Which option Website
12 Sep 11

There are literally millions of stories about decision-making, evaluation, or investment analysis. Here are just a few of them.

Description and explanations

The literature covering 'decision making' is extremely large. It is not possible to link to all of it. Some examples are Organization Behavior and Decision Making Processes from Academic Press, which mainly addresses the psychology of decision making rather than tools. However, it does have articles of interest to practitioners of evaluation.

The Electronic Journal of Information Systems Evaluation is an interesting site backed by Delft University of Technology in the Netherlands. The journal is a bit of a mix of articles. These articles have been released sporadically since 1997, with differing levels of length and research being placed into each one.

Tools and techniques

Listing measures for evaluation
The first step in deciding or designing options is to establish the basis for comparison between the options—the list of criteria or measures of evaluation.

There are sites covering performance measurement. Although many sites discuss measurement of the performance of an organization, some of the principles and techniques are relevant to the comparison of options in systematic planning. So, it is useful to have a look at
performance measurement.

You should consider searches using 'evaluation' as well, even though these sites concentrate upon determining whether government policies (such as education or health) are effective or efficient.

Assessment/judgement of performance against measures
One basic technique for comparing options according to the expected outcomes is decision trees. The MindTools site gives a brief overview, with examples, of this popular but limited method. Although the technique is limited to one measure of outcome, it does introduce the concept of expectancy (outcomes weighted by likelihood of occurrence). [Duncan Anderson, 22 May 00]

InfoHarvest: Criterium Decision Plus (TM) InfoHarvest seem to have filled this site with everything that they could, both information and service wise. They have made it quite easy to access the most basic services and have also added a search engine for those who wish to find something more specific. Criterium is a software product for option evaluation. [Bronte Hamilton, 11 Nov 00; JEL, 10 Jan]

Decision Analysis is a detailed site on how decisions should be analysed with regards to a bicycle. The page has detailed and sophisticated text and is nicely supplemented by graphs and tables which are easy to understand and quick to download. Some of the graphics on the page (ie, the picture of the bicycle) has a bit of a problem with its display, but this does not affect the page overall. [Bronte Hamilton, 11 Nov 00; JEL, 10 Jan]

Software Acquisition Management Improvement at Carnegie Mellon University is filled with all sorts of information regarding systems planning. It has many different types of fancy navigation tabs and graphics, and uses an internal search engine so that people can find specific information quickly. It even has a small blurb on each link that change as you move from each one! [JEL 10 Jan]

Education Technology Planning and Evaluation from Sun Associates gives lists of references for the user to visit. It is presented in a fairly plain text format with an exceptionally brief description of each site written below its link. It is fast to open because of this, however, and the site is quite detailed in terms of the number and type of links there are to follow. [Cathy Cheung, 14 Aug 00; JEL, 12 Jan]

DSSResources.COM -- Decision Support Systems Resources Home gives examples of case studies and provides techniques of how to analyse them. The page is very compressed, partly because the heading of the page is placed on a separate page, limiting the amount of scroll space for the rest of the information. The ads that are also on the page serve only to distract the user and to further add to the look of disorganization about the page. [Unknown; JEL, 12 Jan]

Betsy van der Veer Martens from Syracuse University gives an overview of evaluation approaches—mostly qualitative—in her lectures. [Tim Pearson, 12 Oct 01]

Logical Decisions, as part of selling its decision-making software, does give an overview of decision analysis, with a useful bibliography. [Parveze Kutar, 18 Nov 01]

As does Decisioneering, the sellers of Crystal Ball (the risk analysis package).

Real Options/ Option Theory
The paper Option pricing for IT valuation: a dead end contains a detailed level of information concerning investment justification and option theory, then continuing with problems concerning option theory. The paper uses many interesting formulae and is set out well. [Ivan Sanders, 2 Oct 00] http://www.ejise.com/volume-2/volume2-issue1/issue1-art1.htm

Matching Cost/Benefit Analysis is part of Roger Clarke's home page. This subsection of the page is filled with very detailed information about how to analyse a system. It has some fairly rudimentary graphics that nevertheless get the information across to the reader. [June Nguyen, 11 Nov 00; JEL, 10 Jan] http://www.anu.edu.au/people/Roger.Clarke/DV/MatchCBA.html#CBA

The US GAO has a detailed handbook for IT evaluation that contains links to useful sites and examples of evaluation reviews. Note: this site is about post-implementation evaluation more than justifiying initial proposals, it seems. [Kurt Rezek, 13 Nov 01] http://www.gao.gov/policy/itguide/homepage.htm

Part of a lecture course at San Jose State University gives a complete, and readable, description of how to prepare a cost benefit analysis for a highway project. [Md Huq, 12 Oct, 01] http://www.sjsu.edu/faculty/watkins/cba.htm

The description of cost benefit analysis, as part of information resource managment, in the US Department of Justice, gives some cost items but mainly summarizes the proforma for CBA, drawing upon the OMB guideline. [Yothin Inthep, 12 Oct 01] http://www.usdoj.gov/jmd/irm/lifecycle/apdxc2.htm

Another detailed description of cost benefit analysis in the US public sector is available from the National Institutes of Health, 1999. The approach does explicitly consider intangibles but as weighted scores. The manual shows various ways of combining scores with costs. [Ying Lui, 12 Oct 01; Qinghong Pu, 12 Oct 01] http://irm.cit.nih.gov/itmra/cbaguide.html

Cost-Benefit Analysis is a basic page, giving information on how to construct a cost benefit analysis. The text that is there does give good information regarding the subject, but another medium would be required before the page could be described as excellent. [June Nguyen, 11 Nov 00; JEL, 10 Jan 01] http://www.cnie.org/nle/rsk-4.html

The US Office of Management and Budget provides a circular that gives detailed guidance about preparing cost benefit analyses, including recommendations about the use of real or nominal values and the choice of discount rate. [Md Huq, 12 Oct 01] http://www.whitehouse.gov/omb/circulars/a094/a094.html#1

There are very many software packages available for decision analysis, decision making, or whatever name is used for selecting one or more options according to their performance on a set of measures. An example is:

Portfolio Analysis System (PASS) software from Argonne Laboratories determines the best mix of projects to form a portfolio. [Jamie Burns, 20 Apr 00]