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!