INFORMS in the News

Bayesian Methods to Find Missing Plane?

It's not the easiest to put it into words, but Arnold Barnett, a[n operations researcher] at MIT's Sloan School Of Management, explains it this way: Suppose someone in another room throws a die and you're asked the odds he rolled a 5? "You'd say 1 in 6," he says.

"But now suppose [someone comes out of the next room] and says, 'an odd number came up, but I don't remember which,' " he says. There are only three odd numbers on the die (1, 3, and 5), so the odds of a 5 have gone up to 1 in 3.

Bayes' theorem is a formal way of revising that original 1-in-6 estimate based on this new information about an odd number.

NPR, March, 25, 2014

Harvard Business Review Editor leads INFORMS panel on trends in analytics


At the INFORMS analytics conference in Boston this spring, the lineup was stellar as analytics experts looked at major trends in the way that analytics professionals find their place at their organizations. Here was the lineup:

Moderator: Julia Kirby, Harvard Business Review

Accenture: Jeanne Harris

Disney: Dayana Cope

Ford:Erica Klampfl

Google: Brian Eck Kerem Tomak

INFORMS YouTube channel, March 31, 2014

Analytics Leaders Discuss Care and Feeding of a Successful Analytics Team

Analytics team leaders from a variety of industries gathered at the INFORMS Conference on Business Analytics and Operations Research this week for a panel discussion on how to build a well-rounded data-analytics team and manage data professionals: where to position them; how to keep them challenged, engaged and motivated; and what it takes to lead them.

The panel was moderated by Julia Kirby, editor at large at the Harvard Business Review, and included team leaders from major corporations, including Brian Eck, quantitative analyst at Google; Kerem Tomak, vice president of marketing analytics at Macy’s; Erica Klampfl, global future mobility manager at the Ford Motor Company; Dayana Cope, manager of operations research engineering at Disney; and Jeanne Harris, managing director of IT research at Accenture.

DataInformed, April 4, 2014

Certifiably Analytic

Certifiably Analytic

With the explosion of analytics in business and society, there is obviously a great need for people who can analyze data effectively and support analytical decisions. But if you’re hiring someone to help with analytics and you don’t know much about the field yourself, how do you know if they are good enough? Degree programs and majors in analytics are proliferating in universities, but how do you know if they teach the right content? We have well-established standards for plumbers and welders, but not for quantitative analysts or data scientists—until now.

INFORMS, a non-profit association of quantitative analysts and academics, has established a certification program called Certified Analytics Professional, or CAP. INFORMS was originally comprised primarily of operations research (OR) folks, who typically focus on methods like optimization, simulation, and decision tree analysis. But the association’s leadership has made great progress in addressing all types of business analytics. I just attended the 2014 conference on “Business Analytics and Operations Research,” and specialists in marketing analytics, web analytics, and Big Data analytics were all in evidence along with the OR folks.

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Wall Street Journal, Tom Davenport, April 2, 2014

Targeting Customers from the bottom up

As we've discussed in a recent A2 Radio program, multi-channel revenue attribution is tough. But Alex Cosmas and his team of data scientists at Booz Allen Hamilton's Strategic Innovation Group (SIG) think they've found a way. And it comes from the bottom up, said Cosmas, chief scientist.

Working for a hospitality client, the SIG applied a Bayesian network technique to determine whether it could "quantify the amount that a promotion drove in incremental sales vs. other factors like weather, differences in rates and fares, or just regular cyclicality of the peaks and valleys of travel," Cosmas told me in a phone interview that followed from a presentation he delivered at this week's INFORMS Conference on Business Analytics & Operations Research conference. He described the project in a session called "Monetizing Bayesian Networks: A Case Study in Evaluating Promotional Campaign Effectiveness." As I mentioned yesterday, the SIG has been doing lots of work lately using a Bayesian framework for business. (See Taking Bayesian Networks Into the Business.), April 4, 2014

2013 Edelman winner inspires Post-Hurricane Sandy efforts

In December 2012, Shaun Donovan, the secretary of Housing and Urban Development, was on vacation in Berlin when he decided to detour to the Netherlands. He wanted to get a firsthand sense of the famed Dutch approach to water management. Hurricane Sandy struck six weeks before, and in the aftermath, President Obama asked him to lead a task force, whose objective was not just to rebuild but also to radically rethink the region’s infrastructure in light of climate change.

