Operations Research, Big Data to Tie Knot in April

Professionals in the fields of operations research – which uses advanced analytical methods to help make better decisions – and analytics are slowly becoming aware of one another, and after 70 years of crunching numbers for business and government, the synergy is becoming more manifest.

Professionals in the two intersecting fields use similar math modeling and related tools that handle big data with improved software and the burgeoning computing power of today’s hardware. The mantra of descriptive analytics, predictive analytics, and prescriptive analytics resonates among operations researchers and practitioners of analytics.

Now, an April 2012 analytics conference in Huntington Beach, California brings speakers from major corporations and other organizations to explore new ideas and compare experiences in analytics and operations research (O.R.).

The INFORMS Conference on Business Analytics & Operations Research, sponsored by the Institute for Operations Research and the Management Sciences (INFORMS), takes place April 15-17 at the Hyatt Regency Resort & Spa.

“This conference is the one place where world-class organizations go to showcase difference-making projects,” says Ford Motor’s Erika Klampfl, a technical leader of strategy and sustainability analytics at Ford Research and Advanced Engineering, who is serving as the conference chair. “Organizations like Boeing, UPS, Cisco, Hewlett Packard, Procter & Gamble and many others come here to learn and share their strategic use of operations research and analytics.”

The two keynotes – Hal Varian, the Chief Economist at Google, and Bob Page, Vice President, Analytics Platform, eBay – speak to the importance of using analytics in major tech organizations. Varian plans to examine ways of “predicting the present” with Google Trends: Google Trends allows users to gather data and measure various aspects of the economy, opening the path to inference and recommendations. Page will look at web analytics at the world’s largest marketplace, eBay. He oversees eBay’s data and analytics infrastructure, and creates the strategy and policies that power eBay’s data-driven decisions. From data warehouse and business intelligence solutions to advanced analytics and custom insights, he delivers solutions for strategic use of data.


Since 1972, analytics/ O.R. teams at business and government organizations have been competing in the Franz Edelman Award Competition for the best work by an organization. For the competition’s fortieth anniversary, HP, Intel, the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), Carlson Hotels, the Dutch transportation company TNT Express, and the Greek shipping company Danaos Corporation are sending teams to make the argument for their case studies.

In contrast to the Edelman ruby anniversary, this is the very first year of a competition, Innovations in Analytics. Some 50 teams are awaiting the announcement of the winner, which will be made at the conference.

Analytics professionals often focus their attention on seven interest areas – the analytics process, decision analysis, energy and the environment, marketing analytics, the public sector, the soft skills that analysts need, and supply chain management.

These topics are addressed by speakers from LinkedIn, Target, P&G, Marriott, Cisco, Nestlé, Verizon Wireless, the US Dept. of Energy, the National Academy of Sciences, MITRE, RAND, the US Dept. of Homeland Security, Sasol, HAVI Global Solutions, Alpine Data Labs, Mannheim Consulting, Prognos, and Insight Decisions.

Many of these organizations are sending their executives to an executive forum at the conference. Tech workshops and an analytics job fair round out the fare.

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