Thoughts on the INFORMS Business Analytics Conference

This post, from DC2 President Harlan Harris, was originally published on his blog. Harlan was on the board of WINFORMS, the local chapter of the Operations Research professional society, from 2012 until this summer. Earlier this year, I attended the INFORMS Conference on Business Analytics & Operations Research, in Boston. I was asked beforehand if I wanted to be a conference blogger, and for some reason I said I would. This meant I was able to publish posts on the conference's WordPress web site, and was also obliged to do so!

Here are the five posts that I wrote, along with an excerpt from each. Please click through to read the full pieces:

Operations Research, from the point of view of Data Science

  • more insight, less action — deliverables tend towards predictions and storytelling, versus formal optimization
  • more openness, less big iron — open source software leads to a low-cost, highly flexible approach
  • more scruffy, less neat — data science technologies often come from black-box statistical models, vs. domain-based theory
  • more velocity, smaller projects — a hundred $10K projects beats one $1M project
  • more science, less engineering — both practitioners and methods have different backgrounds
  • more hipsters, less suits — stronger connections to the tech industry than to the boardroom
  • more rockstars, less teams — one person can now (roughly) do everything, in simple cases, for better or worse

What is a “Data Product”?

DJ Patil says “a data product is a product that facilitates an end goal through the use of data.” So, it’s not just an analysis, or a recommendation to executives, or an insight that leads to an improvement to a business process. It’s a visible component of a system. LinkedIn’s People You May Know is viewed by many millions of customers, and it’s based on the complex interactions of the customers themselves.

Healthcare (and not Education) at INFORMS Analytics

[A]s a DC resident, we often hear of “Healthcare and Education” as a linked pair of industries. Both are systems focused on social good, with intertwined government, nonprofit, and for-profit entities, highly distributed management, and (reportedly) huge opportunities for improvement. Aside from MIT Leaders for Global Operations winning the Smith Prize (and a number of shoutouts to academic partners and mentors), there was not a peep from the education sector at tonight’s awards ceremony. Is education, and particularly K-12 and postsecondary education, not amenable to OR techniques or solutions?

What’s Changed at the Practice/Analytics Conference?

In 2011, almost every talk seemed to me to be from a Fortune 500 company, or a large nonprofit, or a consulting firm advising a Fortune 500 company or a large nonprofit. Entrepeneurship around analytics was barely to be seen. This year, there are at least a few talks about Hadoop and iPhone apps and more. Has the cost of deploying advanced analytics substantially dropped?

Why OR/Analytics People Need to Know About Database Technology

It’s worthwhile learning a bit about databases, even if you have no decision-making authority in your organization, and don’t feel like becoming a database administrator (good call). But by getting involved early in the data-collection process, when IT folks are sitting around a table arguing about platform questions, you can get a word in occasionally about the things that matter for analytics — collecting all the data, storing it in a way friendly to later analytics, and so forth.

All in all, I enjoyed blogging the conference, and recommend the practice to others! It's a great way to organize your thoughts and to summarize and synthesize your experiences.

ModevEast Mobile Developer Conference Special Discount for DC2 Members

JOIN_ME_300x250ModevEast is the East coast's most important mobile event of the year, happening December 12-13 at the Gannett Conference Center in McLean, VA. The program features two jam-packed days of talks, panels, and workshops in four key topic areas (Development, UX/Design, Enterprise, and Marketing/Monetization). ModevEast helps you level up your mobile dev, design, and strategic toolkit for 2014, including:

  • Expert thought leadership, discussing and futurecasting the most important mobile trends and tools for 2014
  • Rock solid cross-platform and native dev tools and training
  • Best practices for launching on multiple environments, automation, and mobile security
  • User research, acquisition, and retention strategies to deepen your relationship with your customers
  • Context, content, and location master strategies for UX and Marketing
  • Mobile app, UX, user testing, and security insights for the Enterprise
  • Expert perspectives on Lean, DevOps, and more, to get your whole team participating in product development
  • Hear from 100+ experts from industry leaders like Gannett / USA Today, Amazon, Capital One, Salesforce, Microsoft, Vocus, Samsung, and PBS - as well as from many innovative startups disrupting the mobile ecosystem.

