SAS offers money-back guarantee

Information technology pilot programs normally test a system to work out

the bugs before going forward with a full-scale implementation.

But the SAS Institute Inc. Pilot Program takes the process one step

further. The program, designed for government and academic customers, is

designed to determine in advance whether an IT project will yield the desired

outcome. If positive results are not realized, customers get their money

back, said Jeff Babcock, vice president of the Public Sector Group at SAS.

"So far, nobody has asked for their money back," Babcock said with a

smile during the SAS Institute's second annual executive conference on Tuesday

in Washington, D.C. "We validate the customer's concept before moving forward

with a full-blown implementation."

The SAS Pilot Program was launched last year after the company's inaugural

executive conference, Babcock said. "We currently have 52 active pilots

and are hoping for a big wave of activity after today," he said.

SAS, a Cary, N.C.-based data warehousing and decision support firm,

has worked with many federal agencies on myriad projects, including:

* Helping the U.S. Geological Survey's Center for Biological Informatics

produce a single interface for its four main computer systems. SAS also

helped USGS establish internal business rules for funding and tracking IT

programs, said Michael Frame, deputy center director for biological informatics.

* Helping the Army's Aviation and Missile Command's Corporate Information

Center take a middleware approach to making legacy data accessible through

the World Wide Web. "The Army Logistics Systems have been around since the

mid-1960s and the technology has changed, but the data hasn't," said Allisha

Ryan, computer specialist at the CIC. The legacy systems consist of 9 million

lines of code and 220 databases. The same "pulls of data" that took an hour

on the old system now take a minute-and-a-half, Ryan said.

* Partnering with Science Applications International Corp. on a data

mining initiative to help the Marine Corps analyze the attrition rate of

first-time enlistees. SAIC developed the Total Force Data Warehouse to capture

the data and used the SAS Institute's Enterprise Miner as the predictive

modeling tool to analyze it, said Kevin Ikeda, assistant vice president

at SAIC. "When it came to determining the factors of attrition, different

people just could not agree," he said. "They needed an objective data mining

tool to analyze the data and prioritize a list of reasons for the attrition

of first-term enlistees."

The cost for agencies interested in the Pilot Program is determined

by the project, but it can range from $3,000 to hundreds of thousands of

dollars, according to SAS and participating agencies.

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