from DSSResources.com

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                          DSS News
                     D. J. Power, Editor
               May 26, 2002 -- Vol. 3, No. 11
         A Bi-Weekly Publication of DSSResources.COM


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We apologize for an error that sent a duplicate copy of the
DSS News, May 12, 2002, Vol. 3, No. 10 to subscribers.

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Featured:

* DSS Wisdom
* Ask Dan! - Who are the major vendors of Excel add-in 
programs for building model-driven DSS?
* More Ask Dan! - What is the reaction to your new DSS book?
* What's New at DSSResources.COM
* DSS News Releases

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Check Dan Power's new book, Decision Support Systems: 
Concepts and Resources for Managers.  Get information at 
http://www.dssresources.com/dssbookstore/power02.html .

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This newsletter has more than 850 subscribers from 
50 countries. Please forward this newsletter to people interested in 
Decision Support Systems or suggest they visit DSSResources.COM.

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DSS Wisdom

Gerald R. Wagner, the founder of EXECUCOM Systems, wrote in 1983 "... 
optimization in decision support has its greatest potential in the 
allocation of resources among a diverse variety of alternative futures
 -- that is strategic planning: doing the right things as opposed to 
doing things right. After all, the strategic issues are where 
executive minds excel, and it is there that support will be most
fruitful."  (p. 432)

from Wagner, G. R. "Optimizing Decision Support Systems." In House, W. 
C. (editor).  Decision Support Systems: A Data-Based, Model-Oriented, 
User-Developed Discipline.  New York: Petrocelli Books, 1983 pp. 
421-432. (reprinted from Datamation).

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              Check the IAP Systems DSS case  
           using Exsys CORVID at DSSResources.COM

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Ask Dan!
by Daniel J. Power

Who are the major vendors of Excel add-in programs for building 
model-driven DSS?

In an attempt to provide a comprehensive answer to this question, I 
visited the web sites of vendors listed on the Spreadsheet-based DSS 
vendor page at DSSResources.COM, did some searches on "add-ins" with 
Google and conducted an email interview with Charles Von Thun, CEO of 
Decisioneering, Inc. (http://www.crystalball.com). This Ask Dan! column 
reports my findings.

First, what is an Excel add-in program? An add-in program enhances the 
basic functionality of a spreadsheet program like Microsoft Excel. There 
are two types of add-in programs: those that provide optional commands 
and features and that are packaged with the spreadsheet application and 
are selected when the spreadsheet is installed, and commercial add-in 
programs available from independent vendors at an additional cost.

Second, who are the major vendors? At least 12 companies have Excel 
add-in programs that can be used to increase the sophistication of a 
specific spreadsheet-based, model-driven DSS. The purpose and design of 
a DSS determines whether the proposed DSS requires the purchase of an 
add-in program. My search identified three major vendors of commercial 
add-in programs that are useful in building model-driven DSS: 
Decisioneering, Frontline Systems, and Palisade Software.

Third, what did Mr. Charles Von Thun have to say? In an email interview 
received Thursday, May 16, 2002, Mr. Von Thun, CEO of Decisioneering 
wrote: "Many companies use enterprise scale systems to collect and 
organize transactional and financial information. But what these systems 
offer in size and power they lack in flexibility and robustness. Even 
the largest companies push a snapshot of data to a spreadsheet model 
where they ultimately make their most important decisions. The add-ins 
are the tools that enhance this process." 

From a technical perspective Von Thun cautioned "It is important to 
distinguish between the applications that access Excel for data 
interchange and the true plug-ins. These external applications are 
usually not modeling centric, which we think is a huge minus." 

Further Mr. Von Thun notes, "We have seen continuous evolution and 
improvement of spreadsheet add-ins.  Excel used to support only .xla 
add-ins (VBA macros), but evolved to supporting .xll (library) add-ins 
in 1997.  Microsoft recently added macro security using certificates and 
code signing, and with the move to Office XP and .NET capabilities, we 
now have a whole new way to manipulate and build within Excel.

Von Thun also indicated "the most exciting trend we are seeing is the 
increased attention we are getting from the mainstream business users.  
Risk modeling and simulation are no longer the domain of power users, 
and with this trend we expect the demand for easy-to-use, high-quality 
add-ins to increase."

Fourth, so what do the commercial add-in packages do? Are they 
interchangeable and competing products or do they serve different 
modeling functions? In the next few paragraphs, I'll provide a few 
highlights, but you'll need to check them out and see how each might 
meet your needs.

The major product of Decisioneering, Inc. is Crystal Ball 2000 
Professional Edition. It is a suite of Excel-based risk analysis, 
optimization and forecasting tools. You can visit Decisioneering at 
either http://www.decisioneering.com or at http://www.crystalball.com.

Frontline Systems (http://www.solver.com and http://frontsys.com) 
provides the optimization add-in or "Solver" that is packaged with 
Excel, but they also sell Premium Solver Platform Version 3.5. It is a 
more powerful program and comes with example spreadsheet models and a 
user guide.

Palisade Software (http://www.palisade.com) markets the well-known @RISK 
add-in. @RISK 4.5 is available in three editions: Standard, 
Professional, and Industrial. The Palisade DecisionTools Suite includes 
five products: @RISK, PrecisionTree®, TopRank®, BestFit®, and RISKview™.

Other optimization add-ins include GeneHunter 
(http://www.wardsystems.com), Evolver (http://www.palisade.com), 
What'sBest (http://www.lindo.com) and XPRESS (http://www.dash.co.uk).

