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  • Writer's pictureCANA


Updated: Sep 13, 2022

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Wow! 2020 is coming to a close. We are ready for a bright new start in 2021! Although this past year was a roller coaster ride of uncertainties, the CANA Team adapted and worked together to achieve our company goals to include starting extremely interesting and impactful projects, diversifying across commercial industries, military services, and government agencies, and growing and investing in our team. I feel that we rose to the challenge in this unprecedented year, and we hope you did too!

We can't wait to launch into 2021. We plan to unleash and apply our "Powered by CANA Analytics" people power on existing and new markets, to include our research and development projects, innovative commercial and Department of Defense bids, and strong analytics and data management opportunities. CANA is ready to dive deep into smart cities & installations and healthcare analytics - fields critical to the future, and ones we feel deeply about.

We were proud to share with you the accomplishments and challenges of this past year. I know everyone - friends, family, partners, and colleagues - worked incredibly hard to overcome hurdles and maintain a positive outlook. As we reach the last days of 2020, everyone at Team CANA looks forward to new opportunities and successes in the new year! We wish you the very best - Happy Holidays and Happy New Year!

~ Rob Cranston (CANA Advisors President and COO)



By Walt DeGrange

2020 is the year of the virtual conference. The INFORMS Annual Meeting is usually an in-person conference with a typical attendance of 6,000-7,000 attendees. This was my 13th straight INFORMS Annual Meeting and the first virtual one. Was it different? Absolutely, but different isn’t necessarily bad.

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The major difference was that most of the presentations were recorded. If you registered, then you received access to the recorded presentations for the next three months. This is a very nice feature since this is a huge conference. With over 70 tracks and special events occurring at the same time over a five day period, there are always conflicting interesting presentations, and you can’t visit them all. Of course, in-person, you may not be able to get from one location to another in time to see a presentation or an event.

The virtual conference solves this problem. It also allows multiple attendees to share their favorite presentations with other attendees. These briefs can then be viewed by the other attendees when it fits their schedule.

If most of the briefs were recorded then why didn’t INFORMS just post the videos and hold the conference asynchronously? If you did attend the listed time slot for the presentations then you were able to participate in a live chat with the presenters.

The element that no virtual conference can replicate is the chance of interaction with new and old acquaintances. There is really no way at a virtual conference to accidentally run into a professor that you took a class from fifteen years ago. The INFORMS Annual Meeting did try to inject some of that element by having virtual networking floors. These floors had tables, and you would randomly be assigned to a table. I hung out on the floors for a few hours and met several interesting students and discussed their research. In that respect, it was a success, although I didn’t catch up with any old acquaintances during the conference unless I had scheduled a discussion time with them in advance.

virtual theatre layout

The major topics addressed during the conference were quantum computing, the role that analytics has played in dealing with the COVID response, and how supply chain data and models have been affected over the past year.

CANA participated in the conference on multiple levels. Norm Reitter furthered the Analytics Capability Evaluation Committee effort by hosting an informational session. He also presented the “Force Closure Modeling To Support Multi-mission Scenario Analysis” in support of the USMC. Connor McLemore briefed his research work on “Operational Readiness Rollup: Modeling Additive Readiness,” and Rocky Graciani presented his work on “Determining Who Pays For Inventory Optimization Made Easy-r.” Walt DeGrange was a session chair for the SpORts analytics section for a session that included a wide range of topics from analytically testing which Dungeons and Dragons character classes perform the best, to how bye weeks affect team performance in the Canadian Football League, and how to use analytics to draft the perfect NBA team.

So, are online conferences the size of the 2020 INFORMS Annual Meeting here to stay? I would personally guess - yes. The pace of effectively dealing with the COVID pandemic will determine when the world will return to in-person conferences. That being said, the ability to interact with attendees around the world given current travel limitations makes this an excellent way to present new analytics. Also, the ability to interact online with presenters and review presentations up to three months post-event is very nice. Perhaps in the near future, we will see a hybrid model that melds in-person and virtual attendance, giving us the best of both worlds.



