“What Are You Thinking?” (Part 2)
by Vijay Mehrotra
OK – the conference is over and I’ve made it home. There’s a lot more to say, but you will just have to read about it in my “ANALYZE THIS” column in the next ANALYTICS magazine.
The Best of INFORMS 2011 Analytics Conference
by Adam Clark
In quick succession, here are what I consider to be the highlights of this year’s conference. (In no particular order).
When are sub-optimal solutions more optimal?
by Lisa Kart
“In theory, there is no difference between theory and practice. But, in practice, there is.”
- Jan L. A. van de Snepscheut (1953 – 1994) computer scientist and educator
I was pleasantly surprised by the “sub-optimal” choice of Jeffrey Camm as today’s backup plenary speaker. He shared the quote above (as well as one of my favorites from George Box: “All models are wrong. Some models are useful.”) to drive home a very important point in our practice.
Optimal solutions are not always optimal.
The exploration of near-optimal solutions can identify alternatives that are as good or almost as good with respect to the objective function, but perhaps are preferred from a practical standpoint. Moreover, the process of that exploration can be more valuable than finding “the answer.”
Let me give a few examples from my own experience. At FICO, we would optimize business decisions for banks, such as whose credit line to increase and how much, or how to set the initial price and terms for a loan. In the early days, we started out looking for “the answer” that maximized portfolio profitability while meeting constraints such as loss or costs. But the natural question we would hear when presenting “the answer” was “What if we were willing to take on a little more loss, or spend a little more, how much better (or worse) would profit be?”
We then moved to presenting a range of solutions (or efficient frontier) around the bank’s desired operating point, which showed the tradeoffs between the objective function and other business metrics or constraints. This was extremely effective for a number of reasons. Most importantly, in my opinion, it gave the decision makers more control, input and ownership in the solution. (See: Talk Analytics with Executives: 4 Things You Must Understand for more on this.)
Jeff made the point that we can use our models as a “lab” to find families of optimal solutions. As we all know, Analytics success lies largely in impacting business decisions. I agree with Jeff that clients are willing to pay for useful information and insights, not just “the answer.”
“What Are You Thinking?” (Part 1)
by Vijay Mehrotra
“Don’t you know?
Just got out of Anne Robinson and Jack Levis’ presentation of the CapGemini recommendations for how INFORMS should move into Advanced Analytics (things like certification, education and training, analytics maturity models, and such). Again, a very full room and a lot of engaged people paying attention. Excellent questions from several industry folks, including a bunch of first time attendees.
What can you do to get in this game?
2. Show up to the spring conference (now called te INFORMS Business Analytics and OR).
3. Tell your friends. By that I mean both your traditional colleagues in OR and also your friends from “real world”. Tell them that OR is now part of the wave of business analytics, which means analyzing data to improve the way businesses are run, and that you are excited about it..which leads us to:
4. Get excited. This is basically stuff that a lot of us have been doing for a long time – and suddenly the world (Gartner, Accenture, etc) has decided that this is “the next big thing”. This is f***ing great news! This means more budgets, more jobs, more challenges. And, as Ed Klotz from IBM/ILOG pointed out to us at lunch yesterday, this also means more good research problems.
What I’ve learned
by Lisa Jenkins
I left Radhika Kulkami’s talk “Data-Driven Decisions: The Role of OR in Business Analytics” pumped. Her enthusiasm for Analytics and OR was infectious. Learned about Analytics at Best Buy from Scott Friesen and have gave some really good insights about how to communicate analytic information effectively. He also talked about some of the challenges of analytics in the retail environment. I saw the “Data Mining: Challenges on the Human Side” by Daniel Thorpe and Elpida Ormanidou, which was talk about the key skills and qualities that make effective team members at Walmart and Sam’s Club.
From all these talks and my conversations with practitioners one thing is clear, it’s not enough to be good in the mathematics and statistics. To be good at OR you have to have be good a many things. The word “interdisciplinary” was said quite a bit yesterday. And soft skills (the ability to communicate the value of your work, visually and verbally) were emphasized MORE than math skills.
After those talks I floated into the Birds-of-a-Feather group, “Optimizing the Relationship Between IT and Analytics” feeling fantastic. I was excited because this would be my best chance to meet the IT and Analytics hybrid folks. Well, after a few minutes of the talk in this group, the high that Ms. Kulkami set me on took a turn for the worse. What I learned was there is a problem between OR groups and IT groups. The issues seems to be differences communication, resources and funding. To me this was shocking because I had always assumed that OR was more of a front-office function, meaning this is a function where you are working with the business to help them make money or prevent them from losing money, which every business would deem to be important. So, any other resource, particularly IT would automatically be allocated (assuming it project made enough money or saved enough money to warrant it) right? What I learned is that the answer to might not be yes. In some organizations IT and OR groups are at odds or simply do not understand each other. How sad.
That kind of environment might be an ideal one for some enterprising OR person to do some kind of resource constraint model that could allow someone to better manage the IT work pipeline in such a way that projects deemed important to the company, including those that originate in the OR group, can be ranked and the project ranking determines the order the project is worked and the resources applied. Doing something like that could ensure that OR team projects get into the pipeline and get adequate IT resources. I’m just a first year grad student, but isn’t that the very type of problem that OR can solve????
Hmm, I might have just mapped out a career plan.
In Edelman’s Footsteps
by Paul Thompson
Listening at the Edelman Gala last night, I was struck by the magnitude of the accomplishments that the presentations lauded and summarized. And I was reminded of the words of the Spanish poet Antonio Machado:
“Caminante, son tus huellas el camino y nada más; Caminante, no hay camino, se hace camino al andar. Al andar se hace el camino, y al volver la vista atrás se ve la senda que nunca se ha de volver a pisar. Caminante, no hay camino, sino estelas en el mar.” (Proverbios y cantares, en Campos de Castilla, 1912).
