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Save the date - 2015

Conference Blog

by Tarun Mohan Lal

Although I have attended several INFORMS annual conferences in the past, this was my first time at the INFORMS Business Analytics conference! In just one word, my experience was indeed “Splendid”. Conference had everything from excellent informative presentations to networking with legends in the profession of analytics! I was  inspired by the significant impact that analytics professionals are having on improving business across  industries globally.

My work being  in the space of application of analytics to healthcare delivery, I typically tend to attend healthcare focused conferences or sessions. However, at this conference there were very many interesting presentations from other industries that intriquied my attention/interest- from pricing to crew management to finance consulting instead of just healthcare. I was impressed how much all this could be applied in its own way to healthcare as well. The uniqueness of the presentations at this conference was the emphasis on implementation. The keynotes by renowned speakers were complimentary –  Davenport focusing more on future of analytics and stages of  maturity of analytics while the one by Kathy from Diseny eluded to what it takes to build such programs in the organization.  Poster presentations were also great and the idea to mark them based on the focus helped me use my limited time efficiently.

Edelman gala reception was the best of a kind I have seen at any conference. Finalists of the Edelman competition were extraordinary and well-deserved the honor. INFORMS Prize was awarded to Mayo Clinic. I feel privlidged to be a member of the team that pulled togather the application. It was an applaud for all OR practioners at Mayo Clinic over the years that are making a difference in lives of  millions of patients by optimizing care delivery processes.  Thank you INFORMS for the recognition!

I was also fortunate to be selcted to participate in the Early Career Connection, program designed to train and encourage young analytics professionals like me – the program was so well organized and included special opportunities to have coffee with seasoned successful professionals and network with peers and  recruiters. I learnt so much and got very valuable advice I got on career growth/transitions, gems to success and getting recognized and most importantly made me recognize the significance of volunteering!

In conclusion, I say INFORMS Business Analytics Conference is for everyone whether you are a student, young professional, mid career professional or a veteran from any industry. As the analytics generation continues to evolve and organizations start to really empower employees at all levels of the organization to be agents for good change, learnings from conferences like this will continue to grow and are invaluable. I walked away thinking I am glad I was here for a refreshing experience and hope can make it to the conference in years to come….

Many thanks to the organizing committee for all the hard work in making this conference a wonderful experience ! I cant wait to be in Huntington Beach next year for another Legendary experience… See you all folks!

Tarun Mohan Lal

by Brian Denton

The INFORMS Spring Board of Directors Meeting was held in Boston in conjunction with the Conference on Analytics. It began with the Executive Committee meeting (a meeting of the officers of INFORMS) on Saturday, followed by a meeting of the full board on Sunday. This was the second of 4 board meetings to occur in 2014. This meeting’s agenda included important topics such as Strategic Planning for New Initiatives, Future Conferences, Practice, Journals, Subdivisions, International activities, and many others.

Melissa Moore, the Executive Director of INFORMS, reported that the financial health of INFORMS is excellent. Our membership has reached its highest level in 10 years. INFORMS is frequently being cited in the popular press, according to Andy Boyd, our Vice President of Marketing, Communications and Outreach. In fact Andy said he was “jazzed about the meeting” even though it was a long day that took a lot of preparation for all of those in attendance.

A large part of the morning on Sunday was dedicated to topics requiring strategic planning, including a presentation from Miranda Walker, Director of Publications, on the fast changing environment for journals in the age of “open access”. New laws regarding access in the United States and many other countries are creating a need to look into the future to find ways to create a viable business model for our journals that guarantee we maintain the high standards and the high quality our members have grown to expect.

Steve Robinson, President of INFORMS, led the board in a brainstorming session about long term opportunities that we should be focusing on over the months ahead. Anne Robinson, past president of INFORMS, led a discussion on several recent strategic initiatives that are now being implemented, including plans for a new workshop for academics on how to teach analytics, and a new activity called “Data-Connect” that will facilitate the exchange of data between researchers and organizations that are willing to share data for research purposes.