Kassie McRostie and Koa Beam | Team CANA Digital Media CANA Advisors

The year 2020 has brought with it a lot of changes. One of those changes at CANA Advisors was the broadening of our social media efforts, to include more focus on our CANA team members and their areas of expertise, sharing relevant industry tips and media links, and sharing information with the greater logistics analytic community. Part of the reason CANA has been able to do this is our dedicated social media team, and the focus and expertise they bring to our social media efforts. We want to highlight two of those team members:

Kassie McRostie photo

KASSIE MCROSTIE Digital Media Coordinator

This year we added Team CANA’s youngest member, Kassie McRostie, as our Digital Media Coordinator. Kassie McRostie is a 2020 graduate of UNC Charlotte with a Bachelor’s in English Language and Digital Technology. She participated in many virtual world studies throughout college and interned with a women’s sneaker platform managing their social media. Kassie made her way into coaching (she’s an elite volleyball player!) and running social media for small companies. She is uniquely positioned to give CANA a fresh perspective on maximizing social media platforms and has broadened our reach into new arenas.

Kassie helped to develop an internal dialogue with Team CANA members to support new media ideas and bring their knowledge into our shared social media postings on LinkedIn, Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, and YouTube. Her exuberance, innovative perspective, and virtual storytelling skills are a tremendous CANA asset.

“I've learned a lot throughout my life, but the most important thing I've learned is to keep creating.” - Kassie McRostie

As our Digital Media Coordinator, Kassie is helping to spread the CANA story. If you would like to get in touch with Kassie, you can reach her at For a fresh look at the analytics industry through a new graduate’s eyes, check out her article from earlier this year on our CANA Connection (our resident blog) - Congrats Graduates! What's Next? Make sure to follow her on Instagram @kassiemcrostie.

Koa Beam photo

KOA BEAM Lead Graphic Artist

The other important half of the Digital Media team is our Lead Graphic Artist, Koa Beam. Koa is an artist with over 30 years of experience in a vast array of media. His career has spanned the many facets of the design community and includes everything and in-between, from t-shirt design, cover art for music and books, fantasy illustration and concept art, to traditional business graphics and multimedia design. The bulk of Koa’s graphics career for the past 20 years has been in support of various military and government projects with graphics and multimedia design work. Koa prides himself on being able to make the complex easy to understand, beautiful to view, and elegant to use. It is a skill that has helped transform seemingly impossible to understand data assortments into easily viewable and understandable infographics.

"Try not. Do or do not. There is no try." - Yoda

Outside his work at CANA, Koa is an accomplished fantasy and sci-fi cover artist. In his off-time, he stays active in his local creative arts community, offering his friendly knowledge in illustration and design to the next generation. With some help from the CANA Foundation, Koa provided a day of Comic art and drawn fun for the students of the Richland School District. You can read more about it in our CANA blog post, Art Is For Everyone. If you would like to contact Koa, you can reach him at, or follow him on many of the popular social media platforms @koabeam.


The Virtual Experience

CANA Offsite Highlights from 2020

By Cherish Joostberns

The year 2020 brought about many new business practices, and with those came an assortment of old-ish and new business expressions. While no one wants to be the recipient of TL;DR (Too Long; Didn’t Read) or EMBM (Early Morning Business Meeting), the one seen most frequently, WHF, or Working From Home, was almost inescapable. If you type in the three letters - WFH - in your search engine, you probably get something like this -

Images of working from home

WFH txt message

Interestingly, the CANA team has always “WFH.” Our SMB (Small to Medium Business) has thrived in a virtual environment where SMEs (Subject Matter Experts) can BID (Break It Down) and create SMART (Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Realistic, Time-bound) products. And, with the onset of the novel coronavirus, we kept on trucking - continuing to provide our clients with uninterrupted expert support, collaborating together “virtually” using a matrix of effective remote systems, and creating opportunities for our team to “bond” in our remote workplace.

