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Welcome to the online lab of the decision support technologies!

How to use this site

1. Look through the introduction text below to get the basic ideas of the decision support technology.
2. Click the link Guest - Try the System and explore the provided sample of the decision support task. Use "Help" on every screen you go through for better understanding.

To see the results of the analysis in the Demo task follow these steps:
1. Click on the link "Compare the Cars" to open demo project.
2. Check all alternatives (Car1, Car2, Car3) on the list, than select Plan of Analysis from the dropdown list ("Cars Analysis") and than click button "Analyze alternatives using Plan:"
3. Review the results, and than click "Benefit/Cost Analysis" button.

Also you can explore projects created by our users - you can see list of the public projects on the right.

Now you can create your own project!

1. Register using link New Registration - it is easy and free.
2. After registration on your list of projects you will see demo project "Compare the Cars", but now you also can create your own project by clicking the link "Create New".
3. To create your project just follow steps outlined in Get Started

And always use "Help" when you don't know what to do next!


Introduction

The online Decision Support System (DSS) ESTIMATION & CHOICE is a powerful and flexible decision making tool to help people set priorities and make the best decision when both qualitative and quantitative aspects of a decision need to be considered.

You can efficiently use ESTIMATION & CHOICE in such processes as Project Prioritization, Portfolio Management, Vendor selection, Human resource Management, Strategic Planning, Risk Assessment and many others...

ESTIMATION & CHOICE helps you prioritize any number of competing objectives (alternatives) and arrive at the best decision. The DSS also provides a clear rationale that this decision is the best - by showing not only the final ratings of the alternatives, but also their ratings on separate qualities.

It is especially useful for the Universities and Colleges providing the Decision Science courses. You can use one registration to allow unlimited number of students share the same login and work on their own projects. Several students may work on the same project as experts: the DSS coordinates opinions of up to 10 experts in the project.


ESTIMATION & CHOICE is a Web based software used for multiattribute (multicriteria) decision analysis, where the decision problem is structured hierarchically from the upper level criteria to the lower level subcriteria: Goal - General Parameters - Parameters. ESTIMATION & CHOICE handles the different decision technologies such as Analytic Hierarchy Process (AHP) by T.Saaty , Utility Functions, Simple weighing model, Pareto domination, Benefit-Cost analysis.

Project contains information about the alternatives you want to analyze and Plans of Analysis.

Alternatives - the objects you want to analyze and compare. That might be for example cars, houses, employees, business plans etc. In the other words, alternatives are any objects that you can describe with a set of parameters. Within the Project you have just one set of parameters to describe your alternatives.

Parameters may be of three different types.

Type Parameter Value
Numeric Fuel efficiency 3.4 L/100 km
Logical (Yes/No) Air conditioning Yes
Qualitative (Classifier) Fuel Type Gasoline

For the qualitative parameters there should be classifiers, attached to every parameter of this type. For example, a classifier "Types of Fuel" may be attached to the Parameter "Fuel type".

Classifier - list of possible values of the qualitative parameter. For example, classifier Fuel types may include Gasoline, Diesel, Natural Gas etc. The same classifier may be attached to the different parameters. (Classifier Colors may be attached to the parameters Car body color and Car interior color).

Plan of Analysis represents the overall goal and objectives of the analysis, includes hierarchical structure of the parameters with their weights (=priorities) and Utility Functions.

Plan of Analysis has a hierarchical structure.
At the top level is the goal of the analysis (For Example: To compare Business Plans to choose the best one, To compare Companies on stock market to buy optimal set of shares, To compare Car models to buy family car etc...)

At the next level there are the General Parameters influencing your Goal of the Analysis.

General Parameter - characteristic of some important general quality of the Alternative. (For example: Profitability, Risk for Business Plans; Safety for Cars)

At the bottom level of hierarchy there are parameters influencing the General Parameter. (Car Parameters "Top Speed", "Safety Bag", "Side Impact System" influence the General Parameter "Safety")


Here is an example of the Plan of Analysis showing its hierarchical structure:



Weight of the parameter is a number indicating how that parameter is important for you.

General Parameter: Safety
Parameter Weight
Safety Bag 0.5
Side Impact System 0.3
Top Speed 0.2

The bigger weight - the more important this parameter. So in this example for the General Parameter Safety the most influential parameter is "Safety Bag".

To assign weights to the parameters you can use either direct weighing or pairwise comparisons

In direct weighing, the weights of Parameters are directly given - just type the number in the corresponding fields. For example, you can provide weights on the scale [1 to 10] or [1 to 100]. Afterwards, if you want, you can normalize the given weights: just click button "Normalize", than system recalculates the weights in the way that sum of all weights equals 1. To do it the system summarizes all the weights and then devides every weight by that sum.

Pairwise comparisons (AHP - The Analytic Hierarchy Process by T.Saaty)
In the AHP you are asked to compare evry possible pair of the attributes. In each pair you must decide which attribute is more important and in what degree. These comparisons are saved in comparisons matrix and the weights of attributes are derived from the eigenvector of this matrix. So, you just have to answer several questions like "Which of these two parameters is more important?", and then the system will calculate and show you the weights.

Here is a sample of the pairwise comparisons in the system:



Besides prioritizing the parameters you also have to define what values of the parameter are more preferable. In the other words you have to assign a Utility Function to every parameter.

