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World Modeler Has Me Rethinking Trade Studies

Although I am not trained as a scientist or an engineer, I did spend over 20 years working with engineers and (yes, Virginia) rocket scientists. I also may not be a professional scientist, but I’m a pretty good amateur one, and I like to think that being around all that knowledge and brain power bestowed on me at least a patina of engineer/scientist. I do know I am loathe to make decisions without a great deal of information and as much knowledge as I can locate about the consequences of my decisions.

One of the methods we used to make engineering design decisions is called a trade study, which is  short for trade-off study. It’s essentially a very simple concept, whereby you develop the desired outcomes, e.g. features and capabilities of a system,  schedules and cost structures, break them down into measurable parts, and compare various ways to achieve those outcomes. The process itself is reasonably simple, but the details can become staggeringly complex and frequently overwhelming.

Selection Criteria

Expertise System Trade Study Selection Criteria

As I learn more and more about Decision Science and its derivatives, I look for examples and analogies from previous experience that I can revisit with newfound knowledge and capability and, perhaps, understand a little more clearly or completely than I did back then. I am convinced Decision Science, which embraces the concepts of Decision Engineering and Decision Intelligence, as well as the use of Decision Modeling to pull it all together, is a powerful tool that too few people know about.

One of the things that occurs to me, and I want to throw this out for your consideration, has to do with the remarkable software tool Quantellia has created, called World Modeler. It seems to  me it is to trade studies what AutoCAD is to hand-drawn blueprints. It is so rich in modeling functionality, it just makes every other tool I’ve worked with seem flat, unimaginative, and terribly cumbersome in terms of what we know we’re facing and how we see problems in today’s environment.

Just after the turn of the century (that would be 2001) I conducted a trade study for a software tool, some of the requirements of which were that it would run on our intranet and  was designed to both locate expertise and facilitate the exchange, use, and capture of knowledge in a form that would remain useable for some time to come. In short, one kind of knowledge management system that was being sought after back then.

The trade study I conducted looked at three products and rated them over about a dozen criteria we were interested in. There was no formal weighting and it was a fairly simple, straight-forward comparison of capabilities. A simple effort based on what we knew at the time and the very palty list of vendors who were providing the kind of service we wanted. In fact, as you can see in the accompanying graphic, there were only three . . . and one of them (Primus) was actually — if memory serves — an internal service of Boeing’s developed specifically for airplane mechanics to share information on their service and repair activities worldwide.

With World Modeler, we would have been able to model so much more than just these paltry selection criteria. We could have included in our decision the aggregate likely impact of things we assumed would happen, thereby surfacing possible misconceptions that some had. We could have included connections to IT, HR, and Communications, thereby giving us a clearer picture of the likely impact on the enterprise of implementing the system.

Frankly, in retrospect — and based on the fact that its use steadily declined after my retirement — I’m still not certain it was a good decision, though I had lots of reasons to believe so back then. So, getting back to my point, I think World Modeler is an incredibly powerful tool for an organization to measure the value of many of its decisions before making them. It’s also useful, in my opinion, in a wide array of situations and scenarios. I intend on addressing many of them as time goes by and I become more versed in its capabilities and more comfortable with my understanding of its value to various organizations and situations. You should check it out.

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About Rick Ladd

Born in 1947, I was an officially retired pensioner, but in January of 2015 I returned to work as a contractor at Aerojet Rocketdyne. I remain intensely interested in, and fascinated by, Systems Thinking, Knowledge Management, Decision Intelligence, and Business in general. I am also conversant in such concepts as innovation and ideation, collaborative tools and strategies, crowd sourcing, and the use of social media to accomplish goals ranging from improving business processes to promoting small retail businesses. While "retired" I did a little bit of freelancing as an editor/proofreader, as well as some technical writing. There's lots more where that came from. Need some help? Perhaps another set of eyes? Contact me. The first one's free! ;0) View all posts by Rick Ladd

3 responses to “World Modeler Has Me Rethinking Trade Studies

  • Changing My Game | Systems Savvy

    […] I have written a little bit about one of the new endeavors I have set out to pursue (here and here), I haven’t really done much to explain what it is I’m doing with decision […]

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  • Brian Tullis

    Agree! One of my least rewarding professional experiences was a butt-kicking received from a senior operations guy.He tore apart my weighted decision matrix. I mean, just blew it up! I figured he would want data and quantification, and what he really wanted was strategy, analysis, what-ifs, and dialogue. He patiently went on to talk his way into a different choice than the one recommended by the team with logically-argued score changes on 3 or 4 of the requirements.

    Lesson learned that day…and that was a relatively easy process to choose which system should be used to run operations at a single factory. Much like the scenario you describe in your KM system selection process.

    It’s clear that decision making in general needs better tools. I’m skeptical that we can do this in software, but the Quantellia solution is intruiging. I’m looking forward to learning more about it.

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    • Rick Ladd

      Hi Brian:

      Forgive me for taking so long to respond. This is a time of great change for me and I’m at times a little farmisht. Thanks for your comment. I response to your statement regarding your skepticism, I think I can speak for Quantellia (and certainly for myself) when I say the software (in this case, World Modeler) is but a tool. In the hands of those who neither have, nor understand the need for or how to create, an intelligent process for deploying it, it’s just a colorful decoration.

      We believe the process is more important than the tool but, in reality, they work best hand-in-hand. World Modeler can provide us with not only visualizations, but time-phased computation of relationships we cannot represent in any other way. This includes multiple spreadsheets and other tools currently used for project management and other forms of modeling.

      Rather than me getting more wordy in this comment, are you up for a telecon (hangout, skype, whatevs)? Would love to touch base regardless. I’m coming back from the dead. 🙂

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