Industry Insights

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How to Build an Effective Operations Research Team

November 13, 2018

This blog is contributed by Burtch Works' operations research recruiting teamAs the reach and applications of operations research and supply chain roles continue to increase, the search for talent remains a challenge for many firms. With OR and optimization professionals in higher demand, staffing a team with a slew of experts-of-all-trades (those with strong coding, modeling, technology, and business backgrounds) can be extremely difficult, if not impossible.In my conversations with hiring managers across several industries, the solution for many seems to be focusing on building an effective team that can function together to fill all of these functions, rather than trying to execute a time-consuming and costly search for “unicorns”. Let’s take a look at what some of those team members might look like!

Members of a Successful Operations Research Team

1. Traditional Operations Research Professionals

First on the list should be traditional OR experts – those with strong optimization and simulation skills that can be used for predictive analytics and machine learning approaches. These professionals may also help out with putting models into production and scaling them up to serve entire networks, and will often prepare models for the coders who can then strengthen the code and make them fault resistant.

2. Software Engineers or Programmers

Next in line are coders with some operational knowledge, who can work to strengthen provided models. Hiring managers should look for those who have a strong computer science background, as well as some knowledge of how optimization systems function, even if they don’t have direct experience in this area or enough experience to be a modeler.

3. Visualization Experts

Although you may be able to find traditional OR professionals or coders who have some experience with visualization software, it’s more likely that these experts will come from a business intelligence background. Visualization professionals can help translate findings into dashboards for easier digestion by either the executive or management team, and this will help make findings actionable.

4. Business Strategists

Between the members of the OR team and the members of the business team, you may also find it helpful to hire someone who straddles a bit of both. They know enough of the operations research side to be dangerous, but they also have a strong understanding of the business implications of their work, which makes them better able to translate insights into actions and strategy for the business. These roles tend to be more senior, and may also be involved in translating business problems into an analytics model that the team can then refine and work to answer.Since building members of a team like this requires looking for several different types of backgrounds, and not just strictly OR, what questions should hiring managers and recruiters be asking in order to properly evaluate talent for this team structure?

Questions to Ask When Building an Operations Research Team

Although every team will be looking for slightly different components when building out a team like this, there are several questions that employers might consider when evaluating potential talent.

  1. How important is industry knowledge in your search? Considering professionals from other verticals will help widen your potential talent pool to draw from.
  2. Which technical skills are most important to prioritize, and which can be trained on the job?
  3. Beyond technical skills, what are other important skills that team members will need to thrive?
  4. How are you approaching the search? Which avenues have been most helpful in the past, and are there any other approaches you could be trying?
  5. What are your goals for the team over the next 1-5 years? Are your current recruiting and retention plans working in support of those goals?

I hope you found this information on building an operations research team to be helpful! If you’re an analytics or OR leader, check out this other post by executive leadership coach Tim Ressmeyer on how you can better evaluate team performance and set goals.Are there other team members or hiring questions that have helped your team recruit successfully in OR? Let me know in the comments!I hope you found this information interesting, and if you’re looking for opportunities or to hire professionals in operations research, supply chain, data science, or IoT be sure to connect with us.