These translate roughly as “Traveler, your footsteps are the road, and nothing more; Traveler, there is no road, the road is made by walking. By walking, you make the road, and on turning to look behind, you see the path that none will walk again. Traveler, there is no road, only a wake on the sea.”
Let us congratulate the Edelman Finalists. Not in the sense of becoming what is sometimes referred to as a self-licking ice-cream cone, but rather in recognizing the that the work that these teams has done represents new efficiencies gained within commerce and society – changes that are enriching the quality of life of many people right now.
Looking back, we see these groundbreaking accomplishments in the practice of Operations Research and Advanced Analytics – recent, significant steps that we and others have taken in the field of OR and Business Analytics. Let us laud them. But ours is the path forward. Let us turn to the future and, in the spirit of Edelman, continue in the hard and often dirty work of forging forward with new steps to create a better world.
Things I’m Hearing (Part 4)
by Vijay Mehrotra
It appears to be past midnight local time here in Chicago. It’s nice to see some conference attendees still out here at the hotel bar, including several members of the winning Edelman team from the Midwest Independent System Operator (ISO). Big congrats to them.
Went to a great panel discussion during one of the late sessions today entitled “Growing an Analytics Capability” – four panelists from different industries and generations discussing their work, their challenges, and some of the organizational barriers to success. We heard them talk about getting business customers engaged, about low hanging fruit and internal credibility/capital that gives you a chance to go after bigger (and harder) problems, and the importance of communicating clearly and effectively to the key people within an organization, and a whole bunch of other things.
In our profession, we don’t talk about this kind of stuff enough, and I used to think it was because of the technical professionals’ disdain for all things fuzzy and qualitative. In my old age, I now realize that it is also because these things are hard to effectively teach outside of a practical context, and if you haven’t wrestled with these things yourself at some level they sound like either fairy tales or empty platitudes. We need to figure out how to teach these things.
More on this tomorrow. I’m going to bed.
by Adam Clark
Congratulations to the Midwest Independent Transmission System Operator (ISO) for winning the 2011 Franz Edelman Award and to all of the Edelman Award finalist. This year’s group of finalist was very impressive, tackling a diverse set of problems. Also, thanks to all of the volunteers that work behind the scenes to make the Edelman Awards Gala one of the best experiences of the INFORMS Conference.
Don’t Undervalue Caesar or Your Own Worth
by Barry List
In today’s panel, Growing an Analytics Capability, moderator Thornton May recalled the story of Caesar being kidnapped by pirates. Caesar asked how much was being sought for his ransom, and when told, he replied, “That’s all?”
Take the same approach to the value of your work in analytics, May recommended during a session filled with bonhomie, clever remarks, and insights that reinforced May’s message.
The panelists were Scott Friesen, Director of Analytics, Customer Insights Unit at Best Buy; Kaiser Fung, a statistician at Sirius XKM Radio and the author of “Numbers Rule Your World;” Bill Hostmann, Vice President and Distinguished Analyst, Gartner; and Larry E. Rosenberger the former president and CEO of the pioneering FICO/Fair Isaac.
Putting analytics and operations research at center stage is sometimes straightforward. Fair Isaac took an important role in the lending world by developing credit scores for individual credit card applicants. Larry Rosenberger, reflecting on 35 years with what is now called FICO, said he began explaining what we do as “Better decisions through data.”
Kaiser Fung recalled the awkwardness of being hired as the first operations researcher at a company after serving in companies with established departments. He recalled having to start everything from scratch, and arguing for a reasonable budget for the basics of a department. When asked the key to gaining respect and growing a department, he advised scoring early, easy successes, then identifying things that can lead to important measurable results in a predictable period of time.
Scott Friesen agreed, adding that you should follow an important early success by explaining how much more you can accomplish if you have a department with proper resources.
Love them or hate it, the IT department is often on the minds of operations researchers, and Fung and Friesen offered different approaches.
“I’m constantly frustrated with them,” Friesen said, “but I respect that they have to keep the lights on,” they’re the ones who have to maintain the infrastructure that everyone uses.
Fung credits a good relationship with IT at Sirius to the fact that both departments report to the same executive. By being a first tester of new IT systems, he forges a good relationship.
Bill Hostmann, though attesting to the growing importance of analytics, expressed the business world’s continuing lack of understanding about the contributions of OR/analytics: executives are spending billions of dollars for IT and analytics systems, he said, but only scoring their overall satisfaction at 3.5 to 4 on a 10 point scale.
Visit Fortune 500 companies and ask about analytics and you get 500 different answers, said Thornton May, but the bottom line, he strongly believes, is that operations researchers and experts in analytics are the business heroes of our time.
Data and Domain Expertise
by Lisa Kart
As expected, the panel on “Growing an Analytics Capability” hosted by Thornton May was fascinating. In fact, I could have listened to the discussion for another 30 minutes at least! While there were lots of interesting points made, one that spoke to me was the use of data and domain expertise to improve decisions.
As OR/Analytics practitioners, we all know the dangers of purely data-driven analyses or decisions, because the data quality—when it exists—can be poor. As we Decision Analysts know, data can be elicited from experts, and “beliefs” can be quantified. On the other hand, data can reveal relationships that someone’s intuition may not.
In my experience, good analyses require both, and they complement each other. Data, when it exists—and especially when it’s well thought out (or experimentally designed)—is extremely valuable. But domain expertise can sanity check data, add to it when data is limited or biased, and anticipate that the future is not like the past. That is something that data just can’t do.
Ready for the Gala – I think
by Allen Butler
It’s amazing how much information I ingested today – well, perhaps “ingested” is too strong, “was exposed to” is probably more accurate. So, far every talk I’ve been to has been both entertaining and informative. I really enjoyed the plenary by Chuck Holland and, although I know it can’t be true, it seems like the UPS team has optimized almost every thing they can.
