2018 January Inside OR

This month we report on the Blackett Lecture and society awards, continue our Brexit discussion, round up the best bits of our Careers Open Day, and look forward to 2018 with an article from incoming OR Society president, John Hopes.

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2018 - The Way Ahead


I feel very fortunate to be starting my term as president at a time when The OR Society is probably stronger than it has ever been. Our new publishing contract with Taylor & Francis, which began this month (thanks to the efforts of Richard Eglese, Ruth Kaufman and others), gives us a guaranteed income for five years together with considerable upside potential. Our financial strength is not, however, limited to our P&L account; we also have a very strong balance sheet with reserves that exceed our current policy upper limit. We should bear in mind, of course, that there could well be a downward correction to asset values at some point in response to the gradual increases to interest rates and unwinding of quantitative easing. But we are so flush with reserves right now that, even taking this into account, we can safely start eating into them over the next couple of years to accelerate activity in line with our charitable objects.

In addition to this financial strength we also have more staff than ever, plus the scope to add still further to the team. But this is not all about numbers. We have a high performance team which is full of energy and very much focused on delivering top quality service. And this also goes for our army of volunteers. I saw two of them presenting at the recent Heads of OR and Analytics Forum (HORAF) about initiatives they were leading and their passion was genuinely uplifting.

On top of all this, under Ruth’s leadership in 2017, we strengthened the society with a number of significant additions that included: more accreditation and certification options with Chartered Scientist and Certified Analytics Professional (CAP); more special interest groups with the HR Analytics and relaunched Problem Structuring Methods groups; more events,
including the joint conference with the IMA on the mathematics of OR; a further membership benefit with the EBSCOhost service of more than 7,000 online publications; and, for those just embarking on a career in OR, our student clubs and our first master’s degree scholarships (an initiative that will be repeated in 2018).

All these strengths of the Society will enable us to move ahead with increased vigour with the five strategic priorities that Ruth has bequeathed to us relating to visibility, reach, engagement, capability and research. On visibility in particular we are developing a strategy of where and with whom we need to raise the brand and profile of OR supported by a
targeted communications plan. In addition we will advance the society’s diversity agenda and ensure that we support the OR community on Brexit as its implications for us become clearer. 

Whilst it is vitally important that we execute our strategy and have sufficient resources to achieve that, I am also keen, as a former management consultant, to focus on driving performance improvement across all the services we provide. For example we could benefit from the deployment of more resources to ensuring that we push up the ratings of our journals as far as possible. Similarly, in the light of our recent training strategy, we need continual review of our programme of courses to ensure it meets the full needs of its potential users while also ensuring that each component course is the best it could be. Yet another example would be bringing the performance of all our regional societies and special interest groups up towards the level of that of the most successful ones. In this context it is good to be relaunching and reinvigorating our analytics network, with a planned launch event for CAP. Bringing this network back to where it was a couple of years ago in terms of number of members and quality of events it runs would be a good start, but our target is to go beyond that to help with our reach and engagement priorities.

A particular improvement that is well on its way under Jonathan Batson’s leadership is the development of our new website, which will play a key role in our strategy as our primary window on the world. There is also an opportunity in 2018 for us to revitalise our conferences. In 2017 I attended both Young to OR and the main OR59 event and in both cases all those I spoke to at the events found them extremely valuable and enjoyable, just as I did. The problem was that we didn’t have as many attendees as planned, or indeed as many as some of the smaller overseas OR societies manage to attract to their conferences. 

This year, under the very experienced leadership of Graham Rand, we intend to make OR60 at Lancaster University a “must attend” milestone event that will exceed all expectations (no pressure, Graham). There is a considerable amount to look forward to in 2018. Not only our new website and OR60, but also the launch of our new Journal of Business Analytics and plans for an exhibition on OR being driven ahead by Sanja Petrovic. In addition, we intend to offer Registered Scientist as a stepping stone to full chartered status, will press on with our successful OR in Schools and Pro Bono OR programmes, to launch a project with input from HORAF and COPIOR under Alistair Clark’s coordination to explore OR apprenticeships, and will be running a full programme of events including the Simulation Workshop SW18, the Annual Analytics Summit and (new this year) our Health Analytics event.

In summary, we have the financial and human resources to achieve more than ever in 2018 and plans that will move the Society forward significantly. I hope you all find that prospect as exciting as I do and will play your own part in making this a year to remember.

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2018 January Inside OR

Blackett Lecture and society awards; new general council; Careers Open Day round-up; our discussion on Brexit continues.

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