Beyond Hard and Soft OR: Operational Research from a Software Engineering Perspective


This paper argues that current practice in the Operational Research (OR) discipline needs to tackle management problems from a broader point of view by including a new perspective. While Hard OR is posed as the means to a solution, and Soft OR covers the stakeholder/business perspective, this paper proposes OR Engineering to tackle the model/program perspective. This proposal is substantiated by an empirical study that explored OR history and the rise of “wicked problems” in contrast to Software Engineering (SE) history and the idea of “no silver bullet”. The main findings are five areas for future works, intertwined between Soft OR and OR Engineering: agility, documentation of versioning, technical debt, systems testing and architecture. Overall, although the goal may be ambitious, this paper aims to stimulate reflective thinking and promote a novel and different line of action and research among OR and SE practitioners present and future.

In Journal of the Operational Research Society


The main contributions of this study are as follows:

  • Historical review of Operational Research (OR)

  • Historical review of Software Engineering (SE)

  • Proposal of a new area of work for OR: OR-Engineering, and five research areas.


The author also gratefully acknowledges the editors and anonymous reviewers of the manuscript for their thorough reading, thoughtful and insightful comments and suggestions. The author is especially thankful to Prof. Richard Ormerod for his contributions and insights, and to Prof. Aldo Vecchietti, that fostered the interest in this topic.


author = {Melina Vidoni},
title = "{Beyond Hard and Soft OR: Operational Research from a Software Engineering Perspective}"",
journal = {Journal of the Operational Research Society},
volume = {0},
number = {0},
pages = {1-23},
year  = {2021},
publisher = {Taylor & Francis},
doi = {10.1080/01605682.2020.1865848},
URL = {},
eprint = {}

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