I liked the talk by Norm Fujisaka, Metron Aviation, showing how they were able to help South Africa’s Air Transportation System prepare for the 2010 Soccer World Cup. An interesting side-note was that the allocation of functions between South Africa’s version of the FAA and the airline companies was not the same as it is in the U.S. Certain steps in air space management that the FAA dictates in the U.S. are performed cooperatively (and perhaps more efficiently) by the airlines in South Africa. Food for thought.
Robert Clemen, of Duke University, showed me something I already knew – I am overconfident. Apparently, so are most people when it comes to estimating probabilities. When the audience was asked to give 90% confidence intervals for certain arcane values, such as the length of the Nile river in miles, or the annual rainfall in Chicago in inches, we gave ranges that were far narrower than was correct, with the result that a typical score on the 10 question quiz was closer to 50% than the expected 90%. He also showed how he could manipulate our probability estimates with appropriate phrasing of the questions. Overconfident and easily manipulated – maybe I shouldn’t become a professional poker player when I retire.
Things I’m Hearing (Part 3)
by Vijay Mehrotra
From the “Old Unsolved Problems Don’t Actually Go Away” Department: felt a little bit of Groundhog’s Day at lunch. First, someone pointed out that the one of the Edelman Award finalists’ projects was an intelligent way to re-position empty shipping containers – this is something we had talked about way back in the early 1990s when I worked as an OR consultant to Sea-Land. A couple more of these stories came up later on in our discussion, and all I could muster was a rueful grin.
What is the difference now? Data. There’s more of it, more accessible, and we’ve got smarter, faster computers to process it. If you didn’t know that before you got here, you’ve probably heard it a few dozen times today.
Join the INFORMS Analytics Section Linked in Group!
by Michael Gorman
The INFORMS Analytics Section Linked in Group is now formed:
Please join and keep up with all the developments and discussions of the Analytics INFORMS Section!
Analytics Section President,
by Paul Thompson
Yesterday, Sunday 10 April, I had the priviledge of watching the INFORMS Professional Colloquium unfold for 22 students from 17 universities. More than half a year of planning on the part of 15 ORMS/Analytics professionals from 12 companies in all sectors of OR practice went into putting on this event. Many kudos are due the committee members for all of the hard work they contributed to make this, the seventh IPC, the most successful ever. It was an honor to work with this great group of folks! Check out the committee on the conference website.
Many of the IPC participants are actively looking for jobs. Take a close look at them — they were individually nominated for this prestigious event by their professors or university program administrators — they represent the best of the graduating graduate students in the class of 2011 and 2012. It was a distinct pleasure to work with such a great group of smart, motivated and highly-qualified students.
After some cheesecake
by Adam Clark
Well, Day 2 is just over half way complete. After all of this time in Chicago, I am a bit disappointed I’ve haven’t seen any shady characters toting tommy-guns. Well, not too disappointed.
Today started off with a great Plenary Speaker who commented that if you want to get the attention of your VP – you could ask to date his daughter. Well, my Senior Executive has sons, and I think that approach might not be as conducive for me. So I’ll try to settle for one of his other options to get the attention of my VP – namely “Keep your promises.” And I promise to run and hide if I see a tommy-gun. I am fascinated by, and thankful for, UPS instrumenting the trucks with seat-belt sensors so they can determine the percentage of time their drivers are wearing seat-belts. Can I get this instrumentation for my kids car once they start driving?
In short, here are few things that I have learned today.
- We all know that a “Black-box” is a mysterious and magical algorithm that transforms inputs into outputs. Well, I heard today about a “Glass-box” that also turns inputs into outputs – but in a way you can visualize.
- I learned that I have a strong bias against attending presentations on the 6th floor – mainly because I can’t find it. In fact, I’m starting to spread the rumor that the 6th floor doesn’t really exist – it is a ploy to keep us on the escalators between the 5th and 7th floors.
- I also learned that communication is not simply ‘dissemination of information’ and I’m appreciative to have had the opportunity to put that knowledge to work – I like audience participation.
Lastly, I have just recently read a book on the Myths of Mesopotamia. This book is a great collection of the myths that were written in Cuneiform on clay tablets thousands of years ago. After reading the book, I realized that the most common reason the gods sent floods, plagues and other forms of chaos was because the humans kept getting too loud and the gods couldn’t get their rest. I was reminded about the wrath of the Mesopotamian Deities during the luncheon. It is true, humans are very loud. Does anyone know if rain is the forecast?
I’m a what?!
by Jen Leong
So in the past couple of days I have learned some new words that some of us might relate to:
“Nerd Whisperer” : Someone who can clearly communicate with decision makers, technical experts and analysts. These people understand both business and the techie stuff and can work well with both.
“Battle of the Nerds”: The fights between IT and Analytic/OR professionals over resources, funds and solutions.
Starvation, Plumpy’nut, and the Supply Chain
by Barry List
An analytics conference is usually a place for operations researches and executives to explore ways of improving business, and that’s where the majority of those who came here are finding tips and instruction to bring back to the office. It’s also a place where these very same people can use their skills on humanitarian projects, as Prof. Jay Swaminathan of the University of North Carolina Chapel Hill, who has worked with IBM, explained today.
In a talk, “Supply Chain Analysis Impacts the Lives of Malnourished Children,” he talked about the miracle food Plumpy’nut, a Ready-to-Use-Therapeutic-Food (RUTF) manufactured by Nutriset. Plumpy’nut is a sweet, peanut-based product, distributed in small packets, that delivers 500 calories’ worth of nutrition, the equivalent of a glass of milk fortified with multi-vitamins. It requires no water or mixing. It doesn’t even require chewing – an infant can glom it. It’s a miracle food because a malnourished child too weak to chew food can suck on it and begin to gain strength. Supplied twice a day for six weeks, it can bring a child back from the brink, at a cost of a dollar a day.
