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
http://www.mis.cmich.edu/ifpsplus.htm. 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
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.