Utility Function maps the values of parameter on the scale between 0 and 1. Utility Function allows prioritize different values of the Parameter. The close Utility Function to 1 - the better value of Parameter. As you remember we have three different parameter types, and every type has its own Utility Function format.

1. Utility Function for Numeric parameters
You can assign a Utility function to the Numeric parameter using up to 5 points. For every point you have to insert value of the parameter and then select corresponding value of the Utility Function from drop-down list. To assign Utility function for numeric Parameter you have to describe at least two points.

For example, if you are a doctor and you have to estimate condition of a patient you can use parameter "Temperature" with the following Utility Function:

Point Value (C) Utility Function Description
Point 1 35.0 0.2 Mediocre
Point 2 36.6 1.0 Ideal
Point 3 37.5 0.3 Satisfactory
Point 4 42.0 0.0 Minimally Acceptable


Here is a sample of the numeric Utility function in the system:



Based on this informasion system calculates Utility Function for the others values of the parameter. (We presume that for all values less than minimal value in the table - less then 35.0 in our example - the Utility Function will be the same - 0.2. And similarly for all values more than maximum value the Utility Function will be the same.)

2. Utility Function for the Logical (Yes/No) parameters
To assign a Utility Function to the logical parameter you just have to answer a question - if this feature desirable or not.
For example when you compare cars for the parameter "Air Conditioning" you can assign Utility Function "This feature is desirable". It means that the value of the Utility Function equals to 1 for air-conditioned cars and equals to 0 for the others.

3. Utility Function for the Qualitative parameters
For the qualitative parameters we have to assign value of the Utility Function to an every value of the attached classifier. You can do it in the same way as you assign weights to the parameters. In other words, you can give the values directly or use the pairwise comparisons.

Parameter "Car body color"
Value Utility Function
Blue 0.4
Black 0.3
Yellow 0.2
Green 0.1


The Group Model

ESTIMATION & CHOICE supports group decision making and provides tool to coordinate opinions of up to 10 experts working on the same project. Experts can participate in finding coordinated weights for the General Parameters, weights of the parameters influencing the General Parameter, finding values of the Utility Function for the Qualitative Parameters. Experts may also compare alternatives on the final stage of the Benefit - Cost Analysis.
The system shows you average weights for the group of experts and a Coefficient of Concordance. You can see as well dispersion and deviation for every attribute, and "Extravagancy index" for experts. So, you have very powerful tool to improve coordination in the group of experts and get the reliable results.

Tolerance to the Incomplete Data

ESTIMATION & CHOICE can run analysis even if some values of the parameters are missing for some alternatives. If at least 70% of alternatives have the value of parameter then for the remaining alternatives the missing values will be calculated as average.

Analyzing the Results

Once you inserted information about the alternatives and created at least one Plan of Analysis you can run the analysis! Just click pad "Alternatives and Analysis" on the main menu, check the alternatives you want to analyze, select Plan from the dropdown list and then click button "Analyze Alternatives". The bar chart shows the total ratings of alternatives. In the table below you can see comprehensive analytical information including final rangs and ratings of alternatives, results of the Pareto domination analysis. In case if some missed values have been restored as average you will see the corresponding warnings. You have this valuable analytical information for every alternative and every General Parameter.

Here is a sample of the result for the group of alternatives:





The Single Alternative Analysis
ESTIMATION & CHOICE provides you the unique option to analyze every single alternative separately. To run analysis for the single alternative just click its name at the page with the results for the group of alternatives. You can as well check only one alternative for the analysis on the page "Alternatives and Analysis".
The system shows final rating of the alternative, list of General Parameters sorted by weight with their ratings and verbal interpretation of ratings for the better emotional perception.

You can see as well list of the Parameters influencing current General Parameter with their values, ratings (derived from the Utility Function) and verbal interpretation of ratings.

Making the final Decision with the Benefit/Cost Comparisons
Sometimes it might be not enough to create hierarchical structure of the Plan of Analysis, assign weights and Utility Functions and calculate ratings of alternatives. If your decision problem may be described in Benefit/Cost terms, it is more reliable to use Benefit/Cost Comparisons at the final stage of the analysis.

For example, you compare cars and you created Plan of Analysis including General Parameters: "Driving", "Comfort", "Safety", "Economy". Every General Parameter is influenced by number of different parameters. So "Economy" may be influenced by "Price" and "Expenses".

To run Benefit/Cost Analysis you have to split up "Efficiency Indicators" and "Cost Factors". How to do it? Pretty simple! Just assign zero weight coefficient to the "Cost Factors" General Parameter. In our example it is "Economy". Than you will get ratings for this General Parameter, and at the same time exclude influence of the "Cost Factors" on the total ratings of the alternatives.
And then after running analysis for the group of the alternatives you can apply the Benefit/Cost comparisons to the results of group analysis - just click button "Benefit/Cost analysis" at the page with group results.

You will be asked about axes for Benefit/Cost chart. Select "Final Rating of the Alternative" as Axis Y (Benefit) and Rating of General Parameter "Economy" for Axes X (Cost). And then simple Benefit/Cost analysis starts as a number of pairwise comparisons of alternatives at the chart.

Here is a sample of comparison of the alternatives on the Benefit/Cost chart:





After completing the comparisons system shows the bar chart with the final ratings of alternatives resulting from the Benefit/Cost Analysis:




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