But how do you deliver Plumpy’nut to countries with little infrastructure, that are at war, or that have been struck by a natural disaster? Therein came the call for experts in business analytics, operations research, and supply chain management.
Jay, working with a UNC/Duke team on behalf of UNICEF, looked at numerous problems for those providing the RUTF’s – rapidly increasing demand, a bottlenecked single supplier based in Europe, shortages, stockouts, and transportation problems.
This was the state of the supply chain: Plumpy’nut was manufactured at a single facility in France. It was either flown or shipped to countries with high rates of infant malnutrition, especially in the Horn of Africa. It had to be unloaded at docks, which sometimes didn’t happen for weeks. Then it had to be brought to a main warehouse. Then trucked to smaller warehouses. Then delivered along unpaved roads, sometimes past local bandits with guns.
Data was often not kept or written down with paper and pencil, making data collection and analysis difficult. Forecasting was difficult – future demand was uncertain.
Funding didn’t arrive regularly but in spurts, making planning difficult.
Working with information at hand and additional research, the team modeled potential scenarios and made several important recommendations:
The results were promising: Following the adoption of the 2008 report, the number of suppliers increased from 1 to 14; costs went down thanks to local production; UNICEF increased the volume of its shipments by more than double while bringing costs down 10%; and delivery times were shortened.
Learn more at http://www.globalhealthtechnologyaccess.org/nutrition.
What do you need from INFORMS?
by Lisa Kart
The roundtable networking lunch was a great idea, to get us out of our comfort zone and connect with people we otherwise may not. Our table had a diverse mix, including a student, a few competitors, and Melissa Moore, the new Executive Director of INFORMS. As we shared challenges, we inevitably hit on the topic of having the tools and resources we need to do our jobs.
This is a topic close to Melissa’s heart, as she would like to know what INFORMS can provide to members and practitioners that they’re not providing today. Do you need more ways to connect with members to share experiences or tools? Do you need a better way to keep up with developments in our field or find opportunities for professional development? Whatever it is, this is your chance to seek Melissa out (and give her a warm INFORMS welcome to day 5 on the job!) and shape your professional organization into what you want it to be.
Things I’m hearing (Part 2)
by Vijay Mehrotra
I’m bumping into some strange phenomena this morning, some good and some bad.
GOOD: A lot of first-time attendees. I hear that attendance is way up (something like 30%) and every new person I meet says “I’ve never been to this conference before”.
GOOD NEWS: Talks are well attended. During the first three sessions this morning, I’ve stood out in the hall, sat on the floor, and squeezed into a chair when someone left. And there is a lot of good content about things like how organizations make analytics work, how to really support better decisionmaking, and what kinds of insights to look for in data. I haven’t seen a formula yet..
BAD THING: With several friends from industry, I’ve heard some of the same old tales about organizational leaders who don’t understand the value of process analysis/improvement; the importance of good, timely data; and/or the potential business value of simple, models implemented well (when supported by data). One old friend has described to me a common disease that he calls “Data Hopelessness.” Data Hopelessness, he explains, is the condition that results when an analyst has no hope of ever getting data in time to possibly answer anything but the most short-term tactical question – and even that not very well. In its most common form, getting that data requires its own herculean efforts; in the strong form, even data obtained under great duress is hopelessly incomplete/insufficient to answer the questions that are being asked with any level of confidence – and even those questions are inevitably the wrong ones.
On the plus side for those dealing with Data Hopelessnes, there were 25 employers at the informal Job Fair last night – and it seems clear that there are a lot of professional opportunities out there in analytics…
NEW Analytics Section is Officially Formed… Join Now – first year free!
by Michael Gorman
I am the president of the newly formed Analytics Section of INFORMS, which makes me very bullish on the attendance and the buzz at this conference…
Over the course of the year, the section will be establishing a track for the fall meetings, determining its vision and mission, and its role in INFORMS. We want your input!
Starting now, we are accepting members at the INFORMS booth at the conference. If you are interested, please sign up!
Or, follow this link to sign up, but you need your INFORMS user id and password:
There is a panel session with Jack Levis and Anne Robinson Tuesday at 9:10 Track 16 in the Los Angeles room on the 5th floor to discuss the trend and its impact on INFORMS… Attend and learn more.
Feel free to send me an email with questions – firstname.lastname@example.org
PowerPoint Slides Available
by Sabi Horvat
The first day is off to a strong start and my first lesson learned is that the powerpoint slides are available online: http://www.informs.org/Sites/site/Analytics-2011-Conference-Slides
You will need to use the login ID and password provided in your registration materials to access the slides (in my case this was the same as my general INFORMS member login ID and password).
Catch an Exec’s Attention
by Barry List
If you’re an expert in business analytics, or mid-management, or anyone at UPS, you might want to catch the attention of Chuck Holland, the Vice President of Industrial Engineering.
He loves cars. So you might discuss the glory days of Chrysler, when his father served there as an engineer. He’s a Dallas Cowboy fan. So you might discuss their Super Bowl chances next year (if the NFL is no longer in a labor dispute, that is). And you might ask about dating his daughter.
But you’re more likely to seek his attention for a project or idea at UPS. Catching his attention at work, indeed catching the attention of executives like him at corporations, was the theme of his plenary at this morning’s INFORMS analytics conference.
In Chuck Holland’s case, there are two business ways you’ll want to catch his attention and one way you won’t.
Catch his attention by showing him how to improve profits significantly: by $100 million, at this Fortune 500 company, or by 1 or 2%. Those are significant dollars.
