Optimization ties to two major fields, Operations Research and Data Analytics. In Operations Research, the focus is on developing mathematical models that mimic the “physics” (i.e. operations) of modern systems. These models allow to gain useful insights into the functioning of complex system and eventually improve the performance. When the improvement involves selecting one out of numerous competing scenarios, optimization (also known as mathematical programming) comes-in handy.
Data analytics is about using real data in decision-making. It involves three main steps, descriptive, predictive and prescriptive analytics. Descriptive and predictive analytics have to do with analyzing the data and using it for prediction without introducing changes (improvement). Prescriptive analytics is on leveraging the data into proposing changes. Optimization helps guiding the selection of useful changes within prescriptive analytics.