IBM announced today that it is forming a new consulting group for business analytics and optimization, called Business Analytics and Optimization Services. With 4000 people, this is a pretty serious operation! You can check out the news release and the Business Week coverage. I’ll pass over the fact that IBM doesn’t use the phrase “operations research” in this announcement, and note that this group combines its consulting arm (formed with the acquisition of PricewaterhouseCoopers a few years back) with the strengths in research (in Watson and other places), two groups with world-leading operations research skills. From the press release:
Working with more than 4,000 consultants dedicated to this effort will be experts from IBM Research’s world renowned laboratories with more than 200 mathematicians and advanced analytics experts. The company also made significant investments in Services Research for the past 10 years to build technologies and intellectual property that optimize new services offerings — all culminating in this new consulting practice in support of IBM’s Smarter Planet strategy, which recognizes the need for improved business insight.
I did work with PwC before it was acquired, and continued for a period after they became part of IBM. There was a large group of people who really got operations research, and we did some great work for the Internal Revenue Service and the US Postal Service. I am excited that IBM sees the value of operations research (OK, business analytics and optimization) sufficiently to put together such a large group.
This move is very much in keeping with IBMs previous acquisition of ILOG. From the Business Week article:
The consulting business may drive sales for a lot of IBM’s own technologies, as well. The company has built up a strong position in business analytics software in recent years, partly through acquisitions. In 2007 it paid $5 billion for Canada’s Cognos, a leader in business intelligence. Last year, IBM broke into business-process optimization with a $340 million acquisition of ILOG, a French company.
This is an exciting move, and I think it will have a significant effect on how the sort of mathematics we do is used in industry.
Added 3:15PM ET, April 14. Be sure to check out the IBM site for the new initiative. With people like Brenda Dietrich and Bill Pulleyblank involved, I think it is safe to assume that operations research is going to have a big role.