Smith School hosts Inaugural Smith School and
IBM Business Analytics Workshop
Risk was the hot topic at the Inaugural Smith School and IBM Business
Analytics Workshop held in Van Munching Hall on Friday, March 4, 2011.
Co-sponsored by the University of Maryland’s Robert H. Smith School of Business
and IBM, the day-long workshop consisted of topics ranging from Department of
Homeland Security risk, to aviation safety, to fraud.
Michael Ball, Orkand Corporation Professor of Management Science and
associate dean for faculty and research, organized the event on behalf of the
Smith School. He welcomed the more than 90 people in attendance to the inaugural
event, expressing his hopes that each year the event will continue. “We are
excited to start a relationship between Smith and IBM. If there is any topic
that is key to many of the important issues of today, it’s risk.”
Frank Stein, director of the IBM Analytics Solution Center, briefly discussed
IBM’s achievements with Watson, the computer that competed on Jeopardy: “Watson
is another good example of industry, government and universities working
together. Initial work was started with NIST, and we recently announced that we
are working with the University of Maryland medical school to enhance Watson’s
technology, which is natural language processing.”
Stein and Ball introduced the keynote speaker of the event, Robert Kolasky,
assistant director of risk governance and support at the Department of Homeland
He explained that DHS is concerned about a wide range of threats and hazards
and that risk management is a structured way of framing security tradeoffs. He
added that developing strong risk management tactics can help managers make
decisions designed to reduce threats, close vulnerabilities and minimize
“We have to be concerned about bad people getting their hands on bad things.
Our goal is to protect the United States and its people, vital interests, and
way of life,” Kolasky said. “We also need to be resilient. We cannot protect
against all bad things, but it is important to foster individual, community and
system robustness, adaptability and capacity for rapid recovery.”
Kolasky said that DHS can’t protect the nation by itself: “It is the
department’s job is to do part of it, but to work with our partners to develop
Later in the workshop, Ball took his turn presenting in his area of expertise
– the aviation industry. Ball talked about the risks involved with aviation
safety, specifically at Los Angeles International Airport (LAX) in Los Angeles.
He took part in the LAX North Airfield Safety Study in the summer of 2008,
the primary aim of which was to estimate the level of future safety of a section
of the runway that many wanted to rebuild. A revamped runway would mean more
revenue for the airport, but would cost about $1 billion. Many were in favor,
while many opposed.
“The mayor said that the only thing that would force him to go forward is if
safety was an issue, so it just goes to show you that safety and risk are a
large motivating factor for change,” Ball explained.
So, Ball and others involved in the study determined the quantitative data
for the safety of the LAX northern runway. At the end of the day, they found
that renovation of the runway would not improve safety much at all.
“At the end of the day, we told LAX that their airport was safe and we told
the FAA that their technology is great,” Ball said. “They were both mad at us.”
Ball’s presentation was followed by a presentation from Arnold Greenland, a
distinguished engineer and executive in global business services at IBM.
Greenland talked about real time risk reduction strategies and how systems that
are in place now to make our lives safer, such as the color-coded system of
threat at airports, need to change to really be effective.
He identified areas of risk management as intelligence, law enforcement,
fraud detection, military operations, emergency medicine and real time
operations of any type.
Greenland also talked about risk management between government agencies and
how often agencies don’t share information because of safety concerns:
“Government agencies don’t share information with one another, but does that
surprise anyone?” Greenland joked. “It’s very difficult to share information,
but in terms of total public good, I think we could stop more fraud if we could
figure out a safe way to share information. Those who are involved in fraud are
constantly changing their tactics. It’s like whack-a-mole. You get one down and
it pops up over here – that’s what you do when you are fighting fraud.”
Other speakers during the workshop included Debra Elkins, section chief of
risk assessments and analysis at DHS; Tom Finan, senior cyber strategist and
counsel at DHS; Lawrence Gordon, Ernst & Young Alumni Professor of Managerial
Accounting at the Smith School; Dilip B. Madan, professor at the Smith School;
Janusz Marecki, research staff member at IBM; Bonnie Ray, manager of risk
analytics at IBM; Cliff Rossi, Tyser Teaching Fellow & Executive-in-Residence at
the Smith School; Hart Rossman, vice president and CTO for cyber security
services and solutions at SAIC; Douglas A. Samuelson. president and chief
scientist at InfoLogix, Inc.; and, Dharmashankar “Shankar” Subramanian, research
staff member at IBM.
Jessica Bauer, Writer and Editor, Office of Marketing