The next board meeting will be this summer at INFORMS Headquarters. Stayed tuned for more news form the board.

– Brian Denton, INFORMS Secretary

by Alan Taber

There once was a time when you had to be at the TV on time (or know how to program your VCR) to watch the shows you wanted to see and you actually had to choose between shows in the same time slot. Video compression + cheap storage = DVRs – and a revolution was born.

While I look forward to watching the Edelman presentations once they are posted and reading the slide decks as part of the proceedings, I wonder – is there a market for videotaping all of the presentations and storing them for a time so that conference attendees can get both the visual “track” and the audio “track” for talks that we missed?

Now that the conference, alas, is over, it is time to go read all the slides from the talks I missed.

by Harlan Harris

I had an interesting chat with a friend who’s an OR/Analytics consultant at one of the poster sessions. An offhand comment was made about the slowness of extracting data from a database so that it can be used to build a predictive model. I jumped in with a few thoughts on analytical database technologies that were happily received as valuable. The friend realized that he, with an OR background, was not as well prepared to think through the full lifecycle of data in a system as I am, with a computer science/machine learning background. (He’s much better at many other things, though!)

So I wanted to take this soapbox to mention a few things about databases that might be new to folks used to only working with data once it’s been collected and the analytics and optimization questions have been posed.

read more…

by Harlan Harris

This is my second INFORMS Practice/Analytics conference. I first attended three years ago, in Chicago, when I was working on schedule and location optimization for an educational services company. At the time, I was impressed by the technical and business chops on display, but felt that the conference felt old-fashioned, and out of touch with the highly dynamic and rapidly changing analytics marketplace that I was seeing in the tech industry and in the emerging field of data science.

How much has changed in the last few years? Here are some anecdotes and thoughts.

  • Tom Davenport, in his keynote, said that his slides from this year are “depressingly similar” to his slides from a 2006 keynote. 
  • On the other hand, he said that of the professional societies in the broader analytics space, INFORMS has been the one who has embraced analytics most fully.
  • Dr. Davenport emphasized the value of qualitatively new products and services as the result of analytics, not just quantitatively improved efficiency or profit. In the B2B Birds of a Feather conversation this afternoon, someone from vehicle auction firm Manheim mentioned that their analytics team had created a product out of their internal sales data, and is monetizing that data stream by selling it to other firms in their space.
  • Introducing a speaker in the marketing track, Prof. Elea McDonnel Feit from Wharton commented that “marketing didn’t have a presence here four years ago.” That’s certainly not the case this year.
  • In 2011, almost every talk seemed to me to be from a Fortune 500 company, or a large nonprofit, or a consulting firm advising a Fortune 500 company or a large nonprofit. Entrepeneurship around analytics was barely to be seen. This year, there are at least a few talks about Hadoop and iPhone apps and more. Has the cost of deploying advanced analytics substantially dropped?
  • This said, the Edeleman Prize seems to me to be designed to rewards teams doing large-scale consulting projects (only). What would an INFORMS Analytics prize look like if it were targeted at product companies, or otherwise highly-replicable small-scale initiatives?

Do these anecdotes resonate with you? Do you have more? Do you have data to back up or knock down any of the above? Leave a comment, find me in the hallways, or tweet me @harlanh!

by Anna Nagurney

I respect professional societies such as INFORMS that feature both female and male keynote speakers.

I just returned from the marvelous keynote talk given by Kathy Kilmer, who is the Director of Sales Planning & Analytics, Walt Disney Parks & Resorts. Her talk was on The Disney Approach to Analytics.


Besides stunning photos and videos of various Disney attractions including the forthcoming 2015 set of cruises in Europe, she offered excellent advice and strategies for running a very successful entertainment service venue with a focus on the customer experience. And she noted that “the littlest guest will only wait so long.”

She stated that at Disney analytics are everywhere to improve customers’ experiences with the forecasting of demand for various attractions and exhibits  to the estimation and prediction of wait times in queues.

