The Key to Solving Business Problems: Algorithms

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If you are interested in algorithmic problem solving, a Bachelor of Science in Information Systems (BSIS) from the University of Alabama in Birmingham can be an important first step. After all, the key to solving today’s business problems faster and more effectively than the competition is often systems building. The professional that is central to building these systems, or algorithms, is the information systems analyst or manager. Read on for details about how these professionals help solve business problems with algorithms.

An information systems analyst creates business solutions with algorithms.

Solving Business Problems by Solving Social Problems

Algorithms have become a part of our daily lives. If you ever use YouTube or Netflix, you have seen an algorithm at work in the Suggested Media section. Today’s algorithms are efficient in their ability to cull and apply big data, which this is why the “Recommended” feed seems to understand your needs in real time on services like Netflix.

The websites mentioned above make use of “predictive analytics,” just one of the many applications of business programming. However, even this one application has implications that reach far beyond entertainment. Temp agencies currently use the same type of analytics to help narrow down potential applicants for a job. Social service systems within municipalities use automated algorithms to divide resources, and the weather teams on TV today rely on algorithmic processes to develop accurate predictions.

Facebook uses algorithms to solve one persistent business problem: the practice of hiring too many similar people, resulting in a homogeneous working environment. According to Business Insider, Facebook considered utilizing algorithms to solve the problem, with the goal of using data to guide hiring. This is the idea behind Facebook’s proposed solution, as explained in the article: “companies administer personality tests to candidates during screening, then use data analysis to determine its ideal hires. While the algorithm depends on what a company is looking for, common variables include using the data from personality tests to predict whether a candidate will quit or steal on the job.” Instead of leaving hiring to the subjectivity of employees and managers, Facebook is one example of an organization turning to algorithms to solve its problem.

Innovating the Discipline of Problem Solving With Business Programming

Algorithms are currently upending the entire process of solving problems. The term “flexon” is key to this change. A flexon is defined as a flexible object that generates a novel solution, according to McKinsey and Company. Instead of paying for human employees who “think on their feet,” companies are now investing in individuals who can program flexons to generate solutions using algorithms. In the book, “The Design of Insight: How to Solve Any Business Problem,” Moldoveanu and Leclerc note that, “The information processing flexon sees various parts of a business as distributed problem-solving tasks. Information processing is a computation that acts on unprocessed information (data) to produce processed information (predictions, root cause analyses, product designs, action plans).” Problems are handled with algorithms, and important solutions are created.

There are many ways that the flexon approach improves upon the traditional way of solving problems. In the work environment, flexons actually enhance the concept of experience in an employee by quantifying the past experiences that shape a person’s actions in the future. Instead of relying on hazy memories and emotionally charged interpretations of past events, flexons see those events clearly, analyze them objectively and present information based on hard statistics about how to move forward.

Learning to Make Computers Think

Opponents of advanced computing might say that computers do not have the ability to think in real time, like a human might. This is where the concept of the “evolutionary flexon” comes into play. The evolutionary flexon, which encourages “disciplined guessing” according to Moldoveanu and Leclerc, creates a number of scenarios that business owners can manipulate to come up with important answers – and then determines which guesses will survive. According to McKinsey and Company, the success of these flexons “rests on the power of generating diversity by introducing randomness and parallelization into the search procedure and quickly filtering out suboptimal solutions.” It makes problem solving not only more effective, but also more precise.

Business leaders are beginning to recognize the power of algorithms to change the way they make decisions and work toward success. Executives are looking to individuals who know how to make computers think in addition to those who already focus on creative solutions. If you are interested in learning more about working with algorithms in the business world, visit UAB’s Collat School of Business to get started and learn more about their online Bachelor of Science in Information Systems degree.