A systems view of the operations research practitioner's software development process
Holness, Karen S.
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Operations Research and Management Science (OR/MS), or simply OR, is a profession that provides decision support solutions to industry and generates theoretical findings for the advancement of the discipline. The OR practitioner can be a person who works in industry or an academic professional who works as a consultant. Regardless of where they are based, it is the responsibility of the OR practitioner to provide a solution to help improve a client's business operations. The purpose of this research was to take a systems view of OR practitioner work to highlight the critical factors for successful implementations. Emphasis was placed specifically on the procedures used to produce OR based optimization software solutions that are intended for sustained use by the client organization. The key goal of this research was to describe the skills sets necessary for OR practitioner work today, with implications for changes in OR education to better prepare students for work in industry. An extensive literature review, questionnaire study and interview study were conducted to capture the factors academic and industry practitioners believe to be critical for project and implementation success. Descriptive models of practitioner work were created and validated to illustrate what is currently done in practice and why implementations are still challenging today. The results indicate that the majority of the total project time on these projects was spent on model development, model validation and client software development, all of which overlapped and were performed concurrently. Project management skills, knowledge and experience (project, modeling, & software), interpersonal skills, and data availability/integrity were the key influencers of the overall OR project process. Service quality factors were also important. The findings indicate that further emphasis on non-modeling skills is required by OR educational programs to better prepare students for consultant work.