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4. A collaborative consultant
with skills in:
|Development Plan||Portfolio Documentation|
Apply problem-solving and decision-making methods to significant technical issues:
|Using decision trees, flow charts or other appropriate methods, document the process used in making significant decisions ITS.|
In this example, the dependents discount is determined based on the campus attended, whether the student is living on campus (indoor) or in the community (outdoor), and whether the student is a missionary dependent.
For instance, the flowchart above is clean and simple and easy to read. However, what about the case of a missionary dependent who is staying in one of the residence halls (indoor). According to the flowchart, they will be awarded the indoor discount. However, this is incorrect. The fourth column of the decision table shows that as long as a student is not studying on the Wahroonga Campus, if they are the dependent of a missionary, they will get the missionary discount regardless of whether they live in the residence hall (indoor) or in the community (outdoor).
1164 / 1165 D2810_DEP_DISCOUNT SECTION. 1166 1167 ******************************************************************************** 1168 * FUNCTION: Compute Dependents Discount, rounded to nearest 10 cents 1169 ******************************************************************************** 1170 1171 D2811_DEP_DISCOUNT. 1172 1173 * +-----------------------------------------------+ 1174 * |Dependents Discount for requested semester | 1175 * |DEPNT_DISC_PCENT | 1176 * |-----------------------------------------------| 1177 * |Wahroonga Campus | Y | N | N | N | 1178 * |Indoor Dependent | - | Y | N | - | 1179 * |Outdoor Dependent | - | N | Y | - | 1180 * |Missionary Dependent | - | N | N | Y | 1181 * |===============================================+ 1182 * |P_FE_DEPNT_DISC_I_PCENT | X | X | - | - | 1183 * |P_FE_DEPNT_DISC_O_PCENT | - | - | X | - | 1184 * |P_FE_DEPNT_DISC_MISNRY_PCENT | - | - | - | X | 1185 * +-----------------------------------------------+
The error made in the simple but incorrect flowchart implementation referred to above could have been avoided if the decision table had followed one of the principles of decision table design. Columns with more "don't care" conditions should appear in the table ahead of columns with fewer such conditions. Hence, column 4 should be moved to column 2. At the same time, we should probably move condition row 4 to row 2.
1173 * +-----------------------------------------------+ 1174 * |Dependents Discount for requested semester | 1175 * |DEPNT_DISC_PCENT | 1176 * |-----------------------------------------------| 1177 * |Wahroonga Campus | Y | N | N | N | 1180 * |Missionary Dependent | - | Y | N | N | 1178 * |Indoor Dependent | - | - | Y | N | 1179 * |Outdoor Dependent | - | - | N | Y | 1181 * |===============================================+ 1182 * |P_FE_DEPNT_DISC_I_PCENT | X | - | - | - | 1183 * |P_FE_DEPNT_DISC_O_PCENT | - | - | X | - | 1184 * |P_FE_DEPNT_DISC_MISNRY_PCENT | - | X | - | X | 1185 * +-----------------------------------------------+
In this rather simple example, there are four independent conditions and three possible outcomes. The four conditions could lead to a maximum of 16 different outcomes, but as the decision table shows, if a student is on the Wahroonga Campus, the other three conditions do not matter.
This decision table occurs at line 1173 in the subroutine. It is implemented using nested IF statements, which can be quite confusing to read. There is another one (very simple) at line 904 and a more complex one at line 793. This one is implemented using COBOL's EVALUATE statement (commonly referred to as a "CASE construct"), which is a much more direct implementation of the decision table, and is easier for verifying correctness. In fact, this close correspondence between the representation of the decision logic and a computer implementation has led to the creation of software for automating the process. One example of such software is Cope. Barry Dwyer, a senior lecture in Computer Science at the University of Adelaide in South Australia, wrote Cope and has an online manual for using the software. He writes in his introduction to the manual,
Marien de Wilde (2002) has written an excellent PowerPoint presentation describing decision tables and how to write them.
"Cope is a program that converts decision tables to Cobol source statements. This text assumes that you have some knowledge of Cobol, but it does not assume any knowledge of decision tables.
"A decision table is a way of expressing logic in tabular form. It comprises three elements: a set of conditions that control the logic, a set of executable actions, which depend on the conditions, and a set of rules, which interrelate the conditions with the actions. The rules specify the paths of logical flow through the program.
