I need help finding training resources for Cognos, SAS and the like.
January 16, 2014 12:29 PM   Subscribe

I am currently shopping around for a new job. I currently live inside of Business Objects and a ten year old version of Crystal Reports. How can I update my skills to learn analytics tools like Cognos and SAS?

My current company will not consider getting new software or paying for me to get training. Official training programs cost between $600 and $2,500 which is way more than I am able to spend. I have a few books on the subject. Are there interactive resources where I can actually try some of the features of the software?

posted by munchingzombie to Education (4 answers total) 5 users marked this as a favorite
It depends. It sounds as if you're into business intelligence/analytics. You can learn SAS-type programming via a tool like R (which, while similar, isn't exactly the same). You can perhaps find a Cognos variant in the Tableau Online software, which lets you become skilled in data visualization without needing to actually have your own data (you can use other people's data sources). Also, if you want to get a competent understanding of predictive analytics, look into RapidMiner 5.3 for a free, GUI-based predictive modeling tool. Feel free to PM if you want any job leads in the Portland metro region for healthcare or further discussion!
posted by jibberish at 1:28 PM on January 16, 2014 [2 favorites]

SAS isn't cheap, and the two courses for the SAS BASE certification really aren't necessarily applicable in real world SAS usage, nor do they guarantee you being able to pass the test - seriously I'm a 7 year SAS veteran at this point and there is no way I'd sit for the SAS exam unless I was required to because it is as ... picky ... as it is - and in general there are so many ways to do something in SAS that they are going to test you on the one way you aren't familiar with (and you'd just want to rewrite the exam code). More importantly, since SAS is as generally customized a deployment as it is for every organization, you really don't know what someone needs you to know... and generally that means you want to not only have a solid SAS foundation, but a solid SQL foundation, AND relatively complex knowledge of the SAS Macro language - which is completely NOTHING like any language you've ever had to deal with before... because at some level it isn't much of a language, until you get good enough that it is again - and that takes time. I STRONGLY recommend against SAS unless you've got a specific installation you can work with and query against - and if that's the case - then the SAS papers, Stack Overflow, and the standard SAS documentation is a solid start... otherwise SAS knowledge disappears too quickly to risk the coin on.

With that said jibberish pointed out a great free resource. RapidMiner 5.3 is a great tool for learning - and if you've got a sandbox database RapidAnalytics is a great also free extension to start automating the stuff you write (seriously - it takes a metric ton of effort to setup and it must be sitting directly on your database).
Youtube Resources:
Predictive Analytics
Vancouver Data
Dr. Markus Hofmann
Marcin Milewicz (some specialized stuff I looked into)
Prateek Khare (this was something specialized that I needed for a project)
And then if you are also interested a ton in Vector Machines - I recommend the CalTech lecture - although it is a lot of background to really understand this and its about 18 two hour lectures which require a metric ton of thinking and processing to work.
posted by Nanukthedog at 4:49 PM on January 16, 2014 [2 favorites]

I've got to disagree with what jibberish seems to be saying. SAS and R are extremely dissimilar languages. R is almost purely functional and SAS is 4GL with an mishmash of tools in other programming paradigms that have accreted over time. I think learning R is a great idea, but virtually none of the knowledge about syntax and program design will carry over into SAS.
posted by paper chromatographologist at 6:26 AM on January 17, 2014

Best answer: I forgot to post Many Eyes, IBM's Cloud-hosted Cognos engine, very similar to Tableau Online (you can upload and use other people's data to visualize data sets in Cognos via the Many Eyes website). Also, I second Vancouver Data in Nanukthedog's comment - Vancouver Data is home to one of the best predictive modelers - his material is second to none, and if you want to understand how to assemble a model, as well as the functionality behind why you're doing what you're doing, this is a highly viable source. His text mining processes worked like a charm for a project I assembled, and I walked away understanding applications for Euclidean Distances in text/corpora mining.

Chromatographologist disagrees with SAS being similar to R, but having used both, I think that, given you're looking to expand your skill set and learn to program in a data-analysis program, R is the closest free thing you're going to find to SAS - and I personally think that the core processes of performing data analysis in R is relevant to programming in SAS. The syntax isn't the same, but the programming skill set is (if that makes sense - while they are different languages, they both perform the same tasks using the same processes). It's like learning Yiddish when you really want to learn Hebrew - it's a cousin, not a direct lineage, but you'll be able to comprehend parts of the SAS syntax and why things are done certain ways in SAS after using R (that's from my personal experience and professional career growth).
posted by jibberish at 12:48 PM on January 23, 2014

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