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When talking to people who are not familiar with what OR is and what it is about, and you want to convince them that it might be useful for them/their industry, what do you tell them in order to convince them to do a project with you? Or if you have slides what do you show on these slides?

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It depends on the situation, but I assume what you have in mind is business.

Adopting a new technology stack is a business decision, even if you are talking to a technical person (the "User").

I can tell you from experience that technical discussions will contribute absolutely nothing to your cause. What works is to tell the User how using OR will benefit their business.

Examples of what not to tell people

  • The new presolver is 3% more efficient
  • We use an innovative branching strategy which explores 30% fewer nodes on average
  • Using OR we can create schedules that are 5% better than your current schedules

These statements mean absolutely nothing to anyone who does not know OR. Even for OR people, these statements are still meaningless w.r.t. what this means for them.

Examples of what to tell people

  • We estimate that this new framework can create better schedules, which can reduce your gross annual cost by up to 35%.
  • This technology can be used for superior real-time control, which can improve process efficiency by 12%. This translates to $2.5m/year.
  • Adopting OR can automate this part of your workflow. If widely adopted, that's 3.5m work-hours/year.

Even though the reasons to make these statements can be the counterexamples I wrote just above, this phrasing makes all the difference. It is now something a business person will be interested in, and it is also something the User can easily take to their boss and ask for approval subject to technical review.

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  • I suspect it helps if you come equipped with a few success stories from their industry.
  • It's nice to be able to say that "XYZ Megacorp saved twice the GDP of Rhode Island using a truck scheduling model", but you'll also want to make it clear that they don't need to be the size of XYZ Megacorp in order to benefit.
  • When thinking of OR applications, many of us gravitate toward some of the more mathematical models (optimization, simulation, maybe machine learning). There are also techniques having to do with group decision making, decision making with multiple criteria, etc. that might be of interest. So an example of a group decision (perhaps whether to pursue a new product, whether to open a new facility, whether to acquire a competitor) where competing fiefdoms in the company have divergent opinions and competing interests, along with an OR/MS technique for facilitating the decision (analytic hierarchy process comes to mind as one possibility) might get them interested.
  • Bottom line: You can lead a horse to water, but you can't make him drink.
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