by Amy K. Lavender

Many of us know the age of “smart homes” is just around the corner. However, some of that technology is already here – in our office buildings, homes, cars, and the palm of our hand. We know that information is sent from these devices to some invisible place in “the cloud,” but then what happens to it? Well, someone has to analyze it.

Kenneth C. Shiver
Keynote Speaker Kenneth C. Shiver

According to Kenneth C. Shiver, chief economist for Southern Company and this year’s keynote speaker at the University of West Georgia’s SAS Analytics Summit, that’s where things get tricky – not in collecting the data but rather how to analyze it.

“All these issues come up because you have to have people to analyze all this data that comes pouring in,” Kenneth said, “and it takes people looking at all these numbers to translate that into information your company can use to make changes and adjustments.”

Kenneth also told attendees to the event that while the amount of data could seem overwhelming and sometimes even superfluous, it allows companies to tailor their services to their individual customers when used properly.

“So the data volume is huge, and it can be analyzed in many different ways, but quality is key,” he advised. “Ask yourself, ‘Is it right?’ ‘Are we looking at the right data?’ You don’t want the answer you think you have to start falling apart after only a few questions.”

Those who attended the SAS summit had a wealth of knowledge and experience at their fingertips, not only in Kenneth – who has more than 20 years experience in the planning and analysis functions of Southern Company– but also in the five panelists and closing speaker Andre´ de Waal.

The panel discussion was very popular with the audience as it covered a topic near but not necessarily dear to us all – credit. Laureano Gomez with Epsilon; Amanda Hand with Aspirent Consulting; David Johnson with Cane Bay Partners VI, LLLP; Lloyd Lay with Cardlytics, Inc.; and Peter Oburu with Equifax highlighted what data is collected by credit reporting agencies and how it is used by those agencies to determine credit scores.

“We had a very lively interaction between the panelists and the audience once the topic of credit ratings was broached,” said moderator Dr. Joey Smith, UWG chair and professor of economics. “Everyone was highly engaged and interested in how their behavior affects their individual credit ratings, which affects everyone’s ability to buy a car, buy a home, and even get a job.”

Peter Oburu, Lloyd Lay, Amanda Hand, Laureano Gomez, and David Johnson
Panelists (L-R) Peter Oburu, Lloyd Lay, Amanda Hand, Laureano Gomez, and David Johnson.

Andre´ de Waal’s topic was also a hit, focusing on the current presidential race. The SAS Institute’s de Wall spoke on using SAS text mining to analyze the unstructured data from recent presidential debates.

In addition to the information provided by these experts in their fields, the summit also featured student presentations, student research, and multiple networking opportunities for students and professionals alike.

“This was our fourth SAS summit, and it was our best one so far,” said Dr. Smith. “Discussions throughout the day covered a broad range of SAS subjects. Of course, it was also wonderful to see our students present their research and have an opportunity to showcase their skills to potential employers. In just six hours, we covered a lot of ground and shared a lot of information with students, faculty, staff, business leaders, and community members, and we look forward to doing it all over again next year.”

Posted on April 11, 2016