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                          DSS News 
                    D. J. Power, Editor 
             March 13, 2005 -- Vol. 6, No. 7
      A Free Bi-Weekly Publication of DSSResources.COM 

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* Ask Dan! - What criteria should be used for evaluating 
proposed plans?
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Ask Dan!

What criteria should be used for evaluating proposed plans?

by Dan Power

In the process of developing plans and alternative courses of action (COA), multiple
criteria or factors should be used to determine the validity of each proposed plan. The
criteria should be assessed and considered prior to any systematic comparative evaluation
of plans. This is true in business, military and general organizational planning
situations. The criteria are often relevant in personal planning situations as well. This
Ask Dan! is related to the ongoing development of a web-based, decision structuring
application called PlanningDSS.COM. 

Any computerized planning DSS should provide a "checklist" or an organized set of rating
scales that can be used to assess the validity of each alternative course of action (COA)
based on seven criteria: acceptability, adequacy, completeness, distinguishability,
feasibility, suitability and variety. Ideally multiple analysts/planners would rate each
proposed plan on each of these seven criteria.

Planners, decision makers and analysts should interpret "valid" as meaning worth further
analysis and consideration. A valid plan or COA meets minimum standards and hence an
invalid COA has failed on one or more of the seven criteria of "goodness" used to evaluate
specific COA plans; a course of action plan that is deficient on one or more criteria
should be revised or rejected.

The challenge in computerizing plan or COA evaluation criteria, especially these seven
criteria, is that the evaluation terms are familiar words that are hard to operationalize.
Also, the terms used for the criteria are interrelated and overlapping concepts. In a
computerized planning and decision support system the criteria need to be defined and used
consistently and users of the system need a shared understanding of what the terms mean. 

Progress must be made in reaching agreement on the meaning and operationalization of these
terms if a computerized planning DSS is to be useful.

The remainder of this analysis discusses each of the seven evaluation concepts (terms).
The discussion draws upon glossary definitions, Roget's Thesaurus, and the American
Heritage Dictionary (AHD). The concepts are intended as "attributes of a plan and COA" so
one should be able to discern there presence or absence by examining a specific COA plan.
An attribute is a descriptor of a planned course of action and hence an adjective should
be used as the identifing term. The term used for the corresponding criterion should be a

Acceptable; the criterion is acceptability. A plan is acceptable if it accomplishes the
given mission or purpose and it is deemed worth the risks. Acceptability determines
whether a contemplated course of action (COA) is worth the cost of manpower, materiel, and
time involved; and is consistent with legal constraints. Synonyms for acceptable include:
desirable, expedient, tolerable, satisfactory. The dictionary defines acceptable as
satisfactory or adequate.
A partial list of evaluation questions linked to acceptability include:

a) How likely is it that the plan will accomplish the mission/objectives and purpose in
the decision situation?

b) Is the plan consistent with constraints, regulations and laws?

c) Is the cost of manpower, materiel, and time involved in implementation tolerable?

d) Is the level of risk involved supportable?

Adequate; the criterion is adequacy. This criterion evaluates the scope and concept of
planned activities to determine if they are sufficient to accomplish the task assigned.
Synonyms for adequacy include ability, sufficiency, utility, satisfactoriness, effectual,
tolerable. According to the dictionary, adequate means 1) able to satisfy a requirement;
suitable or 2) barely satisfactory or sufficient. In COA plan development, adequacy must
be assessed in terms of completing the mission and accomplishing decision maker's intent.

A partial list of evaluation questions linked to adequacy include:

a) How likely is it that the scope and concept of the COA plan is sufficient to accomplish
the assigned task?

b) Does the COA plan satisfy the minimum requirements of the mission/task?

Complete; the criterion is completeness. A COA plan is complete if it answers what, where,
when, why, and how. Synonyms for completeness are wholeness, intactness. AHD defines
complete as having all necessary or normal parts. Complete suggests the final stage in a
process of assembling parts into a whole. 

