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Analytics Magazine

Inside Story: Welcome (Back) to Analytics

Summer 2008

CLICK HERE TO GO TO THE DIGITAL VERSION OF THIS ARTICLE

Welcome to the second issue of Analytics! We hope you enjoyed the premiere issue distributed in March and April and are now ready to learn even more about the wonderful world of business analytics. This digital magazine provides you with a comprehensive look at the analytics profession through news articles, features, columns and departments. More than 5,000 unique visitors sampled the first issue of Analytics, making it an unqualified success.

You are receiving this magazine for one of two reasons: 1) you registered to receive additional issues after reading the first issue (and we thank you for your confidence in us), or 2) you received and opened a link as part of your relationship with one or more of our sponsors.

If you have yet to register and would like to continue receiving Analytics, please register (http://analytics.informs.org).

Analytics is brought to you by INFORMS (www.informs.org) — the Institute for Operations Research and the Management Sciences. INFORMS is the largest membership society in the world dedicated to the analytics profession.

We think you’ll enjoy this second issue of Analytics even more than the first. Inside you’ll find timely articles on the role analytics will play in the 2008 U.S. presidential election, how Netherlands Railways used analytics to improve its service, increase profits and win the prestigious 2008 Edelman Award, and how the fast-growing service industry is creating more opportunities for business analytics.And that just scratches the surface. Peruse the issue and feel free to provide feedback at http://analytics.informs.org.

— Gary Bennett, director of marketing for INFORMS

It’s the Model, Genius

If you’re one of those people who hate it when someone gives away the ending to a suspenseful book or movie before you get a chance to read it or watch it, don’t read any further. OK, good, we got rid of three well-disciplined readers. For the rest of you, here’s a hint: We already know who will be the next president of the United States.

As it turns out, the two-man presidential horse race that just got underway in early June when Hillary Clinton bowed out – the race for the White House pitting John McCain against Barack Obama – is over. Yeah, I know the election isn’t until November, the polls have been all over the place, and the two presidential ponies are just now heading into the first turn, but trust me, this race is over.

The reason we know it’s over is because Allan Lichtman’s mathematical model says it’s over. Lichtman, a professor at The American University in Washington,D.C., is a “quantitative historian” who has developed 13 keys to presidential elections; turn enough keys your way and you open the door to the White House. It’s the numbers, stupid. Lichtman even wrote a book about it entitled, “The Keys to the White House.” Unlike the talking heads on Sunday morning TV, Lichtman’s predictions are based on solid statistical evidence. He’s hardly ever wrong.

And even when he’s wrong, he’s technically right. In 2000, Lichtman’s mathematical model predicted that Al Gore would win the popular vote for president, and sure enough, Gore did just that. One small problem: George Bush prevailed in the Electoral College, and thus became the 43rd president of the United States. So we must add this caveat: As good as it is at predicting the top presidential vote-getter nationally, Lichtman’s model is no match for the nuances of the Electoral College.

Doug Samuelson, a statistician by heart, a principal decision scientist for Serco in Vienna, Va., by trade and a seasoned political railbird by choice (he’s worked on a couple of congressional campaigns), recently interviewed Lichtman while researching this issue’s cover story.

If you’ve gotten this far, we know you don’t mind hearing the punch line before you hear the joke, but it just wouldn’t be right to give away the winner of the 2008 presidential race several months before the election. For that, you’ll have to read Samuelson’s article beginning on page 16.

Peter Horner, editor of Analytics

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