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The End of the INFORMS Practice Conference …

and the start of the INFORMS Conference on Business Analytics and Operations Research.

The INFORMS Practice Conference has long been one of my favorite conferences.  In addition to the inspirational Edelman Competition presentations, the organizers do a great job of identifying presenters for a range of industries, illustrating the wide applicability of operations research.  The conference is on a much more manageable scale than the INFORMS Annual Meeting (or EURO meetings) and is typically held in an interesting location.

The INFORMS blog  has just announced that the name for this conference series will change to the INFORMS Conference on Business Analytics and Operations Research.  Business analytics is a term that has gained a lot of recognition recently (we recently added a track to our MBA program called “business analytics”).  INFORMS has a pretty good definition of the term:

Business analytics facilitates realization of business objectives through reporting of data to analyze trends, creating predictive models for forecasting and optimizing business processes for enhanced performance.

While all of those aspects are “operations research” it is that last phrase “optimizing business processes” that really links business analytics to the OR/MS world. Previous approaches like “business intelligence” did not really integrate aspects of optimizing business processes.  But with this definition “business analytics” really is “operations research” and vice-versa.

I have struggled with the adoption of the phrase “business analytics”.  INFORMS (and its founding organizations ORSA and TIMS) has had innumerable discussions on what our field should be named and even now INFORMS embeds two alternatives: Operations Research and Management Science, the ORMS of INFORMS.  Do we need another name?  And there are aspects of “business analytics” that seem to me to be a stretch to call operations research:  once you start tossing in dashboards and scorecards and the rest of the buzzwords, I start racing back to my safe world of cutting planes and submodular functions.  But it is all about using data and models to make better decisions.  And if the market likes “business analytics” then I’m good with it.

I worry about the longevity of the term.  Will this term last or in five years will it feel like “e-business” does today?  It does strike me as a term that has the chance of being around for a while, particularly if it is embraced by organizations like INFORMS.

One big problem for the phrase:  there is no good phrase to identify those that do it.  “Business analysts” is not right:  analyst comes from analysis, not analytics.  “Business analytickers?”  I think not.  On the other hand, “operations research” has that problem too.  “Operations researchers” just doesn’t sound right.

So I am good with the title.  However, can we call it the “INFORMS Conference on Business Analytics and Operations Research”, its official name, not the “INFORMS Analytics Conference” as given in the INFORMS blog title?  Including the “operations research” name is going to be important to the branding of this conference.  At least as far as us ORers are concerned.

{ 2 } Comments

  1. Larry (IEOR Tools) | September 30, 2010 at 11:23 pm | Permalink

    I too have had employers trying to figure out a title for me. My current title is Consumer Analytics Engineer. Like you if the market likes it I’m fine with it.

  2. Thomas Olavson | October 3, 2010 at 1:42 pm | Permalink

    Glad to see INFORMS adopt the term “business analytics”! It’s lot easier to connect with management about the value and relevance of OR by using the term “business analytics” or “analytics”. Still not sure what to call our jobs though. In my OR group at HP, we’ve used the title “Analytic Consultant”. The “New Know” and “Competing on Analytics” books use the simpler title “Analyst”. And “Data Scientist” and “Chief Data Scientist” seem to be common titles for OR/stats people at internet companies.

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