"A decision table performs a similar function to a flowchart. The two are alternatives, but a table has the advantage of being better suited for computer processing. The relationship between flowcharts and decision tables is explained in more detail in the section Converting Flowcharts to Decision Tables." Barry Dwyer
Attendees at the Kepner Tregoe seminar were given a little two-sided plaque in a stand to place on their desks, summarizing the essential elements of the "rational process" for resolving problems. I have scanned both sides and included them in this document below.
Note: Another technique that is often used for discovering root causes is the Cause and Effect method.
De Bono uses the mechanism of six colored hats, with each hat representing a different style of thinking. The aim of this method of parallel thinking is to have everyone thinking from the same perspective at a time, say wearing the White Hat. Then after a period of time, everyone in the committee 'puts on' the next color hat. De Bono maintains that there is an "absolute physiological need to separate out the types of thinking ... You cannot be sensitized in different directions at the same time, so when we set out to do all aspects of thinking at the same moment, we are going to be suboptimal on all of them." p12
Parallel Thinking using de Bono's Six Thinking Hats
|White Hat||Neutral, objective. The white hat is concerned with objective facts and figures.|
|Red Hat||Suggests anger (seeing red), rage, and emotions. The red hat gives the emotional view.|
|Black Hat||Somber and serious. The black hat is cautious and careful. It points out the weaknesses in an idea.|
|Yellow Hat||Sunny and positive. The yellow hat is optimistic and covers hope and positive thinking.|
|Green Hat||Grass, vegetation, and abundant, fertile growth. The green hat indicates creativity and new ideas.|
|Blue Hat||Cool, the color of the sky, which is above everything else. The blue hat is concerned with control, the organization of the thinking process, and the use of other hats.|
In the weighted scoring model, there are a number of alternatives from which to choose one or more that best meet certain criteria. I will summarize briefly the steps that are followed.
I set an assignment using weighted score rankings which serves as a good illustration of the method.
Frank Moisiadis (2002) presented a research paper at the October 2002 Test & Evaluation Conference in Sydney Australia entitled "Fundamentals of Prioritizing Requirements". In his study of the prioritization process, he does a critical analysis of current techniques such as AHP (Analytic Hierarchy Process) and QFD (Quality Function Deployment). See pages two and three of his paper.
The AHP methodology starts out in a way that is similar to the weighted score rankings method described above--identify the alternatives that are being prioritized, then decide on the criteria to measure them all against. In the AHP method, you have clusters of nested criteria, and the mathematics handles the weighting as the scores are "rolled up". But it is the scoring process itself that is very different in AHP. Instead of having the participants rate each alternative on a scale of one to 10, the scoring is computed from pair-wise comparisons. For each criterion, the alternatives are compared with each other in all the possible combinations of two at a time. Mike Raisinghani and Lawrence Schkade have a good summary of the method in the proposal page of their study into Strategic Decision Making, under the heading "Strategic Justification Methodology".
The person responsible for devising AHP is Thomas Saaty. This was in the 1970s. In 1983, Saaty's consultancy incorporated as Expert Choice when Ernest Forman patented the AHP decision support software for PCs. Forman is now president of Expert Choice.
The ExpertChoice.com web site claims the following benefits (among others), for the Expert Choice method:
I downloaded a trial version of the software, and was really impressed with the ease of use of the user interface, and how it leads you through the evaluation process. I was also impressed with the high power mathematics that handles inconsistencies (e.g., if I score A more than B and B more than C, if I score C more than A, then that is inconsistent). Using linear programming techniques from Operational Research, the software is able to arrive at the set of scores that is the best fit given the inconsistencies.
I tried a very simplified version of the method with 12 IT projects/technologies at Sanitarium in a spreadsheet. I do not have multiple criteria for scoring each of the 12 alternatives. In a pair wise fashion, I merely rated each alternatives importance, in my mind, relative to the importance of each of the other alternatives. The end result in this simple test is approximately what my "gut feel" tells me.
During 1999 at Andrews University, ITS compiled a list of information technology projects that were being requested by various groups around campus. Personnel within ITS wrote one-page summaries for each of the 15 strategic information technologies that were identified. We took votes from the three University computing committees, the IT management team, the Strategic Planning Committee, and the President's Cabinet. The voting process is described and the results are summarized in it_project_voting.htm
In June 2001, John Jasinski led a group of Andrews University administrators in a workshop entitled "Performance Excellence at Andrews University". A number of recommendations were made, based on Baldridge Criteria. One thing that impressed me was the number of references to fact-based decision making. This was taken as strong support to press on with plans to implement data warehousing at Andrews.
After presenting a draft of our proposed approval flowchart to senior administrators at Sanitarium, I read an article by Paul Smith (2003) in the April 2003 issue of MIS - Managing Information Strategies which addressed the very issue of the approval process for IT projects. Colonial First State have a two-phase approval process just as we were proposing.