A partial list of evaluation questions linked to completeness include:

a) Are all of the major elements of a COA plan specified?

b) Have the parts of a COA plan been assembled into a coherent whole?

Distinguishable; the criterion is distinguishability. A COA plan is distinguishable if it
is significantly different from other COAs. Synonyms for distinguish are differentiate,
discriminate, recognition. The dictionary defines distinguish as to recognize as being
different or distinct. Distinct means 1) not similar; different; unlike; or 2)
well-defined; explicit; unquestionable. Distinguishability means the distinguishing
elements of a COA should be enumerated and explained.

A partial list of evaluation questions linked to distinguishability include:

a) Is the COA plan significantly different than other COAs that are being developed?

b) Is the COA plan distinct and recognizable?

c) Is the COA plan well-defined?

Feasible; the criterion is feasibility. A COA plan is feasible if it may be accomplished
with the resources currently available or obtainable. Synonyms for feasibility include
practicable, expedient (especially in terms of timely, wise, fitting). AHD defines
feasible as 1) capable of being accomplished or brought about; practicable; possible. or
2) logical; likely.

A partial list of evaluation questions linked to feasibility include:

a) Is it likely that the COA plan can be accomplished with the resources currently
available and readily obtainable?

b) Is the COA plan practicable and fitting given the situation?

c) How likely is it that the COA plan can be accomplished and brought about?

Suitable; the criterion is suitability. A COA plan is suitable if it accomplishes the
mission. Synonyms for suitability include fitness, timeliness, expedience, adequate. AHD
defines suitable as appropriate to a given purpose or occasion.

A partial list of evaluation questions linked to suitability include:

a) How likely is it that the COA plan will accomplish the mission or task?

b) How appropriate is the COA plan for accomplishing the given mission or task?

Variable or varied; the criterion is variety. A COA plan is variable if it can be modified
or altered systematically. Synonyms for variety are difference and assortment. AHD defines
variety as 1) the condition or quality of being varied or 2) a different kind, sort or
form. The two meanings of variety suggest possibly different ways to interpret the
criterion during COA plan development. The focus should be how different or varied a
specific COA plan is from other COAs under consideration. Variety among COA plans in
approach is desirable.

A partial list of evaluation questions linked to variety include:

a) Can the COA plan be modified or altered systematically?

b) Is the COA of a different kind or sort than other COA under development?

c) Does the COA enhance the variety in the choice set?

The above discussion should provide a starting point for systematically evaluating
proposed plans. The criterion variety should be subjected to additional scrutiny during
analysis to insure perceived variety among COA is meaningful and useful. There is a
conceptual overlap among some criteria and some testing of any evaluation protocol or
rubric is desirable.

In general, I think the likelihood questions will be most useful for evaluating the 
overall quality of plans during the development phase of planning. A likelihood 
scale from 0%-100% or a scale from very unlikely to very likely may be equally useful. 
On a subjective probability scale, I would recommend defining 3 zones, 
a "red zone" where the likelihood is <= 50%, a "yellow zone" >50% <= 75%,
and a green zone where the likelihood is > 75%. Evaluating the Yes/No questions 
may also be useful as well to remind the planner/decision maker of important issues. 
The "appropriate" scale should range from very inappropriate to very appropriate.


The American Heritage Dictionary of the English Language, Boston: Houghton Mifflin Co.,

Joint Publication 3-30, Command and Control for Joint Air Operations, June 5, 2003.

Roget's International Thesaurus (3rd edition) New York: Thomas Y. Crowell Co., 1962.


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DSS Conferences

Call for Papers

1. First International Workshop on Business Process Intelligence (BPI 05)
in Nancy, France, September 5, 2005, papers due March 18, 2005.

2. International workshop on Context Modeling and Decision Support in
Paris, July 5th, 2005, submission deadline is March 25, 2005.

3. 2005 DSI Annual Meeting, San Francisco, CA, November 19-22, 2005, paper
deadline April 1, 2005. Check

4. 8th International DSS Conference (ISDSS2005) of AIS SIG DSS, 
July 12-15, 2005, Porto Alegre, Brazil, check , extended deadline
April 3, 2005.

