DSS News
                       by D. J. Power
             January 14, 2001 -- Vol. 2, No. 2
         A Bi-Weekly Publication of DSSResources.COM
      Check the new Site Map at
* DSS Wisdom
* Ask Dan! -- What is/was IFPS? 
* What's New at DSSResources.COM
* DSS News Stories
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DSS Wisdom
Paul Gray notes "In building a model for the manager that represents the 
elements of a business decision, you make a number of assumptions about 
the nature of the present and the nature of the future.  You make 
choices as to what are the important variables, what present and past 
data are applicable, and how the variables are related to one another.  
You also make assumptions about the effects of time.  More interesting, 
as Keen and Wagner point out, your assumptions encode your beliefs, 
hopes, and dreams about the future, your fears about what the future may 
bring, and your habits of thought from the past on how the world works.  
The role of a decision support system is to allow the decision maker to 
deal with assumptions." (p. 18)
from Gray, P. Guide to IFPS (Interactive Financial Planning System). New 
York: McGraw-Hill Book Company, 1987.
Ask Dan!
What is/was IFPS?
IFPS is an acronym for interactive financial planning system. My friend 
Paul Gray is an expert on financial planning systems and IFPS, and what 
I know about the program is based on his books and using the software 
that came with them.
The idea was to create a "language" that would "allow executives to 
build models without intermediaries (Gray, 1987, p. 3)". It was 
originally developed in the late 1970's by Gerald R. Wagner and his 
students. IFPS was initially marketed by Wagner's company, EXECUCOM 
Systems. By 1996, an extended product, Visual IFPS/PLUS, was distributed 
by Comshare, which purchased EXECUCOM. The last version I saw was 
Release 5.1. On the web, I found the software at I couldn't find any information 
at the Comshare website about IFPS and a number of people have told me 
that Comshare is not supporting and developing the product any longer.
One major advantage that a planning language has over a spreadsheet is 
that the model is written using natural language and the model can be 
seperated from the data.  For example, one can write the equation 
variable cost = quantity * unit cost.  Planning languages led the way in 
providing "what if" and "goal-seeking" capabilities that have been 
included in spreadsheet programs.  The command-oriented nature of this 
type of program limits its accessibility to executives and may be part 
of the reason that IFPS is no longer being developed.
Feedback on replacements for IFPS
Hubert Denault, who originally asked about a replacement for IFPS, 
"A few years ago, a colleague of mine attempted, with no real success, 
to convert the model into an Excel sheet, though I have to admit it was 
not Excel 2000.
"The problem with Excel is that the formulas are normally hidden and 
Excel does not segregate model and data.  With such a large model, this 
can become pretty cumbersome especially when debugging.  And, at some 
point, there is always some debugging!
"With IFPS, the model file and the data file(s) are two distinct 
entities.  A model is simply a text file containing all the rules 
written using a natural language.
"Though I might be wrong, I personaly think the concept of separation of 
model and data, and the use of a natural language in a text file for the 
model, are very important."
Also, in response to the Ask Dan in Vol. 2, No. 1, John Walker wrote on 
January 11, 2001,
"If you have some familiarity with Excel and Visual Basic
I would recommend that you store your data in Access and
do most of your modelling from there. Access is a much 
easier centre to work from if you are going to exchange 
information with other databases and Excel's Visual Basic
seems to be particularly quirky.
"This doesn't mean that you need to abandon Excel as a 
calculation device, particularly if you are working with
range functions. You can simply pour the data from an 
Access query into a spreadsheet, fill in the required
calculation cells, and if you need to do so, read the 
calculated values back into Access for storage and 
later inclusion in reports etc.
"Its the same solution with a little more power and
Thanks John for your suggestion and good luck, Hubert, with your 
project.  If I get more feedback for replacements for IFPS, I will 
summarize them in a future Ask Dan.
Check the following books for more details on IFPS:
Gray, P. Visual IFPS/PLUS for Business. Upper Saddle River, NJ: Prentice 
Hall, 1996.
Gray, P. Guide to IFPS/Personal. New York: McGraw-Hill Book Company, 
Gray, P. Guide to IFPS (Interactive Financial Planning System). New 
York: McGraw-Hill Book Company, 1987.
What's New at DSSResources.COM
01/13/2001 Revised Top Panel to include Site Map.
01/13/2001 Created DSSResources.COM Site Map.
01/05/2001 Updated Journals/Newsgroups page.
01/02/2001 Posted Dan's Picks for Winter 2001 in the DSS Book Store.
DSS News Stories - Jan. 3 to Jan. 14, 2001
01/12/2001 Call for papers for GROUP 2001, Sept. 30 - Oct. 3, 2001, in 
Boulder, Colorado, USA.
01/10/2001 PictureTel identified 33 early adopters of its PictureTel 900 
Series(TM) launched in July 2000.
01/09/2001 Oracle (R) e-Valuator decision aid received award for 
services marketing excellence.
01/09/2001 Comshare announced that Baker & Taylor Inc. has chosen 
Web-based Comshare software for management planning and control to 
replace a spreadsheet system.
01/09/2001 AdvancePCS reported study to measure value of providing drug 
reference and formulary information on Palm Vx handheld devices at the 
point of care.
01/08/2001 Lotus and Seagate Software to offer Crystal Enterprise 
Reporting to Lotus K-station customers.
01/08/2001 NY Times reports 90,000 doctors have downloaded a free 
version of ePocrates drug-reference decision support software program 
for hand-held devices.
01/05/2001 Codework announced 3-way TANGRAM for Windows - A desktop OLAP 
and application development environment. Download it from 
01/05/2001 Intel's Barrett charts course for "Extended PC Era" at 
consumer electronics show. See release. 
01/04/2001 Cognos lists educational institutions that use its Business 
Intelligence products. 
01/03/2001 Polycom wins Teleconnect Product of the Year for both video 
and voice communications.
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