Colonial First State's 2-phase decision-making structure
ClickStream's decision flow was represented in another diagram as a cross-functional flowchart just as we did, but they broke it down to lower levels of detail, and had five bands rather than our two. This diagram also made it clear that the identification of need and the creation of a business justification are the responsibility of the business area, and that this must be supported by a powerful sponsor. The diagram also relates all requests back to business strategy as implemented through IT strategy.
As I looked for ways to present the needs of the company to senior management, I came across references to an approach called "IT Portfolio Management". This approach has its roots in Modern Portfolio Theory (MPT), which "describes how, for a given risk level, there is a specific mix of investments that will achieve an optimal return." (A Summary of First Practices and Lessons Learned in Information Technology Portfolio Management, page 2). IT portfolio management is now regarded as as one of the "central elements of good IT investment management." (page 3).
In this 39-page report prepared by the US Federal CIO Council Best Practices Committee, IT portfolio management is defined as follows:
"In the simplest and most practical terms, portfolio management is about the five following items:
- Defining goals and objectives – clearly articulate what the portfolio is expected to achieve.
- Understanding, accepting, and making tradeoffs – determine how much to invest in one thing as opposed to something else.
- Identifying, eliminating, minimizing, and diversifying risk – select a mix of investments that will avoid undue risk, will not exceed acceptable risk tolerance levels, and will spread risks across projects and initiatives to minimize adverse impacts.
- Monitoring portfolio performance – understand the progress that the portfolio is making toward the achievement of the goals and objectives.
- Achieving a desired objective – have the confidence that the desired outcome will likely be achieved given the aggregate of investments that are made." (page 4).
This document makes many helpful points, and lists nine lessons learned from experiences in the US federal government.
Lesson 1. Understand the differences and the relationship between portfolio management and project management and manage each one accordingly
Lesson 2. Gain and sustain the commitment of Agency officials and senior managers to make informed IT investment decisions at an enterprise level and to uphold them
Lesson 3. Establish and maintain an enterprise architecture to support and substantiate IT investment decisions
Lesson 4. Integrate IT portfolio management with the organization’s planning and budgeting policies, processes, and practices.
Lesson 5. Clearly define and communicate the goals and objectives to be served by the IT portfolio and the criteria and conditions for portfolio selection.
Lesson 6. Acquire and utilize portfolio, project management, decision support, and collaborative methodologies and tools
Lesson 7. Routinely collect and analyze data and information to assess portfolio performance and make adjustments, as necessary
Lesson 8. Carefully consider the internal and external customers and stakeholders of the organization’s IT portfolio
Lesson 9. Pay very close attention to the inter-organizational aspects of the organization’s IT portfolio
I located another useful web site maintained by the Washington State Department of Information Services. This site was a big help as I began drafting my first Sanitarium IT Portfolio.
Andrews University gave a lot of study to the question of what groupware software to use to "white collar productivity" and collaboration. When I joined the University in 1996, Novell was the network operating system that was used for file and print, WordPerfect was well established for word processing, and most people used a character-based Unix program for email. The options we considered for a groupware solution were:
Initially, it made a lot of sense to go with Novell's GroupWise, since we were already using their networking software. But even the strong Novell advocates in ITS agreed that would not be a good choice for Andrews. So that left three options. The functionality we were looking was not yet available as an Open Source solution, so that left Microsoft and Lotus. We actually had a consultant come and spend a day with us to help us decide between the two. In the end, the decision was made to go with Microsoft, largely on the basis that it had more functionality straight out of the box than Lotus, and therefore could be deployed with lower support costs.
Over the next six years, Microsoft Excel came to be the dominant spreadsheet software that was used, and most people used Microsoft PowerPoint for presentations, and Microsoft Access for personal database applications. Outlook was beginning to be the preferred email and personal information manager by users. ITS had made the decision to centralize logon authentication and access rights into Microsoft's Active Directory, and to switch from Novell networking to Microsoft Windows networking. In almost every way, Andrews had become a Microsoft campus. The one exception was in word processing. The official standard continued to be WordPerfect, although, through sales and support data in ITS, it was apparent to us that that change was taking place unofficially as students and new faculty and staff tended to be Microsoft Word users.
