Data Controller – a BICC perspective

We caught up with Herbert Grossmann of DER Touristik to understand how Data Controller for SAS is used within the BICC and the types of challenges it solves. 

The previous article in this series can be found here.

Guten Tag, Herby! Can you tell us about your role within DER Touristik?

Yes, I am working here as project manager for BI and Analytics and my department is the BICC (Business Intelligence Competence Centre), and we have an absolute focus on the SAS technology stack – so that’s my daily business.

Great. And, I understand you guys are using Data Controller for SAS. What do you use it for?

Well, mainly for managing control tables, that we have a lot of nowadays, in the data warehouse. But we also implemented what we call an “early bird booking system”. There we have used the Approval process within Data Controller, which is excellent, because users, business departments etc, can approve data that would normally only be accessible within the back-end warehouse itself. So now they have an interface, which limits their access to specific views, and this is very useful – it was also highly commended by our management.

So, business users can approve modifications to secure warehouse tables without having direct write-access themselves?

Exactly

Fantastic. Next question. How does having Data Controller make your life easier?

Well – there is the version control of course, that gives us a much better traceability of changes to see what was changed by whom, at what time. And we have the immediate constraint checking which is also very useful because some of the tables are sensitive towards, let’s say, the changes of the primary key. And in the past when we did it the “old fashioned way” it was possible that by mistake that someone could cause duplicate primary keys or stuff like that, so this is now not possible anymore, which is very good. And like the example that I mentioned before, that now we can grant access to certain sensitive tables even for business users that would normally have no access, but we can decide whether to give them at least the right to view these tables, or during special events edit tables, or approve edits of those tables. So this gives a lot of opportunities, and makes it much easier than it was in the past.

Nice! And so, talking about the past, before you had Data Controller, how did you manage modifications to data in SAS?

We classically used two approaches – on one hand using SAS Enterprise Guide to directly edit tables or do imports, such as imports of excel sheets for example. On the other hand, we have some batch processes that also do imports of Excel tables or CSV tables. So those were the classic and standard ways. And of course especially the batch one we are still using for some files, depending on the situation. But we do no editing of tables directly with Enterprise Guide anymore because it is much safer and easier to use the Data Controller.

Understood. So on the Data Controller side, what would you say were your favourite features and why?

I would say that I like the editor as a whole very much. I think that is great that in the moment you make a table editable, you can define the ways in which you would edit the tables. Like whether there is some historic logging or not, and the fact you can set the constraints. And in the editor then you have a lot of Data Quality opportunities such as defining drop-down lists for certain attributes, which really makes editing the tables easier and much more comfortable. It was a little bit of a pain in the past but now it’s almost fun.

That’s great feedback! Is there anything else, any comments you would like to add?

Yes, I like the fact that Data Controller is really just a part of the SAS environment. It’s not a completely separate application that you have to install somewhere, but a kind of pluggable part of the SAS environment. I liked it very much because then you still have everything in your hands. I mean I am not a developer but my knowledge of SAS is already enough to match the criteria to be able to handle the Data Controller as whole, to even do the updates and/or to modify things. And also it’s easy to show others who have experience with SAS how the tool works and what is to be done when there are data issues. And yeah, I think that’s a big advantage.

SAS DER Touristik