Short Descriptions of Current DO&IT Research Projects

Revenue Management

Professors Ball, Elmaghraby, Chen, Karaesmen and Kumar

How should airlines control seat inventory given limited information?  Airlines face uncertainty in the number and sequence of seat requests, and on whether or not a passenger will actually show up for a flight.  How should the airline make overbooking decisions and control seat inventory?

Retail sales are great for the shopper, but tend to be a nightmare for the retailer.  This research is developing analytic models to determine when and how much to discount merchandise for sales.  The approach is to use a game-theoretic model to study the ramifications of a policy that allows customers to reserve goods before the markdown or sale period.

Outsourcing and Offshoring

Professors Agarwal, Gao, Mithas and Gopal

The first part of this research is focused on the type of service to be outsourced or sent offshore.  The outsourcing of information technology services has received the most attention, but there is a range of services that can be outsourced, from low-end activities like a call center to high-end knowledge work.  The research also looks at the characteristics of an outsourcing arrangement, for example, by comparing the vendor and client capabilities, experience and skills.  What is the performance of outsourcing vendors?  What kind of contracts are most effective in outsourcing?  How should the vendor and client manage and coordinate services?

Data Mining and Statistics

Professors Alt, Jank, Kumar, Shmueli

Data mining is the non-trivial extraction of implicit, previously unknown and potentially useful information from data.  The world is collecting data at a furious pace, with far too much data for manual analysis.  AT&T handles billions of calls per day.  Europe had a project with 16 telescopes that collected 1 gigabit/second of data over a 25-day observation session.  Data mining helps Google refine its search algorithm and AT&T detect fraud.

Other research examines prediction markets which are speculative markets created for the purpose of making predictions.  An asset’s final cash value is tied to an event, such as who will be the next president.  The Iowa prediction market is famous for estimating the results of political races, but there are many other markets, including some used in business to predict product sales and success.

Business Value of IT

Professors Agarwal, Bailey, Gao, Lucas, and Mithas

Over 50% of capital spending in the U.S. is for information technology.  How do organizations know they are getting a return from this investment?  Business value looks at individuals, organizations and industries to estimate a return from investments in IT.  One objective of this research is to understand how to manage IT to maximize its contribution to the organization.  An example of this kind of research is a project that looks at the relationship between product innovations and value compared to IT investments.

Other research on business value has examined how IT spending affects firm performance and how systems affect customer satisfaction.

Transformational IT

Professors Lucas, Viswanathan, Gao, Bailey and Mithas

Technology is enabling the transformation of organizations, markets and industries.  This stream of research seeks to understand the nature of these transformations to offer guidance on how to know that one is coming.  It has resulted in a book and a documentary The Transformation Age, which has appeared on over 200 public televisions stations in the U.S.

A specific example of research on transformation is a project looking at the impact of the Internet on newspapers in the U.S. and on where and how Internet users are getting their news. 

Open Source

Professor Stewart

Open source is a major force in technology; it refers to software and applications that are distributed freely on the Internet and that are developed largely by volunteers.  This research looks at how one measures and evaluates success in open source projects, especially smaller projects rather than well known open source products like Linux.

Auctions

Professors Ball, Dellarocas, Elmaghraby, Jank, Raghavan, Shmueli and Viswanathan

The faculty in DO&IT approaches auctions from several different perspectives.  Those with interests in statistics use empirical tools to explore and model auction dynamics and characteristics, such as bidder and seller behavior.  The management science approach is to model an auction as a non-trivial optimization problem where the challenge is to design a practical and computationally efficient auction.  The economic approach looks at an auction through the lens of game theory:  bidders report their costs/valuations and the auctioneer determines the allocation of payments as a function of the reported information.

Allocating Airport Access Rights

Professor Ball

This research uses market-based mechanisms for reduce airport congestion and flight delays.  The research is sponsored by the Federal Aviation Agency and involves a consortium of faculty from different Universities including Maryland, George Mason, Harvard, MIT and Berkeley.  The FAA used the results of this research as a part of its efforts to allocate landing slots at LaGuardia and JFK airports.

Supply Chain Management

Professors Ball, Chen, Elmaghraby, Fu, Goyal , Karaesmen, Souza

Supply chains include suppliers who provide material, organizations that transform material into output, distribution of the output to retailers, and finally sales to customers.  Research on supply chain looks at how to manage material and information flows.  Supply chain errors and malfunctions have a serious negative effect on firm performance.

One study looks at order promising and fulfillment in an environment in which a manufacturer assembles products based on orders.  Another project is concerned with integrated production and distribution operations as well as schedule conflict and cooperation in a supply chain.  Faculty are also studying closed-loop supply chains where there are flows of products (for example defective units) back to the manufacturer.

How to Save Healthcare

Professors Agarwal, Gao, Golden, Prasad, Raschid, Shmueli, Souza

Healthcare is in a crisis state in the U.S.; costs are rising faster than inflation and even faster than college tuition.  At the same time the quality of healthcare in the U.S. is uneven at best.  Research on healthcare focuses on how to use information technology to improve both the efficiency and quality of health services.  How can we design technology for these purposes that various workers in the industry will adopt?  Research focuses on electronic medical records: their adoption, diffusion and use.

One project in healthcare is to encourage lean management in the industry, which is all about reducing waste.  Research on patient flow is designed to help hospitals manage their resources more effectively, for example, to obtain greater utilization of operating rooms.

An ongoing stream of research is concerned with biosurveillance or the early detection of disease outbreaks.  Are there ways to use new sources of data to alert medical authorities to the outbreak of a disease faster than traditional approaches which use lab and physician reports?  For example, could one use school absenteeism data to spot the outbreak of a disease?

Optimization and Applications

Professors Ball, Chen, Fu, Golden, Jank, Karaesmen, Raghavan

The goal of this research is to create models for decision making through optimization and applied probability and simulation techniques.  The application areas include transportation, manufacturing, supply chain management, financial engineering and telecommunications.  For example, one study looks at the time-sharing of jet aircraft for on-demand air travel. Another project is concerned with scheduling a series of orders to minimize cost or maximize profit or service.  Efficient vehicle routing is another application.

Online Information, Communities and Search

Professors Dellarocas, Gao, Goyal, Raghavan, Viswanathan and Wang

This research studies some of the new phenomenon created around the Internet like social networks.  There are many new business models, information intermediaries and new business processes.  The Internet encouraged the development of search engines, which have evolved into powerful advertising vehicles with sponsored search. The technology has resulted in new, online information intermediaries such as those found in auto-retailing, financial services, real estate, insurance and healthcare.  Research projects seek to understand the impact of these intermediaries and their role in different industries. 

The Internet has made online reviews a fixture for retailing.  Research examines how these reviews influence and predict sales.  Other projects look at reputation mechanisms and how the degree of anonymity provided for a review influences one’s willingness to participate honestly.