When I raised the issue of a standard for computer office suite software in 2000, it was suggested that while the corporate world might be moving to Microsoft, this did not seem to be happening in academia. So I sent a very brief email questionnaire to the EDUCAUSE CIO listserv. Altogether, I received and tabulated 29 responses. Three of the 29 supported WordPerfect (two of them jointly with Microsoft Word). Only one of the 29 did not support Microsoft Word, but were thinking of making the move (see summary). Colleen Keller, Information Specialist for EDUCAUSE, requested permission to post a link to the survey on the EDUCAUSE Information Resources page (http://www.educause.edu/645?PARENT_ID=375), which I was glad to give.
It seemed to me that if I were to force a vote on the issue of WordPerfect or Microsoft Word, that personal preference, experience, and familiarity would favor stating with WordPerfect regardless of the trends in business, the rest of academia, and even on our own campus, so I chose to let the matter take its own natural course for the time being.
In mid-2002, a statement made by a student PC support technician was interpreted to mean that ITS had unilaterally decided to cease supporting WordPerfect. So I knew it was time to approach the whole question of which office suite and which word processor should Andrews use. I decided to conduct a survey of current usage to determine what training seminars and workshops would be the most appreciated. It was interesting that during preliminary discussions and meetings with faculty groups and Deans' Council, I was given two seemingly impregnable arguments against leaving WordPerfect. Since Andrews was a General Conference (GC) institution, and the GC standard was WordPerfect, Andrews should use WordPerfect. The truth was that the GC had made Microsoft Word their standard 18 months earlier (plus, it Andrews is not bound to follow the GC anyway). The other argument was that Andrews' affiliate institutions use WordPerfect and can't afford to switch to Word. The truth in this case turned out to be the complete reverse - they are already using Word.
Anyhow, I conducted the survey, and received 205 responses. There were slightly more installations of Word than of WordPerfect. I wrote up the whole experience for competency 6(b) Theories of learning and human development as an "Application to a real life case study".
Most of the data was collected and analyzed after I had accepted a call back
to Australia to a position at Sanitarium Health Food Company, and there simply
was not sufficient time to bring the matter to a successful conclusion.
But subsequent to my leaving Andrews, some financial considerations have made
the decision to move to Microsoft more compelling, and I believe that new licensing
arrangements are being worked out for the Microsoft Office Suite for all students,
faculty and staff.
de Bono, Edward.
(1985). Six Thinking Hats. (EN-0141)
Ringwood, Australia: Penguin Books. ISBN: 014013784X
de Wilde, Marien.
(2002). Decision Tables [PowerPoint]. (EN-0751)
Retrieved 18-Jun- 2004
URL: http://www.sqnz.org.nz/documents/Decision%20Table%20training%20session.ppt (on local server)
Dwyer, Barry. How
to Write Cope Decision Tables [Web]. (EN-0750)
Retrieved 18-Jun- 2004
Federal CIO Council
Best Practices Committee. (2002). A Summary of First Practices and
Lessons Learned in Information Technology Portfolio Management [pdf]. (EN-0752)
Retrieved April 12, 2003 (not found on 18-Jun-2004)
URL: http://www.cio.gov/archive/BPC_portfolio_final.pdf (on local server)
Forman, Ernest H.
(2003). Expert Choice [Web]. (EN-0744)
Retrieved 18-Jun- 2004
Kepner, Charles H. and
Tregoe, Benjamin B. (1981). The New Rational Manager. (EN-0041)
Princeton: Princeton Research Press. ISBN: 8084367
Retrieved 18-Jun- 2004
Laudon, Kenneth C. and
Laudon, Jane Price. (2002). Management Information Systems: Managing
the Digital Firm (7th ed.). (EN-0745)
Upper Saddle River, NJ: Prentice-Hall Inc. ISBN: 0130330663 (editorial reviews)
(2002, October). The Fundamentals of Prioritizing Requirements. (EN-0762)
Paper presented at the Test & Evaluation Conference,, Sydney, Australia.
Retrieved 18-Jun- 2004
Mahesh (Mike) S. and Schkade, Lawrence L. Strategic Decision Making:
A Framework For Multicriteria Decision Analysis Of Technology Investments And
A Field Survey [Web]. (EN-0763)
Retrieved May 18, 2003 (not found on 18-Jun-2004)
Smith, Paul. (2003,
April). Cooking With Gas: How To Make Your I.T. Projects Sizzle. Managing
Information Strategies, p42. (EN-0754)
Retrieved 18-Jun- 2004
(on local server)
State Department of Information Services. (2002, April 2002). Information
Technology Portfolio Management Standards [Web]. (EN-0753)
Retrieved 18-Jun- 2004
Created: Sunday, February 20, 2000 05:43 PM
Last Modified: Thursday, October 6, 2005 12:45 PM