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Reassessing the scope of OR practice: the influences of problem structuring methods and the analytics movement

Research output: Working paper

Publication date1/08/2014
Place of PublicationLancaster
PublisherDepartment of Management Science, Lancaster University
Number of pages40
<mark>Original language</mark>English

Publication series

NameWorking Paper


This paper argues that if OR is to prosper it needs to more closely reflect the needs of organizations and its practitioners. Past research has highlighted a gap between theoretical research developments, applications and the methods most frequently used in organizations. The scope of OR applications has also been contested with arguments as to the expanding boundaries of OR. But despite this, anecdotal evidence suggests that OR has become marginalized in many contexts. In order to understand these changes, IFORS (International Federation of OR Societies) in 2009 conducted a survey of global OR practice. The aim was to provide current evidence on the usage of OR tools, areas of application, and the barriers to OR’s uptake, as well as the educational background of OR practitioners. Results presented here show practitioners falling into three segments, which can be loosely characterized as those practicing ‘traditional’ OR, those adopting a range of softer techniques including Problem Structuring Methods (PSMs), and a Business Analytics cluster. When combined with other recent survey evidence, the use of PSMs and Business Analytics is apparently extending the scope of OR practice. In particular, the paper considers whether the Business Analytics movement, with an overlapping skill set to traditional OR but with a fast growing organizational base, offers a route to diminishing the gap between academic research and practice. The paper concludes with an exploration of whether this represents not just an opportunity for OR but also a serious challenge to its established practices.