Strategic planning – an INFORMS roadmap

INFORMS President

Terry Harrison

President Terry Harrison

As a longtime member of INFORMS, I am accustomed to cycles of activity. Each year has the fall meeting, the spring meeting, possibly a summer meeting or a focused meeting, member activities and the regular arrival of the various journals to which I subscribe. This all takes place reliably – almost routinely. Yet I know that many individuals, both volunteers and staff, expend considerable effort to keep the cycle flowing smoothly.

A similar situation exists in terms of INFORMS’ future activities. Prior to my involvement with the INFORMS Board, I had little insight into the process management and innovation that takes place out of the easy view of the membership. In this column, I will add some transparency to INFORMS’ planning efforts and particularly focus on new initiatives for the next few years.

Ultimate decision-making for INFORMS rests with its Board of Directors, which meets four times a year (at the fall and spring meetings, along with winter and summer meetings at the INFORMS office). Among the Board’s most important duties is the development and implementation a strategic plan.

This plan is a critical component of envisioning the future of INFORMS and enabling the means and methods of realizing it. Traditionally, the INFORMS Board uses the summer meeting to focus on sorting through the many possibilities for the future via a well-prescribed strategic planning process. In particular, we overlay key strategic initiatives with a funding process to ensure that our vision is financially viable and sustainable.

As a starting point, we fully commit to maintaining our high standards for meetings, publications, communities and member services. Additionally, at the Summer 2011 Board meeting, we adopted two strategic goals for INFORMS over the next three to years. These include:

  1. Analytics: INFORMS is recognized as the leading association for advanced analytics professionals by advancing the practice, research, methods and applications of advanced analytics, and identifying and serving analytics professionals with products and services they value.
  2. Information technology: To provide up-to-date online systems that enable and encourage access, collaboration and effective exchange of information, content, services and benefits to and among our members, potential members and those interested in knowing more about O.R./analytics.

To meet these goals, the Board also identified four strategic priorities:

  • develop and implement a certification program in analytics;
  • develop and implement a continuing education program;
  • develop and support external engagement with government and industry; and
  • develop and support up-to-date online systems that enable and encourage access, collaboration and effective exchange of information, content, services and benefits.

Over the past 15 months, we have progressed significantly on these priorities. For example, at the spring 2013 meeting, INFORMS will offer its first certification exam for analytics professionals. Later next year, we will roll out an expanded continuing education program. Additionally, we have already made great strides improving our online systems and have added a number of initiatives in the use of social media. (Note some of the enhancement at the fall 2012 meeting!) Lastly, we have begun external engagement with government and industry, which has led to increased speaking opportunities, discussions within government and the development of an approach to help increase the engagement and retention of new industry members.

This past summer, the Board sent a request to all chairs or presidents of our sections, societies, chapters and FORA for comment on our current strategic directions and suggestions for possible additions or changes. The Board then used this input in our update of the strategic plan. After careful consideration, the Board confirmed our existing strategic priorities to ensure that we stay focused on activities already in process. Also, we have developed guidelines on coordination of activities so as to avoid duplication or acting at cross-purposes.

Our strategic plan and the process that produces and refines it have become important components of INFORMS development. The Board views this process as ongoing and subject to regular review. We particularly welcome comments from the membership on our direction. Should you wish to contribute, please contact me at