I’ve been asked several times what made me change my mind about SAS Enterprise Guide. SAS EG and my husband have a lot in common. For one thing, neither made a great first impression.
When I first met Dennis and saw that he was the same size as me (which my third daughter says is only the perfect height if your aim is to be shipped in a box), the first thought that went through my mind was,
“Oh my God, I’m dating a munchkin!”
When I first used Enterprise Guide, probably at version 1, my first thought was,
“Who would ever use this $#@ ?”
Here is another similarity between my husband and SAS EG, the more time I spent with both, the more I realized,
“Hey, you are really brilliant.”
Since I have four daughters, I have given a lot of talks about men, types of men, things to look for and what to avoid. Contrary to my friend who believed that men only come in three types, I think they are more complicated than that.
There are brilliant men who are great to be around because they are just so deep and insightful, you never get bored. At the same time, they are really high maintenance. They expect you to be always perfectly dressed, ready to go to Lago’s at the drop of a hat, take their laundry to the dry cleaners and be interested in their favorite sports teams. That’s SAS. Brilliant, high maintenance, but worth it.
Then there are men who are just as brilliant but a lot more comfortable to be around. They can glance at the third iteration and tell you the final equation before the computer finds the solution. At the same time, they are happy to stay home, drink beer and watch the Daily Show. If you want to go to Lago, that’s fine, too. Brilliant, easy to get along with, but able to rise to any challenge.
How is that SAS Enterprise Guide? First of all, as I said the other day, the time it takes to do the data cleaning and checking can be cut to a FRACTION of what it is with SAS. That is a lot of the hours that go into a research project.
Second, there is the 80-20 rule, where 80% of your research projects are going to use 20% of all possible techniques – ANOVA, linear regression, logistic regression and those in SAS EG are extremely easy to do.
Third, and really important – think of the children! SAS EG would make a good dad because good dads make things easy for the kids to understand. EG has a much gentler learning curve than does SAS. This is one reason I think it was a brilliant move for the company. As a consultant, most people come to me interested in learning SPSS because it is easy to get started with the pointing and the clicking. Lately, the big interest in classes on campuses has been with SAS Enterprise Guide. EG fits with how people are used to using computers. We have a whole younger generation that expects to use a computer to solve just about every problem in life and certainly does not expect to learn programming.
Fourth, and equally important, let’s say you WANT to clean up nice and go to Chinois on Main – well Enterprise Guide includes a code window (under the PROGRAM menu option in 4.2) where you can write code to your heart’s delight. Although Enterprise Guide is relatively easy and comfortable to use, it combines that with the limitless range of SAS.
Does that sound like an ad? Not quite. There are still two significant disadvantages. While SAS EG is easy to learn relative to programming in SAS it is still not exactly intuitive. If you have been using SAS for a long time, you’ll probably find EG a piece of cake. If not, it’s kind of like Dreamweaver, compared to coding html from scratch it is easy. Compared to typing it is hard. For those people who want statistical analysis to be like the genie in Aladdin –
“Computer, bring me a repeated measures Analysis of Variance.”
well this isn’t quite it. But, it IS closer.
The other really bad thing about SAS EG it also has in common with my husband – it’s difficult to get to know. (Hint to women: If you like the guy, ignore your friends who tell you that anyone who is 42 years old and never been married must be gay. See photo of baby above as evidence of not-gayness. )
We spent frustrating months trying to get the installation working at our site. We finally (I think) have a usable method for individuals but SAS EG is still not working error-free in our labs. That’s my project for next week. So, yes, it is brilliant, flexible, comfortable and has limitless possibilities. However, if they don’t fix that installation mess, SAS EG may end up like my husband and be forty-two years old before it gets a really great user base.