She also discussed an optimization scheduling project for the training of the crew on the Disney cruise ship which is being built in Germany and should be sailing in the summer of 2015.

She talked about the Disney Command Center and how important relationships are and the building of credibility within an organization. One needs to be a great partner.

Analytics have improved the efficiency of attractions at Disney as well as identified locations of beverage stands and restaurants.

I liked the statement of hers that “every interaction counts,” since it emphasizes the importance of attention to detail.

She ended with the statement that “There is a method to the magic!”

Thanks for a terrific keynote!

by Alan Taber

As many of us do, I have many discussions with managers who need to know “the” number, not a range of numbers, nor do they want to read a cumulative probability distribution (for more on this see Pat Leach’s excellent book, Why Can’t You Just Give Me the Number).

At Phil Fahringer’s presentation yesterday, he showed a basic view that I plan to steal – give the number, but also include the probability of exceeding that number. That, of course, is based on the knowledge inherent in the model you’re using to calculate the number.

By analogy: they say that those who like to eat sausage should never watch it being made. Similarly, I have a bad habit of walking my management through the sausage factory, rather than simply serving up the plate. Hopefully this will communicate context without reducing accessibility.

by admin

Congratulations to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), which collaborated with Kid Risk, Inc. to use analytics and operations research to combat the remaining pockets of polio around the world, who tonight won the 2014 Franz Edelman Award for Achievement in Operations Research and the Management Sciences.

by Anna Nagurney

The Edelman gala this evening was very impressive from the wonderful dinner to the various award announcements including the overviews by the 2014 Edelman Award finalists on their entries for this Academy Award of operations research contributions. Interestingly, three of the finalists were in the area of healthcare.

The judges had a Solomonic decision to make in identifying this year’s winner with this year’s award going to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control for their entry Eradicating Polio Using Better Decision Models.


Sincerest congratulations to all those involved on a truly extraordinary slate of real-world accomplishments illustrating the best of operations research and analytics!

by Harlan Harris

The 2014 Edelman Award winner having just been announced — to the CDC and Kid Risk, for their work in more effectively eradicating polio worldwide — I’m struck by the role of healthcare analytics in this year’s conference. Three of the six finalists for the Edelman were in healthcare. (The other two were Grady Health System, an Atlanta-based hospital chain, and the Alliance for Paired Donation, which facilitates long chains of kidney donors to drastically increase transplant rates.) Additionally, one of the five Wagner Prize finalists was in healthcare analytics, as was the INFORMS Prize winner, the Mayo Clinic. Amazing work, all.

Are the number of healthcare winners just an outlier, or is their a fundamental change in OR, in the healthcare industry, or both? Healthcare organizations have won the Edelman in 2007 (Memorial Sloan-Kettering), 1992 (New Haven Health Department), 1990 (Health Care Financing Administration), and 1979 (The Greater New York Blood Program). So it’s not unprecedented at all. Still, I remain curious as to whether there’s a trend afoot.

Relatedly, as a DC resident, we often hear of “Healthcare and Education” as a linked pair of industries. Both are systems focused on social good, with intertwined government, nonprofit, and for-profit entities, highly distributed management, and (reportedly) huge opportunities for improvement. Aside from MIT Leaders for Global Operations winning the Smith Prize (and a number of shoutouts to academic partners and mentors), there was not a peep from the education sector at tonight’s awards ceremony. Is education, and particularly K-12 and postsecondary education, not amenable to OR techniques or solutions? If not, are opportunities being missed? If it is, why aren’t we seeing them at this conference?

Thoughts? Leave a comment below, find me in the hallways, or tweet me @harlanh!

by Randy Bartlett

Today, most CAP recipients are in the US.  Scott Nestler just told us that INFORMS plans to change that.  There will be 47 test locations in India, 16 in South Africa, etc.

Also, there is a new study guide available (near registration desk) and there will be a computerized version of the exam.