Upcoming Conferences

1. The 2005 Semantic Technology Conference will be held March 7-10, .
Stanford Court Hotel, San Francisco, CA, Check

2. Second International Conference on Information Systems for Crisis
Response and Management (ISCRAM 2005), Brussels, April 18-20, 2005, Check 

PLEASE NOTE: Dr. Dan Power will be discussing DSS for Crisis Response and
Management at ISCRAM 2005.

3. DAMA+Metadata -- 9TH Annual Wilshire Meta-Data Conference and the 17TH
Annual DAMA International Symposium, May 22-26, 2005, Orlando, Florida USA.

PLEASE NOTE: DSSResources.COM and DSS News are Media Sponsors of

4. 2005 Crystal Ball User Conference will be held June 13-15, 2005 at the
Marriott Denver City Center, Denver, Colorado, check

5. 2005 DSI International Meeting, Barcelona, Spain, July 3-6, 2005. 

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What's New at DSSResources.COM

03/05/2005 Posted case by Brian Tomaszewski, "Erie County Emergency Response and Planning
Application Performs Plume Modeling". Check the cases page.

02/26/2005 Posted an article by Neil Raden, "Shedding Light on Shadow IT: Is Excel Running
Your Business?" Check the articles page.


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DSS News - February 26, 2005 to March 11, 2005
Read releases at DSSResources.COM and search the DSS News Archive

03/10/2005 The Wall Street Journal Online now offers desktop news alerts. 

03/10/2005 SAS expands lead in credit risk management software. 

03/09/2005 New NCR server accelerates Teradata® Data Warehouse performance; first server
to scale to 4.2 petabytes in size for commercial decision support.

03/09/2005 Intellisync to enhance mobile enterprise interoperability with Intellisync(R)
Mobile Suite(TM) for BlackBerry(TM).

03/09/2005 IDC conference to offer guidance on the impact of applying business
intelligence to repeatable, operational decisions.

03/09/2005 Hyperion customers and the Hackett Group share insight on best practices for
business performance management.

03/08/2005 Microsoft unveils 2005 release of Microsoft Office Live Meeting.

03/08/2005 City of Aurora, Colorado scales Stellent Universal Content Management across
enterprise to support 17 departments.

03/07/2005 Market survey: business intelligence dashboard users report benefits from quick
access to up-to-date information.

03/07/2005 FaceTime offers only effective solution to block growing spIM threat.

03/07/2005 Information Builders transforms operational business intelligence with the
launch of WebFOCUS 7.

03/07/2005 Applix announces enhancements to TM1 business performance management platform
for more sophisticated planning and reporting. 

03/07/2005 Oracle announces general availability of Oracle(R) Business Intelligence 10g.

03/07/2005 QUALCOMM and Integrated Decision Support Corporation launch In-Cab Fuel

03/03/2005 Intel sees more natural, humanized computing in the coming decade; new tasks
drive creation of platforms with enhanced performance and capabilities.

03/03/2005 FOSE 2005 supports national security initiatives; experts from government and
industry to speak April 5-7 Washington, DC. 

03/03/2005 Microsoft expands current reporting offering, unveils next-generation solutions
for reporting.

03/03/2005 Business Objects raises the bar in business intelligence security.

03/02/2005 Competitive intelligence: best practices in managing the competition.

03/02/2005 U.S. Strategic Command selects AtHoc(TM) for user alerting system.

03/02/2005 DecisionPoint Software integrates powerful financial performance warehouse with
Hyperion Essbase 7X.

03/01/2005 DATAllegro launches new data warehouse appliance with best price/performance in
the industry; TDWI World Conference Winter 2005.

02/28/2005 IRI unveils Retail Performance Management solutions suite: reinventing CPG and
Retail Summit 2005.

02/28/2005 Oracle(R) Database leads data warehouse pack according to analyst survey. 

02/28/2005 Gartner announces three finalists for the business intelligence excellence
award; winner to be announced at the Gartner Business Intelligence Summit in Chicago


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