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Dashboards:Tips for Designing Dashboards with SAS Code

Submitted by on 2013-04-07 – 2:39 PM 6 Comments

sas dashboard book

I realize not everyone is using the SAS BI system, but that does not mean that you don’t need to create a dashboard.  In BASE SAS, dashboards are created using fairly simple SAS code (GKPI, macros, and ODS).  [Remember, you can insert the same PROC GKPI code into  Web Report Studio as a stored process if you need a dashboard elements.]

Dr. Christopher Simien, our guest author today, has written a book that shows how to get the most out of simple SAS coding to create  dashboards.  As far as I know this is the only book dedicated to using SAS code to create a dashboard.  As you will see in the following post, Dr.  Simien steps you through how to write the code to get the results you want.  In his book he discusses the pros and cons of various objects and provides   tips for getting the best results.


Designing Dashboards with SAS

I was delighted to get an invitation from Tricia to share a little about my latest book  you. I wrote THE DESIGN OF INFORMATION DASHBOARDS USING SAS® when I discovered there was next to no published material on developing SAS code for dashboards beyond a number of short papers at recent SAS Global Forums.

A dashboard organizes and presents large amounts of data, such as current status and historical trends, in an easy to read graphical interface. Dashboards are quickly being adapted across all types of organizations. The book is a nuts and bolts guide to building dashboards using SAS software. The primary audience is SAS programmers charged with developing dashboards for their organization. A secondary audience includes business managers and non-programmers who are just hoping to learn a little more about the potential of the technology.

The first four chapters provide background on the science of information visualization and related concepts. The remaining chapters cover coding and design of dashboards using SAS software. I tried to provide clear, well-structured examples, and show the reader how to quickly and easily construct basic dashboards that are suitable to their unique needs.

SAS users familiar with the basics of SAS software and the fundamentals of SAS/GRAPH® software will be able to make small changes to the sample code contained in the book to design simple dashboards. Advanced users with more extensive knowledge of SAS/GRAPH and the annotate facility will be able to more fully customize the sample code to fit a variety of needs. 

Creating a Bullet Graph

I present one of the code samples from the book below.  The code is for a bullet graph.  Bullet graphs are a type of display that has only been around for a few years.  However, it is an excellent way to display rich information in a small footprint. I produced this particular version with the SAS GKPI procedure that is wrapped in a macro.  

1. Create the macro variables you want to use in the procedure.
sas dashboard

2. Add GOPTIONS to control how the output is displayed.

sas dashboard

3. Enclose the PROC GKPI in a macro so you can use the values set in step 1. 

sas dashboard

In the book, I provide recommendations for display and present code for two different versions of bullet graphs.  Check out the book for other examples of useful performance indicators. You can find the book on sale now at

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Tricia Aanderud

Director of Data Visualization at Zencos Consulting
Tricia Aanderud is a SAS Business Intelligence and Visual Analytics consultant based in Raleigh, NC who works for Zencos Consulting. She has written several books about SAS, presented papers at many SAS conferences, and has been using SAS since 2001. Contact her for assistance with your next project.
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  • If you decide to build some dashboards – I’d love to see (and share) the results!

  • Victoria Campion says:

    Thanks Tricia

  • Here’s what is required based on chapter 1 of the book:

    – BASE SAS 9.2 or higher
    – SAS/Graph

  • Victoria Campion says:

    Hello Christopher

    Do the coding examples in your book work with all of versions of SAS? Or do you need to have the visual analytics package?

    Many Thanks


  • Hello, Quentin. Tricia asked if I could help with your question and it would be a pleasure. Graph Template Language (GTL) is definitely an excellent way to create or enhance analytical graphics. It gives the user such great control over formatting so it’s nice to know how to utilize it. I didn’t go deep into the use of GTL at all, but if you look closely at some of my code there is an example or two in the book where I use it. My “heat graph” example uses PROC TEMPLATE and the styles.heatmap to create the color scale for the tiles in the graphic. My “risk map” example also uses a similar technique to create the color gradient for the bands.

  • Quentin says:

    Looks like a very useful book. I look forward to reading it. Sounds like the first four chapters alone would justify the purchase price. Saw on Amazon summary of chapters that there is lots of SAS/GRAPH, and some SAS BI at the end. Was wondering if there are any GTL examples? (so many choices in SAS….)