When he stepped out of the mists and touched his turban in greeting, I found myself reacting as I might respond to a familiar gesture of an old friend. Nothing quite compares to the sense of anticipation that results upon confronting a genie to deliver the last of three wishes, and to observe the outcome of having the wishes granted. The genie had made it clear that I must strictly conform to the context of specifying features I would like to have in software for solving analytics problems, and that he was not going to settle for vague or non-specific wishes.
Ultimately, ambiguities and imprecisions could never be fully escaped, which evidently implied that the job description of a genie involved stepping gingerly through a minefield of linguistic booby-traps. I was also a bit uneasy about this, because it meant the genie was much better at negotiating such a minefield than I was. Nevertheless, I had to admit that I was enjoying the challenge of formulating the three wishes, and so I proceeded with a mixture of anticipation and wariness.
My first two wishes had been
- The best possible simulation optimization design.
- The best possible capability to handle multi-criteria optimization
I had given some thought to what was needed to cap these wishes off, and my reflections led me to recognize another distinguishing characteristic of good simulation optimization methods. Truly effective optimization models and methods require a means of analyzing data for patterns, to create predictions and classifications as a foundation for making intelligent decisions. Consequently, it was clear that a good simulation optimization system had to incorporate a high quality data mining component as a tool for dealing with uncertainty, risk and complexity and that such a component qualified as an indispensible property of the models and methods to be wished for.
I was obviously not alone in reaching these conclusions. Their implications have not been lost on key analysts, leading decision makers, and research professionals. Gartner, a leading provider of technical research and business advice draws similar inferences as evidenced in the following quote:
Optimization and simulation is using analytical tools and models to maximize business process and decision effectiveness by examining alternative outcomes and scenarios, before, during and after process implementation and execution. This can be viewed as a [fundamental] step in supporting operational business decisions. Fixed rules and prepared policies gave way to more informed decisions powered by the right information delivered at the right time, whether through customer relationship management (CRM) or enterprise resource planning (ERP) or other applications. The new step is to provide simulation, prediction, optimization and other analytics, not simply information, to empower even more decision flexibility at the time and place of every business process action. The new step looks into the future, predicting what can or will happen.
At this point I was prepared to list the final feature I most wanted to have in my optimization models and methods:
The best possible data mining procedures to extract key information from the solutions produced.
As I contemplated this final wish, however, I had a sudden and uncomfortable suspicion that I had overlooked something. I reviewed again in my mind the last two provisions of the Fantasy Association for Thwarting Chicanery and Cunning Evasion (FAT CHANCE) that my wishes must conform to:
- No violations of the laws of nature
- No sidestepping of personal responsibility
Turning to the Analytics Genie, I said “When you require that my wishes must not violate the laws of nature, you mean that I can’t take advantage of technology that doesn’t presently exist. Is that right?”
The Analytics Genie smiled, and nodded.
“And this would imply,” I continued, “that when I ask for the ‘best possible’ instance of something, this must refer to an instance that is already available.”
He nodded again, and I already knew his response to my final question: “And your provision that I can’t sidestep personal responsibility implies that I must not only confine my wishes to things currently available, but I must also be the one responsible for obtaining whatever I wish for?”
The genie responded simply by saying “The process you have gone through to formulate your wishes gives you the foundation for fulfilling these wishes.”
So there it was! The Analytics Genie, living up to the genie reputation for being crafty, had not committed himself to be the agent for delivering on the promise to grant the three wishes, but had contrived so that this agent was to be me. It was never really in the cards that my wishes would be granted by the Fantasy Association known as FAT CHANCE, or by any other outside agency. Yet perhaps the outcome was not so disappointing at that. The Analytics Genie had cleverly led me to discover what I felt was worth wishing for. And the fact that the realization of my wishes rested on my own pursuit of them was not the worst news I could have had.
Seeing my understanding, the Analytics Genie smiled again, then faded into the mists of the Genie Nether Kingdom from which he had emerged.