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Analytics Magazine

Inside story: A conference to remember

As I’ve said many times in this column, the one analytics conference you don’t want to miss each year is the INFORMS Conference on Business Analytics and Operations Research. The latest in the series, held April 15-17 in Baltimore a few miles down the road and a few stone skips across the Inner Harbor from INFORMS headquarters, not only lived up to expectations, it exceeded them – by a long shot.

Maybe it was the home field advantage, but the conference was exceptional in every way, starting with a record attendance of 1,054 analytics professionals, thought leaders and academicians who gathered for an amazing three days of analytical nirvana.

Bill Schmarzo, CTO of IoT and Analytics at Hitachi Vantara (and formerly CTO within Dell EMC’s consulting organization) jump-started the conference with a rousing opening plenary titled, “Big Data MBA: What is the Value of Your Data?” Schmarzo’s high-energy delivery – packed with memorable one-liners and bullet-points – set the tone for a whirlwind of analytics activity throughout the conference.

Anyone – regardless of gender – who attended the “Women in OR/MS: Cocktails & Questions with Diane Bryant” early evening session came away ready to take on the world and break a few glass ceilings armed only with confidence and analytics. Bryant, COO of Google Cloud, turned up the heat by doubling as a member of the Edelman Award finalist team from Intel, her former employer.

A highlight of any INFORMS Business Analytics Conference is the Edelman Gala, an Oscar-like dinner and awards event that celebrates the world’s best applications of analytics, O.R. and management science. Emcee Don Kleinmuntz commanded the podium with a mix of decorum, style and wit – a perfect fit for the occasion.

From Schmarzo’s opening big data/big business challenge to U.S. Health and Human Services CTO Bruce Greenstein’s insightful final-day plenary on “Connecting Data to Advance HHS” – the conference hit a home run, which was appropriate considering it was held across the bay from Camden Yards, home of the MLB Orioles.

Finally, kudos to Conference Committee General Chair Jack Kloeber, his committee members and the INFORMS staff for putting together a memorable conference. I’ve been to more conferences during the past 25 years than I can remember, but this was the best, and one I won’t forget.

Peter Horner (, editor, OR/MS Today and Analytics magazines

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