Operational Research The Science of Better


Want to find out more? Here's where to look


What sort of business problems can O.R. help me with?

The Operational Research Value Proposition

O.R. consistently delivers significant value – strategic to tactical, top-line to bottom-line – to the organisations and executives who use it. Organisations worldwide in business, the military, health care, and the public sector are realising powerful benefits from O.R., including:

  • Business insight Providing quantitative and business insight into complex problems
  • Business performance Improving business performance by embedding model-driven intelligence into an organisation’s information systems to improve decision making
  • Cost reduction Finding new opportunities to decrease cost or investment
  • Decision making Assessing the likely outcomes of decision alternatives and uncovering better alternatives
  • Forecasting Providing a better basis for more accurate forecasting and planning
  • Improved scheduling Efficiently scheduling staff, equipment, events, and more
  • Planning Applying quantitative techniques to support operations, tactical planning, and strategic planning
  • Pricing Dynamically pricing products and services
  • Productivity Helping organisations find ways to make processes and people more productive
  • Profits Increasing revenue or return on investment; increasing market share
  • Quality Improving quality as well as quantifying and balancing qualitative considerations
  • Recovery Gaining greater control and
    achieving turn-around
  • Resources Gaining greater utilisation from limited equipment, facilities, money, and personnel
  • Risk Measuring risk quantitatively and uncovering factors critical to managing and reducing risk
  • Throughput Increasing speed or throughput and decreasing delays


Is O.R. relevant to the complex and fast-moving business world today?

Answering the challenges you face today
Organisations and the world in which they operate continue to become more complex. Huge numbers of choices and relentless time pressures and margin pressures make the decisions you face more daunting and more difficult. Meanwhile, new enterprise applications and software are generating massive amounts of data – and it can seem like an overwhelming task to turn that data into insight and answers.

But all that data and the availability of more and cheaper computing power are creating an important opportunity for decision makers – one O.R. is ideally designed to help you take advantage of. O.R. professionals thrive on challenges that involve large numbers of variables, complex systems, and significant risks.

As a result, O.R. can help today’s executives with many of the specific challenges they face, such as:

  • Deciding where to invest capital in order to grow
  • Getting more value out of ERP, CRM, and other software systems
  • Figuring out the best way to run a call centre
  • Locating a warehouse or depot to deliver materials over shorter distances at reduced cost
  • Forecasting sales for a new kind of product that has never been marketed before
  • Solving complex scheduling problems
  • Planning for a potential terrorist attack
  • Deciding when to discount, and how much
  • Getting more cycles out of manufacturing equipment
  • Optimising a portfolio of investments, whether it contains financial securities or pharmaceutical product inventory
  • Deciding how large a budget to devote to Internet v traditional sales
  • Planting crops in the face of uncertainty about weather and consumer demand
  • Speeding up response time, whether selling a product or responding to a 999 call


How to train O.R. staff

Over the years The OR Society has organised hundreds of courses, seminars and conferences, including major international events; and we have earned a reputation for friendly, efficient and professional organisation. Quality is our major concern. Those providing the courses in this programme have been carefully selected for their expertise in the field and their experience as trainers.

In 2014, the 31 course topics include Simulation, Data mining, Decision and Risk Analysis, Process Improvement, Optimisation, Credit Scoring and two one-week introductory courses that cover a wide range of techniques.

The full programme is here: http://www.theorsociety.com/Pages/Training/CourseCalendar2014.aspx


How to find an O.R. consultant

The ‘O.R. Professional Search’ facility on this site at http://www.scienceofbetter.co.uk/or-professional-search is designed to help you find consultants with the appropriate expertise.

Just complete the search tool ticking as many boxes as you can and you’ll find the most appropriate help for your needs.


How to identify O.R. type people already in your organisation

Inside your organisation: You may find employees with O.R. training in one or more departments – Analytics, engineering, R&D, IT, scheduling, planning, logistics, pricing, etc. If you don't, consider hiring an O.R. professional and adding him or her to the mix, or even creating a new department.


How to study O.R. at University

If you enjoy maths but you’re not sure how you could use it in a career, take a look at our sister site: http://www.learnaboutor.co.uk/university.htm. Have a look in the Postgraduate courses section to see what's available after finishing your degree. If you’d like to see the kind of issues you’d be studying, we’ve included some learning materials and subject guides.

Our careers pages feature some profiles of people who work in O.R. and describe what they do. You’ll also find details of our annual Careers Open Day where students can learn more about careers in O.R. and meet potential employers.


