IT Best Kept Secret
JeanFrancoisPuget 2700028FGP Visits (8866)
What is IT best kept secret? I am pretty sure some unknown jewels come to mind immediately, but I am pretty sure as well that few have documented ROI as important as those provided by Mathematical Optimization (aka Operations Research, OR in short). For instance, check this user case where a utility saves over $2Billion. Isn't it worth spreading the news? Shouldn't every utility jump on a technology that can save billions? Well ... many don't.
So what? One could wonder why I'm making such a fuss about the utility industry not using optimization technology as it much as could. despite this and many more documented cases, Issue is that utilities aren't an isolated case. Truth is that optimization technology can be applied to , I should say has been applied to, a wide range of industries, with similar success. And many of these are documented as we will see. Yet, optimization technology isn't a mainstream IT technology.
Is it because the information isn't available? Certainly not
For instance, companies achieving very large return on investment thanks to optimization technology compete to get one of the prestigious Edelman Awards. Let me quote the definition of this award:
The annual Edelman Award competition brings together top examples of innovation from large and small, profit and non-profit, corporate and governmental, American and international organizations. The common theme characterizing all the final competing teams is use of the most sophisticated analytical tools employed in operations research to make a major impact on an organization and the people that it serves
The finalists and winners list encompass almost all industries. All these are showcase of the usefulness of optimization technology. Yet, this is still seen as an advanced technology for mathematician gurus.
Is it because the technology is only understandable by few geniuses? Can't be. There are many source of information for who wants to know more and learn. There are good text books. There are many interesting blogs in this area, see for instance Mike Trick's Operations Research Blog or IBM ILOG Optimization & Supply Chain Blog to name two of my favorites. There are active societies like INFORMS (INFORMS is the society sponsoring the Edelman Award discussed above) or ROADEF (in France, where I happen to be living). There are many curriculum at universities worldwide. There are books about how to use it in a business context, including the insightful book The Optimization Edge by Steve Sashihara. Yet, optimization technology isn't a mainstream IT technology.
Can this change?
I am convinced it can, and this blog will witness our progress towards a world where optimization is pervasive. We'll review compelling use cases. We'll analyze some of the bottlenecks that prevent widespread adoption of OR techniques. We'll present how optimization technology is making its way into mainstream offerings. And from time to time we'll have some technical content, but not that much