Catch his attention by making promises. And keeping them.
There’s another way to catch his attention, but he doesn’t recommend it: Fail to deliver on your promises. In that case, he will return the favor with a counseling session –one in which he won’t pay particular attention to strengthening your self-esteem.
VOLCANO – Volume, Location, Aircraft Network Optimizer – has permitted UPS to decide whether or not to purchase extra aircraft at the cost of tens of millions of dollars, or purchase new type of aircraft that may cost hundreds of millions of dollars. A single correct decision to forego a purchase can save the company enough to rise to the VP’s attention.
UPS’s hub and feeder network optimization program has allowed a similar cost-saving decision – whether or not to spend $80 million to build a giant new warehouse center. Another way to make an impression.
ORION (On Road Integrated Optimization and Navigation) creates ever-more detailed maps for better routing that reduces fuel.
The lessons from Chuck Holland’s experience at UPS to operations researchers at other profit and non-profit organizations: If you’re an expert in analytics, think about the nuggets of your training that you can use to drive major improvements. And stay away from the exec’s daughter.
Huge Insights, Huge turnout
by Michael Gorman
Chicago’s Michigan Ave is bustling and crowded… and so is the Analytics conference. 27% over the previous record turnout… why?
Analytics is the reason.
The analytics track has had a huge turnout. I couldn’t even get into Jeane Harris’ session, so arrived early for Radhika Kulkarni’s sesion… people are standing around the edges of the room, lining up outside the door, sitting on the floor!
INFORMS members have known for a long time Analytics is essential for good business decision making. Now the rest of the world is catching on….
So much to see and do so little time!
by Lisa Jenkins
First let me start by saying, did THE Michael Trick responded to my post yesterday? WOW.
Yesterday, there was so much information in the software sessions yesterday I was exhausted. But, I learned quite a bit. ADVISOR Solutions, Inc. has a nifty predictive software.
Today, I just left a session by Daniel Rice, “Guarding Against Business Analytics: How to Preserve Privacy in the Age of Analytics”. Learned quite about about what companies are doing with my personal data and techniques companies can use to keep that data private. I tried to poke my head into the Track 2 session, “Will OR/MS Professionals Help Put Analytics to Work”, but it was a full house. Next up is “Data-Driven Decisions” by Radhika Kulkarni of the SAS Institute. Her talk was fantastic. And not surprisingly, there was a full house.So much to see and do so little time!
INFORMS Professional Colloquium 2011
by Jen Leong
At around 1730 yesterday, we unleashed 22 newly IPC-prepared students into the Analytic workforce. It was just 3 years ago, when I left the IPC confident that I could pursue an OR career, even though I was a little rusty on my OR skills. I was a bit skeptical back then when I learned that as a consultant, your time is only 5% for OR technical work. But I’m finding that to be more and more to be the truth.
We did a role play exercises where the IPC planning committee created and acted out real-life scenarios of consultant-client interactions that illustrated this point. I played a very ignorant and stubborn SME that thought “forecasting” was only for the Weather Channel. As this SME, I was very eager to provide data to students to get them off to a good start in their “magic” of OR. It was unfortunate that the data was all illegible, hand written with no labels and large coffee stains on it. Fortunately, the students identified the data collection issue and made some great recommendations on standardize forms and eventually moving to an electronic system. But this was only the tip of the ice berg……
But haven’t we all come across clients like that at one point or another? I think we walked away from this exercise understanding that not only do we have to be good practitioners, but we also need to be good teachers. Not everyone understand the value and relevance of Analytics and it is up to us to teach the good word.
I owe a lot of my successes to the IPC, and that’s why I contribute to the IPC planning committee every year. I can only hope that they walked away from the IPC confident that they have the tools to launch a successful Analytics career. Even as an IPC Alumni, I always learn something new every year from the experience!
Many thanks to Paul Thompson and the rest of the IPC Planning Committee!
by Lisa Kart
Bravo to INFORMS on having a job fair focused on Analytics Practitioners! I counted 26 companies, looking primarily for experienced analytic talent. The overwhelming theme I heard was a need to both understand the analytics and the business side. For example, I heard companies say they want people who can “find practical solutions” (not just theoretical ones), “speak to clients”, and “articulate the value” of analytics to executives. That is one reason I think that the 2 tracks on “The Analytics Process” and “Soft Skills for Analysts” should be popular. Hopefully this job fair event will continue (and expand) in coming years.
IBM, Ralph Gomory, and Business Analytics
by Mike Trick
For those of us taking a break from the INFORMS conference, the Master’s golf tournament holds special attention. Not for the golf (though the golf is wonderful), but for the commercials. Practically every commercial break has an IBM commercial featuring some of its luminaries from the past. Prominent among them is Ralph Gomory. Everyone in operations research knows of Ralph. For the optimization-oriented types, he is the Gomory of Gomory cuts, a fundamental structure in integer programming. For the application-oriented types, he was the long-time head of research for IBM. For the funding and policy-oriented types, he was the long-time head of the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation supporting analysis on globalization, technology, and education. Great career, when you can be highly influential three different ways (so far)!
During his time at IBM, Ralph stressed the need for research and development to work together. This view that research should be grounded in real business needs is one that I think has greatly strengthened areas such as operations research and business analytics. While there is no dearth of theoretical underpinnings in these areas, the fundamental research is better by being guided by practical need. This has led to the insights that give us fast optimization codes, stronger approaches to risk and uncertainty, and the ability to handle huge amounts of data.
There is a full version of the IBM video that lasts about 30 minutes (currently on the front of their Smarter Planet page). Ralph shows up in the introduction, then around 24:43 in an extended discussion of the relationship between research and business need, and again near the end (30:08).