Yet a hallmark of our 100% virtual company has been our semi-annual, in-person, all-hands offsite retreat. We’ve hosted these four-day offsites all over the United States (our team members live and work virtually anywhere they want!) to include Washington, DC, Virginia, Pennsylvania, Colorado, and the list goes on. Unfortunately, with the onset of the pandemic in February and March of 2020, our planned St. Patrick’s Day offsite was canceled - just four days before its start. Within those next four days, we swiveled quickly to host our first “virtual” professional retreat. Instead of four days, it was two days; instead of in person, we were on a video conference line; instead of families, it was just the CANA team. So many things changed in an instant for even this highly experienced remote workforce! Yet, we found our virtual offsite worked! During those two days, we found opportunities to share information, collaborate on new ideas, be vulnerable and open, and celebrate each other, our company, and our culture. Fast forward to October of this year, we held our second “virtual” offsite event. This time, we had the lessons learned in our back pockets, and once again, we rocked it.

We wanted to share some of our offsite highlights with the acknowledgment that it was not necessarily easy or BAU (Business As Usual), but adapting to our new normal - a new expression in its own right! - has proven fertile ground for personal and professional growth, ideation, and collaboration.

2020 forced CANA to go outside its own comfortable virtual space and work with the unknown. So much so, our autumn offsite theme was “A Galaxy Far, Far Away…” Here’s what we discovered:

  1. Icebreakers still work! Yes, they are still often the subject of office jokes, but they can be engaging and inclusive. CANA made a game of matching childhood pictures and “dream jobs” to the current team members. This really brought out some insights into people that would not be easily discovered in watercooler conversation.

  2. Our small group breakout sessions worked because we knew how important it was to maintain participation and keep things moving. Team members alternated between extremely different sessions - Space Logistics and Self-Awareness Practices - and each session used a variety of presentation tools such as themed Mural boards, podcasts, live discussions, and exercises. This ensured there would be at least one method to give and share information that would appeal to virtually everybody.

  3. We maintained an attitude of fun and not-so-serious activities throughout, such as sending everyone a box of cookies and swag prior to the offsite, holding a virtual pumpkin painting contest, and building an online company epic poem that grew from person to person. These proved to be the true heart of our offsite.

  4. The dedicated, project-free time provided the opportunity for CANA to share its company vision, mission, values, and goals. It provided space for questions and candid discussions that are often not possible during “billable hours” and scheduled meetings.

  5. We focused on the opening and closing hours to build engagement. Several CANAers shared their morning coffee and views with others through online chats and pictures. The different perspectives of snow, sunshine, mountains, and backyards gave team members a peek into one another's routine. On the last day, we held a happy hour - yes, the infamous virtual happy hour - it can really work! Conversations moved quickly from the daily grind to personal stories and laughs.

  6. The feedback loop is important for every company event. Once the post-offsite, rosy glow faded, we made sure to ask, and follow up on, what did we do well and what can we do better?

CANA is no stranger to the virtual world, but we discovered many new things during this challenging year. We hope our hits and misses are useful to anyone navigating the WFH environment, and that the new year finds us all happy, healthy, and still LOL. Happy Holidays from the CANA Team!



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CANA Learning and Development

Interested in upcoming analytics training or webinars? You can find a list of upcoming and past Learning and Development events on the CANA Advisors website at Learning and Development | cana (

The Learning and Development program at CANA Advisors would like to hear from you. Please take this survey to share your thoughts!

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The CANA Foundation

CANA Foundation was established on the premise that we are blessed with individual talents, financial resources, and a successful company that provides a platform for the CANA family to connect with and give back to community areas we feel passionate about and care about. If your organization or group feels that CANA Foundation might be a good partner for you and your mission, please reach out to the CANA Foundation at CANA Foundation - Giving Back (

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Do you enjoy an insightful podcast? Then why not give a listen to our podcast The CANA Connection Podcast on your favorite podcast streaming platform. Click here to listen to the latest episode Smart Cities, Analytics, and the Future of Healthcare: A talk with Data Analyst Rachel Stuve

Happy Holidays!

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Analyze, Assess, and Execute.

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