How to find a placement student for O.R. project

At http://www.learnaboutor.co.uk/careers_university/postgraduate.htm you’ll find a list of universities that offer a Masters Course in O.R. (some may call it ‘Management Science’). Most, or all of these courses will require students to undertake a ‘real-world’ project with an external organisation. By making contact with a University’s Industrial Liaison office, you will be able to discover whether opportunities   


How to sell the value of O.R.

• Tame the chaos: Today's business world is fraught with complexity, uncertainty, and chaos – there are too many choices and too little information. Tell your potential clients that we operational research professionals have the special gift of confronting and taming that complexity, uncertainty, and chaos.

• Provide reliable information: Make clear that your product is not computers, application software systems, user interfaces, or database connections. Your product is reliable analysis and techniques that help answer compelling business questions.

• Emphasise the bottom line: Tell them the powerful, bottom line potential of O.R. early in your presentations to show why they need to work with you.

• Measure: We can provide something exceptionally valuable: a quantitative framework. That's so important because if you can't measure it, you can't manage it.

• Be consultative: Keep in mind that most decision makers don't really know what they want; part of your value is helping them figure it out.

• Sell the solution: You're going to address their problem and provide a solution. Tell them that. Don't dazzle potential clients with a value proposition tied to technology or optimisation; dazzle them with the quality of the solutions you can provide.

• Simplify, simplify: It's all right to impress a potential client with the fact that you are using advanced methods to solve a complex problem that only you are qualified to tackle. But from that point forward, phrase the problem in the simplest, most easily grasped way. For example, if you are working on scheduling an entire airline's crews, demonstrate the more easily grasped challenge of getting one group of pilots and flight attendants from point A to point B.

• Go beyond the finance: Tell them about the benefits that are quantifiable, and also about the benefits that aren't a mere matter of pounds and pence: faster production time, productivity savings, cost avoidance, and strategic value.


How to market yourself and your group

• Promote yourselves: Publicise your achievements in your organization's newsletters and electronic news.

◦ Make presentations to potential internal clients.

◦ Circulate your project reports.

◦ Attend meetings with potential clients.

◦ Give in-house courses.

◦ Deliver presentations at conferences.

◦ Publish external papers establishing your expertise.

◦ Attend seminars, both those in O.R. and those in your industry.

• Show your pride:

◦ Make sure you're in the loop to attend meetings with other departments and explain your projects.

◦ Post quarterly and annual reports about your department's accomplishments.

◦ Distribute brochures and leaflets about the general services your department offers.

◦ Cite your past accomplishments for clients in your organisation.


How to strengthen your department's standing

• Develop rounded business skills. Get training for you and your staff in general business skills, sales techniques, and presentation skills. Hire staff who are not just good modellers, but good business people.

• Make friends with those who can help you. Cultivate champions in your organisation: executives and management who appreciate the value of our methods and can advise you how to navigate the political culture. Also develop major sponsors for O.R. at your organisation. It is especially important to demonstrate your abilities to those who commission projects.

• Clarify your place in the organisational chart. When executive Jack Levis was first assigned to oversee the UPS O.R. department, he thought O.R. was part of IT. In fact, IT had no idea what O.R. professionals do. He clarified it, and you should, too.

• Send out emissaries. Is there a major satellite office far from yours? Find a way to hire an O.R. professional for that office so that you have people who are close to the action.


How to make O.R. pay for itself

• Implement: You don't save your organisation a penny until you implement. Work backwards and plan your implementation from the beginning. Solve a series of smaller, simpler problems whose payoffs become clear to management in a brief period of time. That way, you'll rapidly make a good impression.

• Charter: Publish an O.R. Department charter. Declare: "Here's what we do."

• Make a business plan: Communicate your project's business plan to your internal client: share the risks, a realistic time frame, and most certainly the benefits.

• Project control: Be sure to include milestones and plan regular and close contact, both formal and informal, with your internal client to reassure them and make sure you're on track.

• Pay your way: One senior O.R. practitioner member sets a goal of earning two pounds for every one pound in his budget. Set a goal that's right for you and show management your value.

• Build your reputation: By solving problems quickly and well, you become the department of choice for advice on tough challenges.

How O.R. fits with Big Data

To follow

How O.R. fits with Analytics

To follow

How to recruit an O.R. graduate

To follow

How to recruit experienced O.R. practitioner

To follow

How to set up an O.R. group

To follow


Click HERE to learn more about the OR Society and how to join