Experiential / Reality-based Learning / March 1, 2011

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 Security (DHS).

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 consequences.

“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 risk management.”

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 Communications

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About the University of Maryland's Robert H. Smith School of Business

The Robert H. Smith School of Business is an internationally recognized leader in management education and research. One of 12 colleges and schools at the University of Maryland, College Park, the Smith School offers undergraduate, full-time and flex MBA, executive MBA, online MBA, business master’s, PhD and executive education programs, as well as outreach services to the corporate community. The school offers its degree, custom and certification programs in learning locations in North America and Asia.

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