For three full days, five students immersed ourselves in analytics at the Informs Conference on Business Analytics and Operations Research (OR). We were given the opportunity to sit in on multiple talks covering a wide variety of topics while also networking with industry specialists. The conference, this year held in Orlando, strives to bring together leading industry experts and analytics professions to showcase real-world applications of analytics. This year we went to support our program as a UPS George D. Smith Prize  finalist for a strong academic program that effectively and innovatively prepares students to be good practitioners of analytics and OR. Although we did not come home with the gold, we did learn valuable information from the sessions and made lasting connections with industry professionals.
The conference is set up in tracks with all-day talks following a certain topic and up to 12 tracks going on at one time. These tracks include the following:

  • marketing
  • optimization
  • health care
  • software tutorials
  • sports and entertainment (my personal favorite).

I spent most of Tuesday learning about the impact of analytics on sports teams from player selection to the business side of how to fill the seats. One of the best talks I sat in on was from Brian MacDonald of the Florida Panthers. His talk was titled “Data Analysis in the Florida Panthers Hockey Organization” and was about how they determined the best day of the week to schedule a large-crowd-drawing team versus a lower-attendance-drawing team. Is it better to schedule a team that brings many fans on a day that historically draws smaller crowds rather than vice versa? It turns out that scheduling a team that draws better crowds is best on the weekend rather than the weekday for the Florida Panthers from an attendance standpoint.
Another fascinating track dealt with the analytics process. It was within this track that I had the pleasure of listening to Harrison Schramm, a principal analyst at CANA Advisors, give his talk called “Fifty Minutes with the Five Minute Analyst.” He did exactly what the title says. Ten five-minute talks completed all within 50 minutes. His approach was to discuss everyday problems through an analytics lens because, after all, analytics can be applied anywhere. These topics included using Markov Chains to approach drama television shows, battles in Star Wars, predictions for college football, and how to win a game of Battleship. Check out more about Harrison Schramm and analytics in everyday life at:
All in all, I found this conference to be exciting, interesting, and educational! Sports Analytics has always been a hobby of mine and I had the opportunity to network with professionals in the field. I was also able to see how my education here at the institute has prepared me well for the industry, and I look forward to one day presenting my own research. Analytics is a field that will be forever changing, so it’s important to learn and network with fellow professionals and this conference gave a great opportunity to do that!
Columnist: Caitlin Phelps