This conference would have been a lot different (and less interesting) without the career of Ralph as a researcher, executive and foundation leader. We are lucky he began in operations research.
Things I’m hearing (Part 1)
by Vijay Mehrotra
Sometimes the things that you overhear reveal a great deal. I got onto the shuttle at the airport with a couple of earnest young ambitious achiever types (I’d place them in late 20s), one just returned from an epic bachelor party in Ireland, the other newly promoted. Turns out they both work for a name brand consulting firm and are here for the INFORMS conference too. Way back when I was in my late 20s, hard charging youngsters in big consulting firms simply were not going into the analytics practice area – either because there wasn’t one or because it was viewed as a bad career move. This strikes me as a good sign for the “mainstreaming of analytics” [an expression that is being thrown around a lot these days).
by Adam Clark
There are, naturally, several objectives for attending Analytics 2011, and some of those objectives were already met by the end of day one. I attended technology workshops and learned about tools that I haven’t been exposed to before. I met with old colleagues… well, I should say ‘past’ colleagues. I even saw some of the faces I recognize from the Rocky Mountain Chapter of INFORMS meetings.
So what did I learn? I learned that the first place to recognize the USA as a nation was an island in the Dutch Antilles. I learned best practices in building the framework of complicated decisions. I did not learn how to use Coke’s new automated fountain drink dispenser – I guess I’ll have to wait for another day. Lastly, I learned that some tools I used many years ago at the university have undergone immense changes/upgrades in the past decade or so. Okay, I realized this would probably be the case prior to the workshop, but now I am ‘in the know’ about what those changes are.
I am still looking forward to the presentations on Monday and I am especially looking forward to the Edelman Award ceremony. I always like to see the cool things folks are doing with Operations Research.
Sunday at the Roundtable
by Allen Butler
The Roundtable is the institutional membership of INFORMS and I’m lucky enough to be the member representative for my company, Daniel H. Wagner Associates. In our meeting today, we heard talks from some of the Roundtable member companies.
Telling stories is one of the oldest and most effective methods of teaching. The new book by Steve Sashihara, member rep from Princeton Consultants, The Optimization Edge, tells lots of good stories about our profession, conveying useful information in an entertaining fashion, and I highly recommend it.
Stefan Karisch, member rep from Jeppeson, told us about the birth of OR at Jeppeson, an amazing success story. Since Jeppeson won the 2010 INFORMS Prize, you can hear him speak Monday at 3:40 pm in Track 4.
Finally, we had an interesting discussion on Analytics. Lots of opportunities in the next couple of days for more of this exciting discussion.
Registered and Ready!
by Lisa Jenkins
As probably THE only college student at the conference who’s NOT attending the IPC, an error which we’ll toss up to a communication snafu between myself and my university, I decided to come to the conference anyway, on my own dime. Today I’m will be attending some of the software sessions to learn about the software the professionals use.
I just left the presentation by Maximal Software on Optimization Modelling with MPL and Python. Cool thing about it was seeing how the software is used. I was orginally hesitant to register for the software sessions because I thought they would be geared more towards practitioners and the sessions might be a bit over my head. But, NO SO! It was nice seeing the software and how it’s used. And, being developer, the model setup seemed very easy to understand.
I also plan on sticking my head into the IPC session later today. Anyone else who’s here are also a Analytics and IT hybrid, look me up. Also, here’s hoping I meet up with the other folks here from the University of Dayton!
Chicago is a buzz with analytics – and INFORMS is making it’s mark!
by Anne Robinson
It’s exciting to see the record-breaking number of registrants start to arrive at the Marriott. There are not many opportunities when you get to overhear multiple conversations in a hotel lobby about descriptive, predictive and prescriptive analytics. It will be exciting to hear how the discussions progress over the next few days.
My discussions began at the INFORMS Board dinner last night at Gino’s East, a staple in Chicago. Board members welcome Melissa Moore, the new Executive Director of INFORMS over an informal dinner of pizza and pasta. Gino’s makes sharpie pens available to sign the walls, and several board members indulged.
Can’t wait for Analytics 2011
by Adam Clark
The last time I was this glued to the TV was the 2o08 Presidential Election… but Friday night I was eager for some news. Would I be able to attend the INFORMS 2011 Analytics Conference – or would I be furloughed and staying at home? As the news broke of an averted government shutdown (for now) – I jumped for joy – Chicago here I come! Rather, here I am!
I have a full set of technology workshops I’m looking forward to on Sunday. This year I have picked workshops that are “outside” my usual line of work. I hope that the new things I learn are quickly applicable to my work “back at the ranch”.
Conference Preps and Rainy weather here in Chicago!
by Jen Leong
So I have been here for a week visiting friends and family in Chicago and the surrounding areas. I’m a Chicago native, born and raised here so I have a lot of people to visit while I am here before the conference. So my days have been jam packed!
Since I have been here, the weather has been pretty rainy and gloomy. So if you are still packing and don’t know what to bring, be sure to bring some rain gear and an umbrella if you think you will be venturing outside into the city. But of course if you plan on staying indoors, you should be fine.
In addition to seeing as much friends and family I can possibly see, I also have alot of preps for my “Networking” presentation for the IPC on Sunday. We have Twenty-Two participants eager to start their OR/Analytics career! I hope they have the same eye opening experiences at this conference that I had back when I attended the IPC in 2008. It helped me make my decision to pursue a career in OR/Analytics with Booz Allen Hamilton.
Just some FYI for those of you not familiar with Chicago, traffic is horrendous downtown at all hours of the day! You are better off taking the train. The nearest CTA stop is Grand Ave on the Red Line. I don’t know how long it takes from Midway, but from O’Hare it will probably take you about 45 min to an Hour. O’hare is on the Blue line, so you need to transfer to the Red line when you get to the Loop. Just follow the signs, the CTA is really easy to use.