Featured speakers include David Payne (CDO, Gannett/USA Today), Kelly Hoey (Founder, Women Innovate Mobile), Dr. Tom Love (Co-Creator, Objective-C languate), Alexis Finch (UX Expert, Seed&Spark), Peter Corbett (CEO, iStrategyLabsMingu Lee (VP, Samsung), Mark McGovern (CEO, Mobile System 7), Ryan Upton (Developer Evangelist, Salesforce), and You Mon Tsang (VP Product, Vocus).

Fill you brain, network with hundreds of your peers, and get your mobile strategy in shape for 2014. Pricing starts from just $159. Data Community DC members can save 10% additional with code DCDATA13.


A Pioneering Conference on Big Data and Open Analytics

This is a sponsored post by Scott Raspa at IKANOW, a big data software company. He is involved in the company’s sales and marketing efforts supporting public and private sector clients. He can be found on Twitter as @sraspa. IKANOW is producing the Open Analytics Summit, which is a sponsor of Data Community DC. Big Data conferences cover everything from NBA rebounds to government spending. Now there is a conference that covers open analytics across industries and platforms... and it’s right here in DC: The Open Analytics Summit.

Growth in Big Data Conferences

Since 2011, interest in Big Data has grown exponentially. A quick look at the Google trends shows that beginning in 2011, Big Data began its ascent and has now entered the common vernacular.

Google Trends plot of "big data"

Not surprisingly, as interest in Big Data has grown, so has interest in Big Data conferences. There have been 286 Big Data conferences according to social conference directory Lanyrd since 2010. 93 more are already scheduled or taking place in 2013. Google Trends shows the greatest growth in Big Data conferences starting in 2012, and there is no doubt that conferences have continued to grow alongside interest in the topic.

Google Trends showing "big data conferences"

Initially, Big Data conferences focused on platform-specific solutions. Hadoop World in October 2010 was a pioneer in this space and similar conferences have focused on MongoDB, NoSQL, Cassandra and others. Highly technical, and focused on a community of engineers, these conferences have continued to grow rapidly. On the heels of the technical conferences came events focusing on specific data types. Government and enterprise data-focused conferences grew in popularity as well. While the majority of spending and largest conferences have been focused around big players like IBM, Intel and the Federal Government, more specific markets are taking part as well. This past weekend for example was the 7th Annual MIT Sloan Sports Analytics Conference. This conference looks specifically at how data can be used in professional sports and has attracted over 2700 attendees this year, with research papers ranging from “Breaking Down the Rebound” to “Effort versus Concentration.” With Big Data touching fields from sports to government, we are excited to host in DC a new conference pioneer looking at Big Data and Open Analytics.

Open Analytics Summit

The Open Analytics DC Summit takes a unique approach by combining both data types, professional backgrounds and industries. Companies such as OpenGeo, Berico, and Praescient Analytics will present on how open source tools can create understanding from structured and unstructured data. Specific platforms will be covered with deep dives and examples of how to use Hadoop, Elasticsearch, MongoDB, open analytics platform IKANOW, and others. Big Data at huge organizations and companies will be the focus for people like Sean Patrick Murphy, a Senior Scientist at Johns Hopkins University (and board member at Data Community DC), Shahid Shah, a Chief Architect at OMB, and Donald Cox of Recovery, who will look at Data Analytics in the Government. The Open Analytics Summit is unique in that data scientists, CTO’s and analysts will mingle with executives and industry experts. It will focus on combining technical skills with real-world implementation experience, making the Summit a great place to learn to integrate Big Data in to projects and analysis within companies and organizations of all sizes.

Open Analytics Summit Special for Data Community DC

The Open Analytics DC Summit is excited to announce special pricing for Data Community DC readers and members. You can purchase tickets for the Summit and enter the code DataDC50 to receive $50 off the regular ticket price. At only $225, this conference is a great investment to learn more about implementing Big Data and open source analytics, and to meet industry leaders who will prove to be valuable contacts in the future. While Big Data’s moment has arrived, it is about time that open analytics gets a focused look. The Open Analytics Summit on March 25th in Washington, DC does just that. And we couldn’t be more excited.