Write, Louise will help you.

by Harlan Harris

In his keynote, Tom Davenport talked a lot about “Data Products”. But what’s a data product, and what else would be the product of your work with data?

Two prominent takes on data products come from Mike Loukides, of O’Reilly, and DJ Patil, formerly of LinkedIn, and now with Greylock Partners. DJ Patil says “a data product is a product that facilitates an end goal through the use of data.” So, it’s not just an analysis, or a recommendation to executives, or an insight that leads to an improvement to a business process. It’s a visible component of a system. LinkedIn’s People You May Know is viewed by many millions of customers, and it’s based on the complex interactions of the customers themselves.

Mike Loukides asks “Do we want products that deliver data? Or do we want products that deliver results based on data?” I don’t think that Excel is a data product, even though (in good hands) it takes data and generates deliverable insights and recommendations. A data product has to be a system that was built to address a particular type of problem.

A friend of mine and co-Data Community DC board member, Sean Murphy, further argued that data products have gotten drastically cheaper in recent years, as the cost of collecting, storing, and analyzing data has collapsed, the cost of developing and selling a product has also collapsed, and the demand for these differentiating products has skyrocketed. (Blame Dr. Davenport and his “competing on analytics” meme!)

I recently wrote a blog post about data products, arguing that they’re at the intersection of four things: data, domain knowledge, software engineering, and analytics. PYMK is a data product because it’s based on customer data, it’s based on an understanding of the ways that social networks work, it’s built in software, and it uses mathematical recommendation systems under the hood. UPS’s route optimization system is also a data product, as it’s based on truck and traffic data, it has an understanding of traffic dynamics, it’s built in software, and it uses sophisticated mathematical programming under the hood. Many OR systems over the years fit this definition well.

Here’s a Venn diagram I made as part of my post. Click through to read more of my (likely muddled) thoughts on data products.

This diagram is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported License.

Thoughts? Leave a comment, find me in the hallways, or tweet me @harlanh!


by Anna Nagurney

Tom Davenport packed them in for his Keynote talk this morning at 8:00AM at the INFORMS Analytics Conference in Boston. His title was “Analytics 3.0: Where Big Data and Traditional Analytics Meet.”


Davenport needs no introduction to the business analytics community and has been recognized as a visionary thought leader and author by numerous organizations and publications.

Today he took us on a journey, beginning with Analytics 1.0, dating to 1954 with UPS as a major contributor with emphasis on optimization and internal decision support, through Analytics 2.0 with origins in Silicon Valley, and emphasis on unstructured data, to where we are today with Analytics 3.0.

He stated that “the game no longer is about internal decisions” but it is “about new products and services,” which very much appealed to me.

He reminded us that “being a data scientist is the sexiest job in America” although the rest of the world may not describe us with such a superlative.

Now organizations and companies, in order to be successful, need to analyze continuously and decide continuously. The world is much more complex but there are also so many new opportunities with consumers also innovating through new data products and tools.

It’s an era of prescriptive analytics (which is what I always considered Operations Research as being a major contributor to). We need a plethora of skill-sets from modeling, to knowledge of different programming languages and software, and even machine learning. (perhaps not all under one hat, though).

He noted that all data matters from the small to the big with data products and decisions being fast, frequent, and of “industrial strength.”

Davenport’s Keynote was the perfect foundation for the rest of this great conference and will continue to stimulate many discussions!

by Juergen Klenk

Come to Harbor III where Martin Meltzer will kick off the Healthcare Track at 9:10am.

Post your blogs about the Healthcare Track here!

by Allen Butler

Truth in advertising: I am the Chair of the Daniel H. Wagner Prize Committee. Therefore, some bias might be present in these observations.

I highly recommend the 10:30 am reprise of the winning presentation (Track 6 – Lewis Room). The modeling was highly innovative, the math was impressive, but as is not uncommon, getting buy-in was an issue. How do you convince your sales staff, who work on commission, that you are going to improve their sales by reducing the product you supply them? Come to this exciting talk and find out.



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