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Analytics Magazine

INFORMS Conference on Business Analytics and O.R.


By Terry V. Cryan

Two Internet senior executives will headline the 2012 INFORMS Conference on Business Analytics and O.R., April 15-17, in Huntington Beach, Calif. Hal Varian, chief economist at Google, will deliver the opening keynote talk. Bob Page, vice president of analytics platform at eBay, will present a plenary on the second day of the conference. Both speakers are known for provocative thinking on economics, analytics and the challenge of creating data-driven cultures within organizations.

Varian and Page will be joined by an impressive lineup of speakers from companies such as Target, LinkedIn, Cisco, Nestlé and Verizon to share best practices in applying analytics to solve business problems. Academic speakers from universities around the world – including Nanzan University in Japan and Goethe University in Germany – will provide training on strategy and analytic methodologies. Overall, the program will offer high-quality, in-depth presentations by more than 80 speakers.

The conference program has been designed by a 29-member committee of analytic practitioners and academics, chaired by Erica Klampfl, technical leader for Strategy and Sustainability Analytics at Ford. Two expanded, 10-session tracks will focus on marketing analytics and the analytics process. Other tracks will cover supply chain management, decision analysis, energy and environment, soft skills, and public sector analytics. (See accompanying for a list of tracks and speakers.)

Approximately 35 additional submitted talks are now being selected through a rigorous review process, for which the acceptance rate is about 40 percent. These “select presentations” are determined based on speaking expertise as well as presentation content, with priority given to real-world applications and implemented projects. Poster presentations will round out the program and provide a format for works-in-progress and case studies, where presenters seek feedback from colleagues.

“Super Bowl” of Applied O.R. and Analytics

The power of analytics is illustrated each year in the prestigious Edelman Award Competition. This year, six finalists will showcase high-impact projects that had major impacts on their organizations: Intel, The Centers for Disease Control, Danaos Corp., HP, Carlson Hotels and TNT Express. The 2012 winner will be announced at an awards banquet during the conference, and the winner will repeat their presentation in a plenary session on Tuesday.

Other high-profile awards will be announced during the gala: the INFORMS Prize (to a company that effectively integrates analytics into organizational decision making), the Daniel H. Wagner Prize (for projects where strong mathematics has been applied to practical problems) and the new UPS George D. Smith Prize (recognizing a university for innovative and effective preparation of O.R. practitioners).

Panel on Big Data and Executive Forum

A high-level panel discussion, organized jointly by INFORMS and the Industry Studies Association with funding from The Sloan Foundation, is aimed at bringing cutting-edge research on specific analytics topics to practitioners. The 2012 panel is one component of a project being organized by Diego Klabjan, associate professor at Northwestern University. A panel of academics and industry leaders, led by futurist Thornton May, will consider the question, “Can innovation drive a business user to adopt big data analytics?”

Another innovative program, the Executive Forum, reaches out to senior executives who want an introduction to how analytics can provide a competitive advantage for their companies. Networking opportunities, a “concierge” service to identify talks on the program of particular relevance and other high-level takeaways will be offered.

Career-Building Programs

Two special programs within the conference are designed for future analytics leaders. The Young Researcher Connection, for junior faculty and young industry researchers, provides participants with insights into the critical problems facing business, helping them to broaden their research agendas and providing important networking contacts.

The INFORMS Professional Colloquium offers a full-day, interactive workshop on career guidance for master’s and Ph.D. students who are interested in practice careers. The colloquium will be held Sunday, April 15, and students will then stay for the remainder of the conference.

Participants in both programs can register for the full conference at a steep discounted rate of $375; they must be nominated and selected to attend. Limited financial aid is available for the colloquium. The nomination deadline is March 1.

Technology Workshops, Soft Skills Workshop, Job Placement

While the conference formally kicks off with a Newcomers Orientation and Welcome Reception on Sunday evening, April 15, the entire “pre-conference” day is packed with valuable learning opportunities. Attendees can take advantage of in-depth technology workshops presented by software solutions companies, as well as a full-day, continuing education course on soft skills. The Soft Skills Workshop provides analysts with training on working successfully with business decision-makers and the people who implement decision analysis and O.R. solutions.

Analytics Connect, a new INFORMS job placement program, enables employers and job seekers to connect in a casual setting. Employers can collect resumes early in the conference and set up private interviews with both newly graduated and experience analytics professionals.

Deadline for Super-Saver Rates

Super-saver rates of $845 for INFORMS members and $950 for nonmembers are available until Feb. 24. Organizations can take advantage of a team discount rate of $765 (by March 30) when they send three or more attendees. All meals (breakfasts, lunches, breaks, the Sunday reception and the Monday Edelman banquet) are included in all registration fees.

The conference venue, the Hyatt Regency Resort & Spa, is an upscale oceanfront hotel with a heated pool, direct beach access, surf pros, biking and more. The reservation cut-off date is March 12, with a discounted conference rate of $199 (the resort fee covering in-room Internet, fitness center and other amenities is waived for conference guests).

For continuing updates, information on hotel reservations and to register, go to:

Terry V. Cryan is the INFORMS director of meetings.

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