers. The idea is to get the two sides to share their different perspectives. Students are learning from each other about where and how to apply their skills.’

Let’s leave the last word to Sarah Laouiti, a full-time student on the Business Analytics Masters degree course at Imperial College Business School in London – ‘I will definitely feel better prepared for the future world of work with a big data degree on my CV. I don’t know what jobs will survive in the future but I’m sure that those that do will involve using data.’

To talk more about our daily requests for capable, experienced candidates in the data science and SAS sectors, call Chris Morris on 01582 742 682 or email today.

SAS Article #3 – Wanted: Consultants not Contractors

Wanted: Consultants, NOT Contractors

Ask every management consultant in the world what the most common question they get asked is and they will come back at you as one – ‘what do you actually do’?

While it’s not as bad as estate agents or cabbies, consultants get a bit of a bad rap. The (generally misunderstood) feeling is that they parachute in for a few weeks picking up two grand a day, commandeer an office, take a series of condesecending meetings with the infantry and tell you very little about your business you didn’t already know.

Even if they do make recommendations for improvements, they don’t stick around long enough before they have made any sort of operational impact.

So then, why are so many companies, especially in the Statistical Analysis Software-sphere, looking to us for experienced, capable consultants with first-hand knowledge of how complex businesses work rather than Prada-suited upstarts who’ve never done a day’s work in their lives.

Our clients want career soldiers who have done tours on the front line and aren’t afraid to say it like it is, not middle-class Media Studies grads with Apprentice-level bullshit reading from a playbook.

What Makes A Good Consultant?

There’s a bit more to it than age, corporate experience and an in-depth knowledge of business (especially in the digital and technology sector), but not much. The rest comes down to detail, and that’s where the differences lie, subtle they may be, but they’re there.

According to John Halamka, an exceptionally-well credentialed consultant who, amongst other titles is CIO of CareGroup Healthcare System, Associate Dean for Educational Technology at Harvard Medical School, Chairman of the New England Health Electronic Data Interchange Network and Chairman of the national Healthcare Information Technology Standards Panel, a good consultant will:

  • Provide actionable recommendations without creating a dependency for follow-on work
  • Train the organisation to thrive once they leave and empower the client with specialised knowledge that will benefit them in operational or strategic activities
  • Bring teams together, enhancing communication through formal techniques that add processes to complement existing organisational project management approaches
  • Provide recommendations are data-backed, are prioritised by relative value (cost x benefit), reflect current community standards and consider competing uses of the organisation’s resources and time
  • Consider the environment in which they are working and balance their project against other organisational priorities. In this way, organisations can adapt to change caused by the consultant while not significantly disrupting other work
  • Deliver innovative, proactive and customised solutions representing original work based on significant effort, due diligence and expertise
  • Have honesty, transparency and openness characterise all stakeholder communication

That notwithstanding, the money’s decent…

The Stats Bit…

Year-on-year to the end of 2016, the UK consulting industry grew by 4.76% to around £9 billion*. It’s true to say that close on half of that money (£4.46 billion)* is generated by PwC, Deloitte and KPMG but there’s plenty left in the pot.

*Source: Management Consultancies Association (MCA), ‘Annual Industry Report 2017’

What’s most interesting and actually predictable given the age of digital disruption we live in is that globally, fee income in the digital transformation consulting sector is now worth a staggering $23 billion with a 28% share of the market compared to 1% for sales, marketing and communications.*

*Source: Management Consultancies Association (MCA), ‘Annual Industry Report 2017’

Consultants in the SAS Industry

Major digital disruption has arrived and not everyone is equipped to deal with it. Sometimes it’s OK to ask for help. As we mentioned at the top of the article, the general opinion of consultants isn’t great (see this scathing article from 2010) but today, it’s not just a case of going in, telling the bosses to drop 30% of the workforce, charging £14,000 for the privilege and going to see the next mug.

Now it’s about providing recommendations and advice on long-term digital strategy, the implementation of AI, automation and robotics, data analytics, the adoption of the Internet of Things, and, so says, ‘the implementation of disruptive techniques in order to fend off new market competitors across all sectors.’

