O.R./Analytics at Work Blog
I asked this question to Glenn Wegryn, President of the INFORMS Analytics Section and principal at Analytic Impact LLC. His answer is below.
What do you think the top 5 trends will be? Comment here »
- Barry List
2014 proved to be a winning year for analytics. Going by the number of conferences devoted to the topic of analytics and attendance, including this year's record-breaking INFORMS Annual Conference in San Francisco, all indications are that it will continue to prosper. Here I present five of the most important predictions regarding analytics capabilities for 2015.
#1 What's in a name? There will be continued effort, albeit not fully resolved in 2015, to converge on a common definition of what analytics is. INFORMS' official definition is "...the scientific process of transforming data into insight for making better decisions." There are numerous other definitions or positions on what analytics is, but a middle ground needs to be found between the data-centric definition of analytics (What can the data tell us?) and the decision-centric version (What is the problem we're trying to solve?). Indeed, I view analytics as a bridge to converge the two in peaceful co-existence. Most importantly, it provides an easier point of entry for decision-makers to embrace, organize around, pay for, and ultimately benefit from all of the tools in the shed. The more we play in the same sandbox, the bigger the castle we can build together.
#2 Business Analytics programs will continue to grow. There are now over 100 business schools in the U.S. that have, or have committed to launch, curriculum at the undergraduate and graduate levels with degrees or certificates in Business Analytics . No doubt there will be more in 2015. Clearly the B-Schools have heard the call from McKinsey  and others  on the significant gap projected between the supply and demand for talent in the analytics space, particularly in the predict-and-decide advanced analytics skills. In 2015, the more established programs will dig deeper and continue to fine tune the curriculum while newer programs will close the gap quickly. The more successful programs will leverage the breadth of academic disciplines (computer science, operations research, engineering, math and statistics, marketing, finance, and others) to strengthen their programs.
#3 Fraud and Security. With the number of security breaches on major corporations being reported almost weekly, such as at Target, The Home Depot and more recently at Sony Pictures, there will be a significant increase in investment across the board in safeguarding commerce and privacy on the Internet. The importance of applying analytics methods - from using decision analysis to guide investment choices, to statistical methods, to detect-and-anticipate breaches and optimization models, to improve infrastructure design for safety, reliability and performance - will accelerate and continue to grow in 2015.
#4 Collaboration and Communication (aka the soft skills) will emerge as the difference-maker not only in getting the best talent hired into the most coveted roles, but also in enabling more recognition and value to organizations that utilize analytics. Soft skills are important to educate, sell the value of, and, ultimately transform the culture within departments and organizations. But more importantly, these soft skills are essential to clearly convey the context of the problem and to recommend a course of action for a decision-maker to take. That can span from intelligent bots interacting effectively with users in an on-line application, to independent practitioners seeking to build repeat business with a client, to boardroom analysts able to think on their feet and able to describe in plain language the options available and facilitate a decision. Communication includes effective use of visual capabilities from Tufte-proud graphics to interactive, data-rich, drill-down tools as a means, and not an end, to a better decision.
#5 The INFORMS Certified Analytics Professional (CAP) Program will continue to increase in importance as a qualification of skills and experience. Longer term, as the supply of analytic talent catches up to demand, the CAP program will be recognized as an important differentiator for employment. Currently, the number who are either currently certified or are signed up to take the exam exceeds the rate of the Project Management Professional (PMP) certification, over the same period . To that end, INFORMS should begin a campaign targeted to the "buyer" of analytics to grow awareness of this certification in their hiring decisions.
 Research from INFORMS Masters in Analytics Committee, presented at the 2014 INFORMS Annual Meeting (link).