One of the meta things I’m most interested in at this conference is how a bunch of super-smart people with strong understanding of statistics handle coming to Las Vegas. Do we gamble, because we thing we’re smarter than the dealer? Do we avoid it, because we know the expected return from slot machines is something like 90 cents on the dollar?
Years ago, I heard an economist talk about how to play the lottery. I’d like to recount that argument, because I think it’s relevant here, and reinforces the difference between value and utility. Plus, I get to drop a photo of an island into my blog post.
With less than a year under my belt with INFORMS, I am still continually amazed at the impact analytics and operations research have on the world around us, and so often our members are leading the way! This couldn’t be more apparent than at this year’s INFORMS Business Analytics Conference, with so many professionals, students, industry leaders, and more gathering together to network, make connections, and share the latest and greatest in this incredible field. So far the 2017 Conference is off to a great start!
Beginning with the flurry of activity at the registration desk, it was exciting to see that so many of you had traveled from all over the world to join us in Las Vegas, bringing your unique experiences and perspectives with you. And the staff enjoyed putting faces to the names of those members we interact with on a daily basis.
Throughout the day, an incredible variety of technology and industry-focused sessions and speakers discussed the latest innovations, software developments, exciting new platforms, and more.
At the Career Fair, organizations who recognize and have benefited from the impact of analytics came to share their goals and objectives, while reaching out to connect with emerging talent that will take their organizations to the next level. Young analytics professionals from across the country came to learn about many different opportunities and new directions to advance their careers.
This evening, I am looking forward to joining all of you in celebrating some of the greatest achievements in analytics at the Franz Edelman Gala!
After a full day of competition judging, my colleague Nico and I are, paradoxically, absolutely spent and completely energized. Our brains are weary after intense deliberations with the judges on our respective panels, the Syngenta Crop Challenge in Analytics and the INFORMS Student Competition, both of which Syngenta supports and from which Syngenta provided the problem question. The quality of submissions has made judging and ranking them an incredibly difficult task. In the Crop Challenge students from as far as China and Serbia submitted incredibly well thought out and researched models alongside U.S.-based finalists from the University of Illinois, University of Tennessee at Knoxville, and Washington University in St. Louis.
But we are energized that these young people are thinking about the problems facing agriculture. When Syngenta started implementing analytics in its operations, we developed ways to predict and breed the best seeds to meet the demand of your farmers – and our growing world – that was incredibly innovative in our industry. But that was only the beginning, and we know that these competition served as an excellent entry point for emerging leaders in analytics to discover the challenges and problems facing agriculture.
We are looking forward to attending the Edelman Awards tonight. As recipients of the Edelman Award in 2015, we know the hard work that goes into the process of creating new analytical systems and preparing to present them to the INFORMS audience.
Best of luck to all the finalists!
The first session, given by Isaac Wagner of Memorial Sloan-Kettering (MKS), told the story of how MKS began creating a data analytics team 5 years ago based upon a small investment from MKS leadership and how they refined their approaches to team and organizational structures to facilitate growth from 2 to about 50, with most of that growth occurring in the later half of the 5 years. After trying consulting-based models (including external consultants) and models embedding teams entirely within a department, they found that an organizational Center Of Excellence combining these two models worked best for them. The COE allows them to balancing specialists and generalist capabilities while obtaining buy-in from the departments that own the decision making process. Regarding team structures, they began with traditional Kanban techniques and discovered greater productivity through a Scrum method that allows for multi-disciplinary team with all defined roles and responsibilities with formalized deliverables.
The second session, given by Michael Bloem of Steelcase, described experiments that Steelcase have been undertaking to understand how the Internet-Of-Things, digital exhaust and analytics are creating new opportunities for workplace innovation and creativity. Here digital exhaust means the emerging data and metadata related to sensors and software tools used to book rooms. The experiments are human-centered and explore hypotheses related around gender and age preferences for various workplace configurations. Often these experiments identified unexpected preferences. For instance, one notable experiment identified that individuals often use a space just for the storage of their goods, that is, they immediately leave. From this, they were able to create a secure space for those individuals to leave personal items for 30-60 minutes, allowing others to utilize the resources instead.
Today is the second day of the conference and is expected to be the busiest day of the conference. At the breakfast just prior to the opening plenary talk, I pulled out my badge schedule and began circling all of the sessions that I wanted to attend. After a few moments, I stopped circling and took a look at the paper to see that it was impossible to attend everything that I wanted to! I decided to begin by focusing in a single track – T7 Analytics Process – and then get some diversity later in the day. I must also mention that tonight is the Edelman Gala, which I am very excited about.
The day began with Jim Diamond’s Plenary Talk describing the complex problems facing the airline industry and the impact analytics (OR & ML) can have. Overall, Mr. Diamond is very open about his uncertainty on whether analytics can bring a competitive advantage to airlines. However, he feels strongly that we must continue to try. He used an example flight from Las Vegas (LAS) to Miami (MIA) to walk us through several of those problems and the ensuing solutions that they have created to address them. Problems begin with flight assignments and tends to drive most of the other problems in operations, customer service, pricing, and technical operations. He described an Operation Control Center that they recently built to centralize the creation and ownership of decision support tools and data analysis operations. One interesting tool he described was an automated re-booking tool that can handle rerouting 40 planes of customers in about 8 minutes.
I will address the T7 Analytics Process sessions in upcoming posts. Cheers! Dave
I love a good one-liner as I feel that our own reference frame makes them valuable for each person in their own way. Conferences are a great place to gather them and I’m happy that I already gathered my first one- liner on day 1!
AIMMS’s Gertjan de Lange stated that “It all starts with a white board” when explaining how they perform a POC in only two days to convince the business partners of the value of optimization.
For me, the simplicity of how you can align thoughts between people is a good reminder that at times we try to solve complicated situations by complicated answers but simplicity and direct communication is what we need at the start!
Hoping to gather more insights and one-liners throughout the conference!
Please share your one-liners with us as well as I can’t gather them all.
Today is the first day of the INFORMS 2017 Business Analytics conference. It is also my first time attending an INFORMS conference, but I already feel at home amongst other professionals devoted to advancing the industry through the sharing of ideas, networking and learning. In fact, I only joined INFORMS a few months ago despite having friends and colleagues in INFORMS that can not say enough good things about the association. Based upon their experiences, I decided to go “all-in” by getting engaged early and often. I became CAP certified, a mentor for the Professional Colloquium, and volunteered to help document the conference through these blogs.
The idea that “networking is everything” resonated at an Executive Panel event at today’s Professional Colloquium. The panel was comprised of academic and industry leaders with diverse experiences and achievements, but all highlighted the impact to their success of connecting with others outside of their immediate work organization and perspective. The panel also offered numerous great pieces of advice to the Colloquium on topics such as: the differences between Academic and Industry careers, how to find the ideal place to work, how to create individual and team success, how to keep learning with a career “jungle-gym” and how to ensure that Ethics remains a high priority in an industry where analytics often brings transformational power. I was proud that this topic come up in the discussion and was happy to hear the panel remind the crowd that ethics is one of the five pillars of the CAP.
Thanks to Alan Briggs for the invite, Glenn Wegryn for moderating and to the panel for sharing their insights (Michael Rappa, Sanjay Saigal, Anne Robinson, and Stefan Karisch)