The most successful analytics projects are the ones that are closely tied to solving a business problem as opposed to merely featuring sophisticated analytics. The highly successful Orion project at UPS (featured in a recent OR/MS Today magazine article) is a stellar example of this. It has saved UPS over $300 million. Additionally, over 100 million miles have not been driven, and 10 million gallons of fuel have not been used. Numerous UPS drivers have reported the ability to service even more customers in the same amount of time. This array of cross-functional benefits reminds me of the cross-functional benefits of many company-wide sustainability efforts I have read about over the years.
It used to be that sustainability efforts were primarily focused on narrow areas, most notably environment, safety, health and corporate responsibility. Now these efforts often involve many other areas, if not the entire company. One example from the pharmaceutical industry is designing a new manufacturing plant to be LEED (green building standards) certified as well as being compliant with applicable FDA Good Manufacturing Practice guidelines. Another one from many industries is the realization that redesigning packaging to be more “sustainable” can have additional benefits such as being easier to use, easier to produce, and cheaper over the long run.
The fact the companies are broadly implementing sustainability is really no longer news—it is becoming part and parcel of how many are doing things.
I see a similar dynamic occurring with analytics, which are quickly being integrated into a broad array of business functions beyond the “analytics department”. The explosion of available data has led to an increasing number of ways to actually use it. This has extended way beyond the “analytics group” and permeated into many levels of management. Not surprisingly, this trend has been accompanied by a vast number of universities offering new graduate certificate programs specifically in “data analytics”.
I’ve seen this before—a previously somewhat isolated focus area becoming broadly accepted and implemented across a variety of business functions. It has happened with sustainability efforts over the past 10 years. It is now occurring with analytics initiatives in a parallel fashion. Since I am keenly interested in both sustainability and analytics, I am very happy to see this happening.
Note: The OR/MS Today magazine noted above is produced by the Institute for Operations Research and the Management Sciences, a.k.a. as INFORMS