MCA Chief Executive, Alan Leaman, said, ‘Consulting firms are reinventing themselves to help their clients reinvent and rise to the challenge of the disrupted digital economy.’

Why Should You Become A Consultant?

In a hypothetical scenario, Kate is 45 and has been in the corporate finance sector since she left university. She’s the VP of Operations at a well-known merchant bank in the City and earns, let’s say, £180,000 with a hefty annual bonus on top of that. She is out the house at 6.30am and is rarely home before 7.30pm. She’s very happily married to David, a corporate lawyer at a big firm and he brings home similar money working similar hours.

They have three kids at private school and they live in a six-bed detached house in Blackheath. She’s just bought a 911 and he drives a Range Rover. They have substantial savings, their money is very-well managed and all in all, there are no complaints – she’d like a cleaner, Federer-esque backhand down the line and his short game has gone to pot recently, but other than that, this particular applecart needs no disrupting. Or does it….?

We’re in a period of what can charitably be described as fiscal turbulence. Bankers are at a daily risk of redundancy and there’s more uncertainty than there has ever been, meaning more pressure to perform.

During a recessionary economy, consultancy is often seen as a stepping-stone until the corporate gig offers come back but start on the road and it’s hard to come back. Here’s why:

  • You don’t have to put in 15 years to start working on high-level, company-wide strategy
  • The companies you help vary wildly, from sport, energy, transportation and almost any industry you can think of
  • Multiple clients and associated stakeholders grows your network faster than years of meetings
  • Your speed of learning and expertise is exponentially faster than it would be as an employee
  • You get to take your kids to school

If that hasn’t twisted your arm, we’re not sure what will. Consultancy isn’t something you should start doing, it’s something you should end doing.

To talk more about our daily requests for capable, experienced consultants especially in the digital and SAS sectors, call Chris Morris on 01582 742 682 or email today.

SAS Article #2 – HR & Data

Wanted: HR Managers with the Interpersonal Skills of Florence Nightingale and the Statistical, Analytical Brain of Sherlock Holmes.

So says Keith Nicholls, Director of Global HRIS at Universal Weather & Aviation, Inc., a Texas-based company providing products and services for the aviation industry.

It’s nothing to do with the US-obsession for standout 19th century British figures per se, rather more and more businesses including UWA are looking for people who ‘understand how to pull data, how to use business intelligence tools, how to create dashboards.’ They want people who can discover ‘what’s behind the numbers’.

There are lots of ‘new’ skills that forward-thinking businesses are on the hunt for, mainly based around tech and foreign languages, but now, HR managers are revising job descriptions to include analytical abilities. For those who can build a dashboard and come up with new ways to parse data, the jobs are there, and they’re very well paid.

It’s worth noting that there is a difference between top-end programmers and data scientists and those with analytics and IT skills and the latter have become collectively known as human resource information systems (HRIS) employees. It’s about taking data from statistical analysis software (SAS), creating fresh insights and identifying and predicting trends using data. As we said last month, a very simplistic example would be that of a supermarket analysing buying data and trends to determine where on the shelves to place top-selling products for maximum exposure and ergo, financial reward.

More and more, employers are specifically asking for people with statistical analysis skills but crucially, so says (quite randomly) Jason Romero, Assistant Superintendent of HR for the Del Mar Union School District in San Diego, ‘We’re not just looking for somebody that can manipulate analytics; we want somebody that can do something with it. People who can interpret that data.’

One of the key drivers of this need for creatively analytical brains is the adoption of cloud-based systems. They deliver data faster and in a more granular fashion than ever before and that data needs to be crunched.

As a prime example, tech careers site ran a study of HRIS roles on their website and of the total of 65,000 jobs on the site, only around 100 were looking for HR-specific tech skills. The keywords to look out for are business analysts, technical leads and HRIS reporting analysts and they said after the study that ‘Many [HRIS jobs] mention statistical analysis, experience [in] project management and business analysis.’

Demand for SAS skills is only going in one direction. Tony DiRomualdo, Senior Director of the HR Advisory Program at management consulting firm The Hackett Group suggests that due to the increased adoption of cloud technology, demand is shifting from pure tech skills to a blend of tech and analytical skills.