Save travels everyone and see you there!
Here we go!
by Vijay Mehrotra
I’ve been to a lot of INFORMS conferences over the past 20 years, and I’ve never been as excited as I am for this one. Between the Predictive Analytics conference here in San Francisco last month and the number of people who are working on really neat industry applications of analytics who are coming to Chicago, I can hardly wait!
Getting ready to fly to Chicago
by Mike Trick
I fly out to the Analytics conference in a few days. By some weird happenstance, I have never flown with Southwest before, but I am doing so on Saturday. In view of the issues Southwest is having, I need to do a bit of risk analysis. I really wish I could attend the risk analysis track before I get on the plane, instead of after I arrive.
5 Days Until We Welcome You to Chicago!
by Sabi Horvat
The complete program is now available at http://meetings2.informs.org/Analytics2011/program.html (the link is also posted on the ‘right’ panel of the conference webpage)
For those who are traveling to Chicago for the first time or just have a general question about where to go in town during your stay, feel free to comment on this post. I am one of the locals and glad to welcome you to the city.
Thornton May previews his panel
by Barry List
I had the opportunity to sit down with Thornton May, the ComputerWorld columnist, to discuss the panel he’ll be hosting at the conference. He also spoke about his book on analytics and his admiration, as an IT guy (and an anthropologist, of all things), for OR people. Listen to him at http://www.scienceofbetter.org/podcast before you sit in on his session.
10 Days and Counting
by Lisa Kart
Very much looking forward to seeing everyone in Chicago and contributing to the blog. Now I just need to go through the program and make some hard choices about what I plan to attend. I think I will start at the Analytics Connect Career Fair Reception Sunday evening (don’t forget your resume!) The panel discussion “Growing an Analytics Capability” on Monday is a must, as are the Edelman Awards, but the sessions themselves are always so hard to choose, so much interesting work happening in our field!
Conference Information & Tips
Thanks to you, we are expecting our largest, most successful meeting ever! We’re delighted that you will be joining us for the INFORMS Conference on Business Analytics and O.R. in Chicago, April 10-12. Please review this important information below to help make the most of the conference.
Getting from the Airport to the Hotel
For complete information on travel from O’Hare Airport and Midway Airport, including discounted rates on Airport Express shuttle service, click here.
Registration Opens Sunday, 8:00am-7:00pm
When you arrive, please come to the INFORMS registration desk at the Marriott, 7th floor, to pick up your badge and registration materials. Registration hours on Monday are 7:00am-6:30pm; and Tuesday, 7:00am-3:00pm.
You can download and print out a PDF of the final conference schedule, showing the dates and times of all sessions and events, and/or the full program brochure; go here. For the schedule, click on “Program Matrix.” For the full brochure, click on the picture of the brochure. Click here for information on speakers.
Online proceedings, featuring presentation slides for almost every session in the conference, is a great resource for selecting the talks you want to attend. The proceedings will also be available to attendees after the conference. To access, click on “Online Proceedings.” You will need your user name and password to log in. Your user name and password will be printed on the conference receipt you receive when you pick up your badge and registration materials.
New Attendee Reception
If this is your first INFORMS Analytics Conference, we encourage you to stop by the New Attendee Reception for a brief orientation to the conference and the opportunity to connect with other first-timers and conference “veterans” in a small setting. Watch for the reception ticket in your registration packet. This event is on Sunday, 6-7pm, Indiana, 6th floor, and is immediately followed by the Welcome Reception with exhibits,7:00-8:30pm in Grand Ballroom III, 7th floor.
Pre-Conference Technology Workshops
Seventeen technology companies will offer workshops on Sunday; these are free to conference registrants. If you haven’t signed up yet and would like to attend, come by the INFORMS registration desk (7th floor) to see if space is still available. Details are here.
Soft-Skills Workshop, Sunday
This full-day program provides information and practice in using the “soft skills” needed to work with business decision makers and analytics users. If you haven’t signed up yet and would like to attend, come by the INFORMS registration desk to see if space is still available. Details are here.
High-Level Panel on Growing an Analytics Capability
In this special session on Monday afternoon, top executives examine the challenges and rewards of building an analytics capability. Our moderator is noted futurist Thornton May, Executive Director, IT Leadership Academy. Panelists include Larry Rosenberger, Analytics Research Fellow, former President & CEO, FICO; Scott Friesen, Senior Director of Analytics, Customer Insights, Best Buy; Bill Hostmann, VP Distinguished Analyst, Gartner; and Kaiser Fung, Statistician, Sirius XM Radio, and author of Numbers Rule Your World.
We’re serving up a delectable afternoon dessert each day…along with real-world case studies of O.R. in action. Twenty-five poster presentations each day will give you an inside look at analytics work across a wide range of industries, problems, and solutions.
Many opportunities for networking are built right into the program. Roundtable discussions, facilitated by INFORMS leaders and conference speakers, will be held during lunch on Monday and Tuesday. A birds-of-a-feather session on Monday afternoon focuses on specific topics (this is one of the most popular aspects of the conference). Bring plenty of business cards!
Edelman Award Ceremony and Banquet
This gala celebration on Monday evening will honor the very best in applied operations research as we salute past Edelman competitors and the 2011 finalists, and announce the 2011 winner. The INFORMS Prize and Daniel H. Wagner Prize winners will also be honored. All seating will be reserved. You will receive a voucher in your registration packet, which you must exchange for a ticket during the day on Monday. At that time, you’ll also be asked to select a table. We’ll provide all the details on how to do this at the conference.
Exhibits and Software Tutorials
Check out the listing of exhibitors and abstracts for 21 software tutorials here.
