The Santa Challenge 3: Match the Gifts to the Kids!

How will Santa get the right gifts to kids in a year when elves are in lockdown? The answer is optimization

Santa Claus is facing a challenge in this pandemic year. Kids worldwide can’t sit on Santa’s lap. Elves are in lockdown and he needs to find new toy sources. Plus with Dancer and Prancer self-isolating, he needs a new way to make his worldwide rounds. This calls for advanced AI and decision management technology – enter FICO! The race is on to keep Santa on schedule.


As my colleagues have shown, the FICO Decision Management Platform is the ideal way for Santa to get missing data on millions of children and analyze that data to find out individual preferences and behaviors. But his next challenge is just as hard – with some of the elves in lockdown, production is off, and he’s going to have to find new sources for production, all over the world. And he needs to stay within his budget!

A lot of our customers face similar challenges due to the pandemic, and even in normal years this kind of supply chain management is difficult. Fortunately, the FICO Platform can help here too, in two ways:

Matching the Gifts to the Kids

Santa’s gift assignment challenge is a perfect opportunity for AI-powered mathematical optimization and decision modelling. We’ve loaded Santa’s analytics and data into a decision model that includes multiple types of data:

  • How naughty or nice a child has been
  • What they want as a present
  • Likely responses to a specific gift
  • Santa’s overall budget

We use this optimization process with customers worldwide, on everything from loan pricing and credit limits to marketing offers. It considers all the available data to solve for a specific objective (e.g., maximize child satisfaction) within given constraints (e.g., present size – Santa still has to get the presents down the chimney). Our decision modelling and optimization provides the best possible decision at the individual level.

Optimizing the Supply Chain

In terms of sourcing suppliers for these just-in-time gifts, the FICO Platform’s optimization capabilities are the perfect choice again. We do work like this for leading manufacturers, energy companies and others worldwide. The goal is to meet demand at the lowest cost, and given the possibilities it’s an extremely demanding calculation, typically one with billions of options. FICO Xpress Optimization can run these kinds of calculations faster than ever, due to its lightning-fast solver. And because it’s part of the FICO Platform, Santa’s new strategies can be immediately loaded into his decision engine for execution.

Santa Challenge 3 – solved!

Next up: How does Santa make his epic flight with fewer reindeer?

Follow our progress helping Santa week by week at

Find out how you can solve YOUR challenges using the FICO Platform

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