Friday, September 19, 2008

Will WPS Do Anything To SAS?

One of the first things a fresher entering the field of analytics will say is “I want to learn SAS!” I used to have the same aspiration about 2 years back and getting certified in SAS was a dream then. But experience has taught me otherwise.

I work with SPSS and SAS most of the times, with MS Excel & MS SQL thrown in once in a while. When the dataset is huge, I use SAS. But for smaller datasets, I prefer to use SPSS most of the time.

The truth is people don’t use SAS because it gives more accurate results compared to other similar softwares. Nor do they use it because it’s user-friendly. In an ideal world, these two should be very important parameters for purchasing or using any software. From my experience, the top reason people use SAS is because of its data handling capacity & faster processing time. As they say, it’s all about marketing!! 

I also don’t agree with the opinion that a SAS certification is the BIGGEST thing an analytics/data mining professional need. The biggest marketing research firms use SPSS Base/Clementine. So if your interest is marketing research and you apply to these companies, your SAS certification is going to be of little value to them. Likewise, different verticals use different softwares.

I think vendor-neutral/tool-independent Data Mining knowledge should be the top priority for both analytics professionals and recruiters. Moreover, if you work in a team and you focus too much on the SAS, SPSS or SQL programming part/syntaxes, there’s the danger of becoming a Programmer or a Database specialist at the cost of becoming an Analytics Leader or Manager. But if you work independently as a consultant, you may be required to know everything!!

A lot of other companies are turning to open source or cheaper software like Weka, R, RapidMinerGate (for Text Mining), etc. The latest and most interesting (to me!!!) is the World Programming System (WPS) developed by the World Programming Company. The WPS is a code interpreter that can execute programs written in the language of SAS.

SAS programs can typically be executed with WPS with little or no modification because the language supported by WPS covers much of that found in Base SAS® plus many data access methods found in SAS/ACCESS®. There is also support for some basic language elements that users may be familiar with from other SAS products. There is also the WPS2R Bridge by which users can use WPS and R together to have access to R for statistics. The product comparison info is given below

A detailed cost comparison of WPS and SAS can also be found here. I doubt that this will affect Mr.Jim Goodnight's sleep, but SAS better start listening and do something about its ridiculous pricing.