What to Wear
Dress during the day and for the Sunday receptions is business casual. For the Edelman Awards Gala & Banquet on Monday evening, jacket and tie is preferred for men; women should dress for fine restaurant dining. We recommend that you check the weather online before traveling to Chicago – it could be spring…or a return of winter! No matter how warm it may be outside, hotel meeting rooms are often chilly – so bring a sweater or light jacket.
Take Advantage of the Analytics Connect Job Fair
If you are in the market for a new position or simply want to discuss the profession’s job outlook, be sure to stop by the Analytics Connect job fair reception on Sunday, 5:30-7pm in Grand Ballroom II, 7th floor. At Analytics Connect, you can mingle with representatives from the following employers on Sunday and then set up private meetings for Monday or Tuesday:
Employers, it is not too late to register for Analytics Connect. You’ll enjoy access to and a chance to speak with top analytics talent. Click here for more information about Analytics Connect. Analytics Connect is sponsored by Analytics Magazine.
Calling Top Executives to the Second Annual Executive Forum
The invitation-only Executive Forum networking reception takes place on Sunday evening. We invite the top brass who normally wouldn’t attend the INFORMS Analytics Conference to this great event. Executives will get an invaluable behind-the-scenes look at the power and utility of operations research and analytics. Click here for more information. Registration for the overall meeting covers the Executive Forum.
Stay in Touch with Practice Meeting Social Networking Tools
Keep up with the official Analytics Meeting Blog featuring conference commentary from fellow attendees, and subscribe to its RSS feed. Agree or disagree? Be sure to comment. This year’s bloggers include:
Tells us what you’re up to and about great talks you’ve heard by Tweeting and using hashtag #analytics2011. Didn’t bring your laptop? Stop by the INFORMS booth to view blogs and tweets and post your own comments. Stay up to date on important meeting announcements using Twitter.
Do you love the INFORMS Analytics Conference? Share the love on Twitter and win free registration to the Conference in 2012 in beautiful Huntington Beach, CA! We are looking for the one tweet that best sums up the conference experience in 140 characters or less. Only tweets posted by midnight April 12 will be considered.
Join the Analytics Meeting Linkedin group to participate in discussions on hot topics of the day. Connect with other attendees and set up in-person meetings.
Share your conference photos with other attendees by e-mailing them to email@example.com so we can post them in our Flickr album and on the conference blog.
INFORMS Booth Specials
Stop by the INFORMS booth in the exhibition area to take advantage of special offers: Add Interfaces to your membership FREE for the rest of 2011. Pick up a FREE copy of the 2009 Tutorials CD and learn how to access your free online copy of the 2010 Tutorials book. Add a College on the Practice of Management Science (CPMS) membership FREE for rest of year. Purchase Tutorials in Operations Research and other books or CDs at huge discounts.
Author Signing at INFORMS Booth
The Optimization Edge: Reinventing Decision Making to Maximize All Your Company’s Assets
Purchase a copy of Steve Sashihara’s latest book at the INFORMS booth (#34). Meet Steve on April 11 to sign and discuss his book.
Apply for the 2011 Wagner Prize; Information at INFORMS Booth
Applications are now being accepted for the 2011 Daniel H. Wagner Prize for Excellence in Operations Research Practice. Deadline is midnight on May 1, 2011. The Wagner Prize rewards the coherence and quality of a paper analyzing O.R. used in practice. Stop by the INFORMS booth for more information and make an appointment with 2011 Committee Chair,
2011 Edelman Competition: The Best of the Best
Come to Chicago Ballroom FG on 5th floor on Monday to enjoy all of the Edelman presentations. This year we have a particularly eclectic group of competitors to shine the brightest spotlight on the profession. One of these teams will walk away with the prestigious Edelman Award on Monday night:
9:10-10am – InterContinental Hotels Group
10:30-11:20am – Fluor Corporation
11:30am-12:20pm – Midwest Independent Transmission System Operator
1:50-2:40pm – Industrial and Commercial Bank of China
2:45-3:35pm – CSAV
3:40-4:30pm – State of New York
BE FORWARNED: Due to filming, entry to the presentations will not be allowed once the door closes.
2011 Edelman Presentations to Stream Shortly After the Meeting
Of course you should attend the Edelman presentations on Monday in person to get the most out of the experience. But if you can’t, we have you covered. All six Edelman presentations will be streamed on the Web a few weeks after the meeting. Presentations will appear on the INFORMS Video Learning Center. Visit the site now to see INFORMS other great practice-oriented products – the 2010 Wagner Prize presentations and 2010 Edelman Award presentations. No log in is needed.
Catch the Edelman Gala in Its Entirety on YouTube After the Conference
Relive all the best moments from our annual celebration of O.R. and analytics in industry and government. Tune into YouTube after the Gala to experience all the fun and excitement over again. Show your friends, family, and colleagues that operations researchers know how to do it right! Just log onto YouTube and search for “2011 Edelman Award” a few days after the 2011 ceremony. Haven’t seen the 2010 Ceremony? Log onto http://www.scienceofbetter.org/edelman.
College on the Practice of Management Science (CPMS) – The Practice Section of INFORMS
All Conference attendees who do not already belong to CPMS will receive a free membership for the rest of 2011. CPMS pursues a mission of directly managing some activities, and enthusiastically supporting other activities, that advance the practice of OR/MS in general (i.e., not focused on a particular method or application). Take advantage of your free membership and get involved. Stop by the INFORMS booth and make an appointment to speak with CPMS Chair, Dr. Randall Robinson.
Credentialing Focus Group By Invitation Only
If you were selected for the credentialing focus group, please report to the Denver Room on 5th floor on Monday at 12:30pm. Credentialing consultant Michael Hamm will lead this important discussion.
Please let us know if you have questions. We look forward to seeing you in Chicago! firstname.lastname@example.org; 800-446-3676 or 443-757-3591.