What is Operational Research?

Operational research (OR) is a scientific approach to the solution of problems in the management of complex systems that enables decision makers to make better decisions.

Who uses operational research?

OR is used by organisations of all sizes, including businesses across all industry sectors, government and other public sector bodies, charities, communities and even individuals. OR helps inform strategic, tactical and operational decisions as well as assisting in the design of public policy. 

Most of the problems OR tackles are messy and complex, often involving considerable uncertainty. OR uses advanced analytics, modelling, problem structuring, simulation, optimisation and data science to determine the best solution to the problem and the best practical course of action.

What are the benefits of using OR?

Depending upon the problem, the benefits of OR can be a wide range of performance improvements including cost reduction, revenue enhancement, saving lives, raising levels of customer service or risk reduction.

The use of OR leads to more productive systems based on robust data analysis, full consideration of available options, careful predictions of outcomes and estimates of risk, and a collaborative approach that engages with all stakeholder groups.

OR case studies

If you would like to know more about the range of applications of OR and the types of benefits that it delivers, our resource centre contains many illustrative case studies.

Case studies

Read about many different applications of OR in our real-world case studies

Business Case Studies

The history of OR - our 'ORigin story'

This compelling animation tells of OR's wartime origins when the stakes could not be higher

History of OR

OR methods

Read more in-depth articles about a number of OR techniques

OR Methods

The history of The OR Society

Find out about the society from its earliest days through to the present

History of The OR Society