Decision Support Services has a product called Decision ToolPak 
(http://www.decisiontoolpak.com). It consists of three decision modeling 
add-ins for Microsoft Excel: TreePlan, SensIt and RiskSim. XLSIM 
(http://www.analycorp.com) is a Monte Carlo Simulation add-in for Excel. 
Simtools.xla (http://home.uchicago.edu/~rmyerson/addins.htm) adds 
statistical functions and procedures for doing Monte Carlo simulation 
and risk analysis in spreadsheets. 

Some add-ins can also help with building data-driven DSS. Analyse-it! 
(http://www.analyse-it.com) and XLSTAT (http://www.xlstat.com) are 
statistical software add-ins. The XLSTAT add-in offers over 40 different 
functions to enhance data analysis.

Finally, what can we conclude about spreadsheet add-in programs? DSS 
developers need to learn when it is appropriate to use add-ins to build
more powerful model-driven DSS and managers need to understand the 
purpose of spreadsheet add-ins. 

In my email interview, Charles Von Thun (CEO at Decisioneering) took a 
broad perspective on spreadsheet add-in products. Let me end this Ask 
Dan! with another quote from him. Von Thun noted "Every business we talk 
to uses spreadsheets to model decisions. Some users are more 
sophisticated, some barely scratch the surface of the power of modeling, 
but there is no doubt that spreadsheets (more specifically Excel 
spreadsheets) are the standard for decision modeling." I agree with you, 
Charles! We have just begun to understand how spreadsheets and add-ins 
can be used to build more powerful model-driven DSS ...

If you're interested in learning more about Excel add-ins to enhance 
model-driven DSS, you should follow the vendor links.

Many thanks to Charles Von Thun, CEO of Decisioneering, Inc., and 
Jennifer Mogck, Marketing Communications Manager at Decisioneering, Inc. 
You can contact Jennifer at jmogck@decisioneering.com.

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More Ask Dan!
by Daniel J. Power
Editor, DSSResources.COM

What is the reaction to your new DSS book? 

My book, "Decision Support Systems: Concepts and Resources for Managers" 
will probably never be a non-fiction best seller, but it continues to 
move up the sales ranking at Barnes & Noble.  Some of the online book 
retailers have it in stock for immediate delivery. Also, Wal-Mart.COM 
started stocking it with their "everyday low price" 30% discount.  If 
you're searching for it, the ISBN # is 1-56720-497-X. 

Alexander Verharen, Global Practice Manager for eBusiness Services at 
QAD Global Services (http://www.qad.com), sent me an encouraging email 
May 18. Alexander wrote: "I ordered my personal copy immediately 
FURTHERMORE I have ordered another 8 for my colleagues!!!! I found I had 
an "Aha! Erlebnis" on almost every page! Keep up the good work!" I'll 
try Alexander and thanks for the feedback! 

For more information about my book, check 
http://dssresources.com/dssbookstore/power02.html or send me an email, 
Daniel.Power@DSSResources.COM.

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What's New at DSSResources.COM

05/22/2002 Created For Professors page at DSSResources.COM.  The page is 
still under construction.  Please send your suggestions to 
power@dssresources.com.

05/12/2002 Posted case by EXSYS Staff, "IAP Systems Using Exsys CORVID 
Expert System Software to Support Corporate Families on Overseas 
Assignments", EXSYS, Inc., 2002, URL DSSResources.COM/cases/.

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DSS News - May 9, 2002 to May 23, 2002

Complete news releases can be found at DSSResources.COM.

05/23/2002 Healthcare and pharmaceutical organizations praise 
MicroStrategy's New 7i Business Intelligence platform.

05/23/2002 Schneider Logistics uses Cognos Global Extranet to turn 
information into competitive advantage.

05/22/2002 VistaPortal Software announces enhancements to VistaJDBC for 
streamlined supply chain integration and enterprise reporting.

05/22/2002 Applied OLAP, Inc. Announces New Alliance with ThinkFast 
Consulting, Inc.

05/21/2002 SPSS Inc.’s Web-based interactive report distribution 
software now delivers native language output. 

05/21/2002 Optiant Co-Founder named a top young innovator by MIT 
Technology Review. 

05/21/2002 IDC finds three-month payback for Network Appliance 
enterprise content delivery networks. 

05/21/2002 Iteration and Sagent team enable real-time delivery of 
business intelligence. 

05/20/2002 Informatica data integration software supports military 
health system's data warehouse, data mart initiatives. 

05/20/2002 Crystal Decisions reaches milestone with 11 million licenses 
shipped worldwide. 

05/20/2002 Brio Software announces Brio Metrics Builder 7.

05/20/2002 GeoDecisions and IntelliWhere partner to deliver logistics 
solution for real-time deployment of military and emergency personnel.

05/20/2002 ProClarity wins Technical Excellence Award at SQL Server 
Magazine Live! and Windows & .NET Magazine Live! Event.

05/15/2002 Databeacon helps make Baxter Healthcare a safer place.

05/15/2002 Teradata data warehouse implementation listed by Gartner, 
Inc. as a leader in "Ability to Execute" and "Completeness of Vision".

05/15/2002 Business Objects introduces BusinessObjects Broadcast Agent 
5.5. 

05/15/2002 MarketFirst to integrate industry leading analytic 
applications from Business Objects. 

05/15/2002 CVS drugstores enters major deal with MicroStrategy.

05/14/2002 Health Net Dental and Vision launches new tool for 
contracting brokers.

05/14/2002 IMC Holdings, Inc. uses Comshare® for strategic tool to drive 
performance and profitability.

05/13/2002 digiMine Provides Dow Jones with data mining and analysis 
solutions for web properties.

05/13/2002 Hermes Pensions Management Limited goes live on Macgregor 
Trade Order Management System.

05/13/2002 Discrete Wireless introduces improved Fleet Management 
Services. 

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