Share with your friends










Submit

Analytics Magazine

What is analytics and how does it relate to Operations Research?

Kevin Geraghty

Blog: The Analytics Fix

What is analytics and how does it relate to Operations Research?

By Kevin Geraghty

I was just reading an article on the INFORMS Analytics section, intriguingly titled Analytics, OR and INFORMS – Where the three meet. I am responsible for the Analytics department of a growing digital marketing agency and I have a long career in Operations Research behind me, so the question “What is analytics and how does it relate to Operations Research?“ I wrestle with.

To a certain extent, the issue is semantic. I am still involved with the same basic challenges as when I started my career in the Business Support and Operations Research department of British Airways in the mid-1980s. The challenge was to take data and turn it into business insight. The computing technologies and the available data have changed radically, but the job remains the same. However the term “Analytics” seems to encompass a broader set of expectations than those originally assumed to be the province of O.R.

The original purpose of analytics departments in most business was to produce reports. Initially the analytics job involved cutting and pasting numbers from various sources into a spreadsheet to produce a report that delivered actionable insight to an executive or sales person or other decision maker. This process often led to the creation of local databases in MS Access or a more formal reporting database as a shared resource. So the first people to move the needle on the effectiveness and applicability of analytics were data modelers, DBAs and others with a grasp of SQL. Soon after, products such as Cognos, Hyperion and other business intelligence tools hit the market creating even greater opportunity to troll for business value in large sets of data.

So where does Operations Research fit in to this picture. O.R. People have been everywhere in the process. Some have helped develop these tools. Others have exploited the greater accessibility of the data to develop ever more robust and insightful models. The general role of Operations Research has been in the vanguard explaining why you need ever-greater understanding of what data is telling you.

Of course Operations Research practice has had to evolve along with the demands and opportunities that a much more volatile business environment creates. I often joke that I have code that I wrote 20 years ago still running at various airlines; however any code I have written in my past five years has not lasted more than six months without substantial revision. That effect is probably heightened by the fact that I work at digital agency.

Of course the relevance of Operations Research to analytics depends on what you believe Operations Research brings to the table. For me it’s the ability to derive insight from data and turn those insights into tangible results. The rigorous education of Operations Research students in the analytic techniques of Optimization, Statistics, Queueing Theory and all the others are to me, just a means to an end. The hallmark of an Operations Research education is not what you learn but understanding how to make it work in the real world. What a nice coincidence that this is exactly what business leaders are looking for Analytics to provide: Actionable, data-driven business insight and the ability to use those insights to meet business challenges.


As vice president of Reporting and Analytics for 360i, Kevin Geraghty (KGeraghty@360i.com) is responsible for delivering data-driven insights that enhance marketers’ business results. He has received honors from the Institute for Operations Research and the Management Sciences (INFORMS) for outstanding Operations Research practice and serves as editor-in-chief for INFORMS Online.

Analytics Blog

Electoral College put to the math test


With the campaign two months behind us and the inauguration of Donald Trump two days away, isn’t it time to put the 2016 U.S. presidential election to bed and focus on issues that have yet to be decided? Of course not.


Headlines

What you like in a CEO candidate may not deliver results

Attributes that often get someone hired as CEO may not be the ones that drive success once they are at the helm of the company. That’s one of many provocative insights in a study by consulting firm ghSMART. The study, recently featured in Harvard Business Review, identifies characteristics that differentiate the most effective leaders. Read more →

Paying for online reviews backfires among socially influential

Online user reviews have become an essential tool for consumers who increasingly rely on them to evaluate products and services before purchase. The business models of online review platforms such as Yelp and TripAdvisor and e-commerce sites such as Amazon and Expedia critically depend on them. Should such sites pay users to encourage them to write reviews? Read more →

UPCOMING ANALYTICS EVENTS

INFORMS-SPONSORED EVENTS

CONFERENCES

2017 INFORMS Healthcare Conference
July 26-28, 2017, Rotterdam, the Netherlands

CAP® EXAM SCHEDULE

CAP® Exam computer-based testing sites are available in 700 locations worldwide. Take the exam close to home and on your schedule:


 
For more information, go to 
https://www.certifiedanalytics.org.