Building Successful O.R. and Analytics Teams

Working with internal resources

If you decide to start an analytics department in your organization, get the most out of it. 

  • Organization chart: Let the O.R. or analytics function report to an executive who is an enthusiast. Place this capability where it’s able to serve the range of clients you want — organization-wide or within a part of the organization. 
  • Project mix: Naturally you want the O.R. or analytics team to work on those applications that offer the most potential to benefit the organization. If your top-priority projects are developing major systems with "analytics inside," these require significant time and cost. However, don’t overlook analytics as an important resource for quick-turn-around work under tight deadlines; with specialized analytics software, giving advantageous support quickly is practical. 
  • Finding more opportunities: Include your O.R. or analytics director in executive group meetings so that you may explore ways different parts of your organization might take advantage of analytics expertise.
  • Staffing your department: You can recruit analytics professionals from various sources.
    • Contact the INFORMS Career Center of INFORMS (the Institute for Operations Research and the Management Sciences), the non-profit sponsor of this Website, at 1-800-4INFORMS or INFORMS Career Center.
    • Different universities train analytics professionals in different places. At an engineering school, you may find them in an operations research department or sometimes in one or several of the other engineering departments. At a business school, analytics often is called management science. Contact your local university or consult a list of universities with operations research, management science, or one of a growing number of analytics programs.

Working with external resources

You will find O.R. and analytics expertise at small, one-person firms, at medium-sized firms, and at large consulting firms. Also, professors in engineering schools and business schools often enter into consulting engagements.

When you evaluate candidates, consider examining their:

  • Experience in your industry, shown by references from previous clients
  • Experience working with specific challenges similar to yours
  • General experience in O.R. or analytics
  • Degrees earned and the institutions that granted their degrees
  • Awards, such as those bestowed by INFORMS (go to INFORMS Prizes for more information on leading awards)

As would be true hiring any consultants, when you hire O.R. or analytics consultants try to agree up front on a clear statement of the assignment. And arrange to give the consultants the support they require in access to people, cooperation, and tangible resources. Great results usually come from a true team effort between members of the organization and the consultants.

You should also consider how you will evaluate the success of an analytics project. Have your consultant recommend ways to measure the effectiveness of the implementation.

Structuring an engagement 

The four basic phases of typical O.R. or analytics engagements are described below. 

Step 1: Assessment (1 day to 1 month)  
Start by calling in an O.R. or analytics professional to assess how they might help you address your challenge or opportunity. Depending on the subject matter, you may accomplish this step with a conversation or an assessment study.

Step 2: Quick-turn-around analysis (1 day to 2 months)
If you and the O.R. or analytics professional agree to proceed, the next steps are determined by the nature of the assignment. Some examples:

  • Critiquing technical material or evaluating a software package with " analytics inside": The analytics professional performs the work and reports results.
  • Advanced analysis for a one-time, critical decision: The professional prepares and interprets an advanced analysis, in ongoing interaction with you and others who either furnish input or participate in the decision.
  • Preparing for system development to improve recurring decisions: The professional designs an information system with " analytics inside" to identify preferred choices on demand.

Step 3: Prototyping – for system development only 
(1 month to 3 months) 
A development team (including O.R. or analytics professionals, software engineers, and other staff as required) is assembled. The team constructs, tests, and refines a system prototype while interacting frequently with prospective users. The professional also recommends changes in processes and procedures necessary for effective system performance.

Step 4: Implementation – for system development only (1 month to 1 year) 
The development team works with management and users to develop the system, install the system, train operators, revise processes and procedures, provide for maintenance and future upgrades, and measure benefits.

Key consulting agreement elements

When you begin working with O.R. or analytics consultants, ordinarily you will create a formal consulting agreement. Examples of contents:

  • Clear description of the assignment
  • Consultant and client responsibilities
  • Deliverable materials – content, format, level of detail
  • Schedule for both the consultants and the organization, including project milestones
  • Project risks (if any) agreed upon by the client and the consultant
  • Fees
  • Change-control procedure

Additional Information