In the Netherlands, a man named Henk Ovink offered to be Donovan’s guide. Ovink was the director of the office of Spatial Planning and Water Management, meaning, essentially, that it was his job to keep the famously waterlogged country dry.

[view the Edelman-winning work by the Delta Commissioner at and]

New York Times, April 9, 2014

Kroger solves top customer issue - long lines

What bugs people the most about grocery shopping? It's not the in-store Muzak or the occasional squished loaf of bread. It's the dreaded wait at the checkout line, according to Kroger customer surveys, prompting the supermarket chain to test a variety of technical solutions over the years. Kroger thinks it finally has the right mix of technology: QueVision, which combines infrared sensors over store doors and cash registers, predictive analytics, and real-time data feeds from point-of-sale systems.

From the moment customers walk through the door of a Kroger store, the QueVision technology works toward one goal: ensuring that they never have more than one person ahead of them in the checkout line. The technology, now deployed at more than 2,300 Kroger stores across 31 states, has cut the average wait time from more than four minutes to less than 30 seconds, the company says.

Kroger was doing data analytics simulations on the queuing problem as far back as 2007. "We asked a question: If we could open up a lane exactly when we needed it, what would happen?" says Doug Meiser, operations research manager. "We just wanted to ask the question from an analytics standpoint. And we found we could dramatically improve customer satisfaction." From there, he says, it became a matter of "the math is sound; how do we go do this?"

Information Week, April 2, 2014

How to make boarding a plane faster

If you travel you'll probably be interested in this. A professor in the US has, he says, worked out how to make boarding an aeroplane faster. It's all to do with how many carry-on bags passengers have. [Operations researcher] R John Milne is from the Clarkson University School of Business in New York.

BBC Radio, April 3, 2014

Fader Illuminates Customer Initative

The Wharton Customer Analytics Initiative (WCAI) matches global companies overflowing with untapped customer data to the academic world's top analytics researchers. These collaborations have given WCAI Codirector Peter Fader, who is the Frances and Pei-Yuan Chia Professor of Marketing at the Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania and a member of the analytics association INFORMS, a unique perspective on the evolution, and current state, of customer analytics.

DM News, April 1, 2014

What Umpires Get Wrong

THIS season Major League Baseball is allowing its officiating crews to use instant replay to review certain critical calls, including home runs, force plays and foul balls. But the calling of the strike zone — determining whether a pitch that is not swung at is a ball or a strike — will still be left completely to the discretion of the officials. This might seem an odd exception, since calling the strike zone may be the type of officiating decision most subject to human foible.

In research soon to be published in the journal Management Science, we studied umpires’ strike-zone calls using pitch-location data compiled by the high-speed cameras introduced by Major League Baseball several years ago in an effort to measure, monitor and reward umpires’ accuracy. After analyzing more than 700,000 pitches thrown during the 2008 and 2009 seasons, we found that umpires frequently made errors behind the plate — about 14 percent of non-swinging pitches were called erroneously.

New York Times, March 30, 2014

Analytics, BI Programs Combine with Certification for Strong Salaries

“Analytics professionals work in many industries,” says Louise Wehrle, certification manager at INFORMS. “We have had candidates from military, from professors of analytics programs, from health care, from aerospace and from consulting companies who deliver analytic services to all of the above and more.”

She also notes that college professors often complete the CAP so that they can recommend similar programs to their students and ensure their curriculum covers all necessary material.


Software Advice, Feb. 12, 2014

Malaysia Airlines Safety Record is Sound, Says OR Expert

[Operations researcher] Arnold Barnett, a longtime Massachusetts Institute of Technology specialist in aviation safety statistics, said that before the disappearance of the plane, Malaysia Airlines had suffered two fatal crashes, in 1977 and 1995. Based on his estimate that Malaysia Airlines operates roughly 120,000 flights a year, he calculated that the airline’s safety record was consistent with that of airlines in other fairly prosperous, middle-income countries, but had not yet reached the better safety record of airlines based in the world’s richest countries.

