INFORMS News: Roundtable members enjoy company presentations

The Roundtable spring meeting was held at the Marriott Chicago Downtown April 9-10. The meeting theme was “Roundtable Companies Presentations,” which primarily focused on the O.R. practice within each organization with its applications and challenges. The invited speakers all currently manage O.R. teams within large organizations.

In the first session on Sunday, Steve Sashihara, CEO of Princeton Consultants, shared lessons learned in his 30 years of implementing optimization for businesses, while highlighting cases from his new book, “The Optimization Edge: Reinventing Decision Making to Maximize All Your Company’s Assets.” In the book, Sashihara cites examples of many different businesses that have utilized optimization successfully, with case studies from McDonalds to Marriott among others. Sashihara started by stating that for all its potential, optimization is vastly underused and misunderstood by all but the largest and most elite companies.

Walking the audience through his own experience, he revealed lessons learned that show technical virtuosity – unlike many of us thought when we first started this journey – does not guarantee success. Instead successful optimization embodies four critical attributes with project design and management being the key to achieving it. For anyone from the one who just started in the field to the optimization expert, Sashihara’s talk included numerous relevant winning strategies to conquer obstacles to successful optimization. “The Optimization Edge” is a must read.

The remainder of the speakers were: Jim Williams, Land O’Lakes (see page 18); Arnie Greenland, IBM; Manoj Chari, SAS Institute Inc; Margery Connor, Chevron; and Ebru Demirkol, United-Continental Holdings, Inc. They all spoke about the role of analytics in their firms/organizations and shared a great breadth of problem types and some recent initiatives. The Roundtable also honored Jeppesen Research for winning the 2010 INFORMS Prize, including Stefan Karisch’s talk on end-to-end O.R. experience at Jeppesen. Roundtable members also enjoyed a talk from INFORMS President-Elect Terry P. Harrison, who shared the INFORMS Analytics Initiative, with current status and expected developments.

Considering the unpredictable Chicago weather in April, organizers had not planned for a boat tour as an outing, although I have to say the famous Chicago River Architecture Tour would have been a perfect complement to the reception on Saturday. That said, we did something more innovative and visited the McDonald’s Innovation Center. Other than enjoying the multitude of McDonald meals (and thinking about how jealous I will make my three teenage boys), we all learned about a very successful way of solving business problems and then testing and measuring success. However, I won’t challenge the NDA I signed and just say that if you could not attend it, unfortunately it was your loss.

Of course no Roundtable meeting is complete without the Dutch treat. Those of us attending celebrated another successful meeting with an ethnic dinner at the Turquoise Restaurant in Roscoe Village.

– Ebru Demirkol