‘Nearly 75% of all HR organisations have some type of cloud-based system in place and cloud systems are predominant in 25% of HR departments, [therefore] there is much more of an emphasis and importance on analytics. Firms need people who are comfortable with being able to take data and draw insights from that data.’

Larry Duong, HRIS Manager at Canadian-based mining company Kinross Gold Corp. says that these skills need to be front and centre of a company’s HR department and Bill Neese, VP of Talent Acquisition at payroll and HR systems vendor Paycor agrees.

‘There’s no question in my mind we’ve got to hire these technical skills within the HR department’ said Neese. ‘Technical people working in HR will have the subject matter expertise that’s needed to identify additional areas of opportunities on products.’

So what skills does he refer to:

The list is long and ever-evolving but for starters…

  • Cloud technology
  • Data governance
  • Statistical analysis
  • Vendor management
  • Strategic planning
  • Project management
  • Skills implementation and team building

Old-school HR still has its place, but new-school HR is slowly becoming the school bully…

For more information about SAS recruitment, make sure you call us today. A key job goes live at lunchtime and we’ll have 50 applications by 5pm. The market is that competitive.

Call Chris Morris on 01582 742 682 or email today.

SAS Article #1 – What is Statistical Analysis?

Welcome to the first in a series of articles about SAS – Statistical Analysis Software. Over the coming weeks and months, we’ll be delving into different aspects of SAS and letting you know in a very subtle way that we are one of the leading SAS recruiters in the southeast…

It’s a question asked every day by forward-thinking businesses – how can we get (and stay) one step ahead of our competitors?

Are you familiar with the scientific principle of Occam’s Razor? It essentially states that with all factors taken into consideration, the simpler explanation for a problem is usually the right one. The simple answer to the question at the top of this article is ‘by offering a unique product or service, keeping prices lower than those elsewhere in the market and by being a business that buyers can trust to deliver.’

Those traits remain perfectly valid but more and more, big businesses are looking to statistical analysis software to pinpoint where to focus their efforts.

What is Statistical Analysis?

One tech company described it as ‘an aspect of business intelligence that involves the collection and scrutiny of business data and the reporting of trends.’

The biggest software player in the market, SAS, similarly define it as ‘the science of collecting, exploring and presenting large amounts of data to discover underlying patterns and trends.’

Fundamentally, the goal of statistical analysis is to predict and identify trends using data. A very simplistic example would be that of a supermarket analysing buying data and trends to determine where on the shelves to place top-selling products for maximum exposure.

A retail company will use statistical analysis – including web browsing, social media, industry forecasts and customer records (known collectively as ‘big data’) – to predict future trends, prepare for demand (seasonal and by specific product), identify target customers and fix pricing and promotions.

Alongside Business Intelligence – the processes that helps to organise, sort and present data in a relevant and context-specific way to aid the decision-making process – statistical analysis is making waves through the recruitment industry in the same way as the dotcom boom did in the early 1990s. It’s that important to big business.

Statistical Analysis Software Recruitment

At Asset Resourcing, our experience in recruiting within the statistical analysis sphere goes back almost as far as the invention of the theory itself (MD Ben has been recruiting SA and BI analysts for 15 years) and we cover all levels of seniority and roles, including:

SQL BI DevelopersBusiness AnalystsModellersBI Technical Project ManagersBusiness Intelligence AnalystsBI DevelopersHead of BISenior SAS Consultants

In addition to recruiting both contract and permanent staff spanning the SA and BI spectrum, we have an exclusive contract with one of the UKs leading SAS-partnered consultancies for whom we are their recruitment partner.

The SAS job market is only going one way and the opportunities available are with the big boys. You’re unlikely to find SAS software in start-ups and smaller businesses purely because the associated costs and manpower involved are prohibitively expensive. The world’s leading businesses use SAS software – Google, Facebook, Twitter, Accenture, GlaxoSmithKline, Novartis and Netflix as well as the majority of the globe’s leading IT business and banks – and we were in on the ground floor.

For more information about SAS software recruitment, make sur you call us today. A key job goes live at lunchtime and we’ll have 50 applications by 5pm. The market is that competitive.

Call Chris Morris on 01582 742 682 or email today.

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