New York Times, March 8, 2014

Management Scientist Confirms Missle Shield Effectiveness

The thousands of Palestinian rockets fired at southern Israeli towns from the Gaza Strip over the years would have caused an average of seven times more casualties had Israel not developed a set of effective, life-saving civil defenses, a new study has found.

The study’s authors, Prof. Edward H. Kaplan, a specialist in [management science,] engineering and public health from the Yale School of Management, and his former student Lian Zucker, began the research after encountering several instances in which international media dismissed the threat of Gazan rockets.

Jerusalem Post, March 18, 2014

MIT Names Former INFORMS President as Chancellor

MIT Names Former INFORMS President as Chancellor

Two longtime members of the faculty — who first arrived at MIT in the early 1980s as graduate students — have been named provost and chancellor, the Institute’s two most senior academic posts...

Reif also announced that Cynthia Barnhart, a professor in the Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering, is MIT’s new chancellor. Barnhart has been associate dean of the School of Engineering since 2007; she served as acting dean of engineering from 2010 to 2011.

MIT News, Feb. 3, 2014

Math models and national security

High quality global journalism requires investment. Please share this article with others using the link below, do not cut & paste the article. See our Following an anthrax attack, who should receive the first antibiotics? If food aid is limited should 2,000 children each receive a little or should the aid be distributed to a few?

Tackling questions such as these has earned Lawrence Wein the nickname Dr Doom. The professor of management science at Stanford University’s Graduate School of Business [and former editor-in-chief of Operations Research] teaches courses on operations, mathematical analysis and inventory and queueing theory. Such theories form the backbone of business operations for companies like McDonald's, so that it knows how many cashiers and people flipping burgers are needed to serve the lunchtime rush at any given franchise. But the main focus of his research applies these theories to questions of public health and national security.

Financial Times, Feb. 2, 2014

Giving INFORMS Analytics Students a Chance to Shine

Alex Akulov

As I shared a week or so ago, INFORMS, the leading organization for analytics professionals, has a great opportunity for analytics students. It wants to award one student a scholarship to use for attending its upcoming business analytics conference.

If you doubt the value of this opportunity, consider the experience of last year's scholarship winner, Alex Akulov. I caught up with Akulov the other day to get his advice for potential participants... and to find out what he's been up to in the year since winning the 2013 contest. (See INFORMS, SAS Name Student Winners .)

His advice for students is to participate, and his experience stands as the reason why., Feb. 4, 2014

allanalytics interview with INFORMS President Steve Robinson

INFORMS President Steve Robinson

Every so often, I get the chance to talk with folks deeply involved with INFORMS, or as it's formally known, the Institute for Operations Research and the Management Sciences. I find their passion unfailing.

I was reminded of this during a recent phone conversation I had with Stephen Robinson, the organization's newly announced 2014 president. In a time of such increasing interest in analytics as a career, Robinson stands out as somebody worth emulating., Jan. 29, 20145

O.R. #2 in US News List of Best Business Jobs

O.R. #2 in US News List of Best Business Jobs

Anne Robinson, director of supply chain strategy and analytics for Verizon Wireless and past president of the Institute for Operations Research and the Management Sciences, says, in a nutshell, operations research analysts provide the insights for businesses to make decisions at the next level. "This is really decision guidance. Companies are trying to get value out of big data and analytics platforms investments, and they need the right talent to take it from raw data to an intelligent asset for business," says Robinson, whose focus includes developing models to ensure Verizon stores have enough inventory to meet demand.

US News, Jan. 24, 2014

O.R. New to US News List

Many of the “best jobs” hadn’t even been on the list in prior years. Among them: nurse practitioner, operations research analyst, information security analyst, nail technician and structural iron and steelworker.

Benefits Pro, Jan. 23, 2014

If you ask the wrong question...

Each of these steps is disruptive to an organization.  However, buying software is probably the least disruptive, so that’s where many companies choose to start! Gary Cokins, a veteran in the area of analytics and organizational change, says this:

“Organizations seem hesitant to adopt analytics. Is this due to evaluation paralysis or brain freeze? Most organizations make the mistake of believing that applying analytics is 90 percent math and 10 percent organizational change management with employee behavior alteration. In reality it is the other way around; it is more likely 5 percent math and 95 percent about people.” (source:

Chain Store Advisors, Jan. 24, 2013

Ford Wins INFORMS Prize


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