SAS goes big in Texas at INFORMS 2013

Folks like to do things "big" in Texas, so when in Texas, do as the Texans do. SAS went big at the 2013 INFORMS Conference on Business Analytics and Operations Research, April 7-9 in San Antonio. SAS was a major sponsor, and many of my peers were involved in organizing and participating in different aspects of the conference. At least nine employees gave talks or facilitated sessions, others blogged, staffed the booth, were judges for prize competitions, and all engaged in the several networking opportunities provided by the conference.

Rob Pratt speaking at INFORMS 2013

Advanced Analytics Senior Manager Rob Pratt speaking in a SAS Technology Workshop on using OPTMODEL in SAS/OR.
Photo courtesy of Prof. dr. Dirk van den Poel, Ghent University

SAS conducted workshops in Optimization and High Performance Data Mining. The SAS/OR workshop drew about 50 attendees, while the data mining workshop pulled in over 70—close to 1 in 10 of the conference attendees! SAS/OR is now seen as one of the bigger players in the optimization space. Radhika Kulkarni, Vice President, Advanced Analytics at SAS, said, “I was proud to see our many contributions and was pleased to have a chance to interact with some happy customers.”

One of the highlights of the INFORMS conference is the Edelman Competition, sometimes known as the Super Bowl of Operations Research and Analytics. This is an international competition for projects that show long term business impact of Analytics and OR. After a long elimination process that spans several months prior to the conference event, six finalists are selected to present in hour long sessions in front of a full audience and a panel of expert judges. The finalists were the Netherlands Delta Commission, Chevron, Dell, Kroger, Shanghai Bao Steel and McKesson Corporation. The Netherlands entry won the competition - they used analytics and OR to come up with a plan that represents that best tradeoff between cost and flood control protection for the country, most of which is under sea level.

The entry from Dell Corporation, one of the other finalists, was of special interest to us because SAS Analytics played a critical role in this project. We were delighted to find out that unbeknownst to the SAS folks, the Dell Research team in India had been successfully using several of the SAS/OR tools. The leader of the group had very positive feedback about PROC OPTMODEL, the flagship optimization modeling language in SAS/OR. He said, “I can train an analyst to start using OPTMODEL within two hours!” That is high praise for any modeling language.

As part of a SAS-sponsored competition, my peers met three student winners who all were recognized by SAS and INFORMS for their skill in reading a case study and then applying both analytical understanding and business acumen to propose how they would address the issues for a customer. All three presented posters at the conference. One student winner demonstrated SAS/OR as part of her poster presentation. Links to the case study and rules, as well as the discussion around it, are available on AllAnalytics.com.

Here's a Big Texas Roundup of my SAS peer participants at the INFORMS conference:

  • Jeff Day presented, Senior Operations Research Specialist, presented to the INFORMS Professional Colloquium (for students, by invitation only) on how to prepare a good statement of work.
  • Principal Product Manager Ed Hughes and Senior Operations Research Specialist Aysegul Peker delivered a software tutorial on Building and Solving Optimization Models with SAS.
  • Aysegul Peker also gave a presentation on Win-Win Win in Inventory Management Using Advanced Analytic Techniques
  • Radhika Kulkarni co-lead a Birds of a Feather session on Helping Women Negotiate the ORMS Corporate Ladder.
  • Advanced Analytics Senior Director Manoj Chari co-led a BOF on Soft Skills.
  • Senior Director of Consulting Kathy Lange presented Effective Use of Business Analytics.
  • Analytical Consultant Andre de Waal gave a software tutorial, High-Performance Data Mining with SAS® Enterprise Miner™.
  • Principal Product Marketing Manager Mike Gilliland presented Process Control Approaches in Business Forecasting.
  • Judges for the Poster sessions included Advanced Analytics Director Ivan Oliveira, Industry Strategist Polly Mitchell-Guthrie, and Jeff Day. Posters including three by the winners of the SAS and INFORMS Analytics Section Student Analytical Scholar competition, Alex Akulov (University of British Columbia), Anirudha Kulkarni (Rochester Institute of Technology), and Shin Woong Sung (Korea Advanced Institute of Science and Technology).

This event was another SAS highlight in the International Year of Statistics, which is big for us at SAS—as big as all of Texas.

[ My thanks to Radhika Kulkarni for sharing her detailed trip report with SAS R&D, to Lane Whatley for some additional content, and to Prof. dr. Dirk Van den Poel, Ghent University, for his photograph. ]