Imperfect Information: The Decision Analysis Blog

Top 10 Highlights & Bottom 10 Lowlights from the INFORMS 2014 Annual Meeting

We're back from the INFORMS 2014 Annual Meeting, and it was a doozy. If you were not able to attend, we've taken the sting out of that by giving you the high- and low-lights from the event.


1. Our well attended official DPMX software demo, and the on-demand demos requested in the booth. We're jazzed about DPMX and love talking about it.


INFORMS annual meeting day zero: Decision Analysis celebrates its 50th birthday

Decision Analysis has reached a certain age. As with most ideas, decision analysis came about over a period of time, but the official methodological dating committee has deemed Ron Howard's 1964 paper, "Decision Analysis: Applied Decision Theory" to be the day the stork arrived. To celebrate, DAS and SDP organized a pre-informs session featuring talks, drinks and dinner, held the day before the start of the INFORMS annual meeting (call it INFORMS day zero).

DPMX -- What it is and why we're excited about it

In recent months we at Syncopation have been hard at work on a set of tools we call DPMX, short for DPL Portfolio Management eXtentions. DPMX is a key piece of the puzzle for organizations that want to do portfolio analysis/prioritization based on decision analysis principles and don't want to get lost in a labrynth of email, spreadsheets and PowerPoint decks.

DPL has been in the decision analysis business for over 20 years and the portfolio decision analysis business for 15.


DPL 8.00.07 update is available

The DPL maintenance update 8.00.07 is now available for download. This update includes several enhancements and bug fixes, including these:

BUG: Policy tree outlining shows extra rows (Excel side interface) (#1792)
BUG: Confusing behaviour creating nodes with invalid suggested cell names (Excel side interface) (#1752)
ENH: Option to turn off Excel screen updating during linked run (#1797)
ENH: Alternate keyboard shortcuts for cut/copy/paste in get/pays and other grids (#693)
BUG: Internal error 94 updating reports with certain runtime errors (Portfolio version) (#1761)


DPL Software in the Latest Decision Analysis Software Survey

October is a lively time of year at Syncopation Software. As the leaves start dropping at our home base in New England, business tends to pick up. In addition to our code monkeys (i.e., everyone but myself) diligently plugging away on DPL, our preparations for exhibiting at the INFORMS Annual Meeting are in full swing, while a multitude of inquiries from the many students prompted by their professors to download our free DPL trial license are also being dealt with.


DPL 8.00.06 update is available

The DPL maintenance update 8.00.06 is now available for download. This update includes several enhancements and bug fixes, including these:

ENH: Replay endpoints enabled with a halt() function (#49)
BUG: Error creating nodes from selection two or more times when workbook is not saved (Excel side interface) (#1750)
BUG: DPL may give memory error loading large policy trees from saved workspace (#1774)
BUG: Application error in automatic update on some systems (#1775)
ENH: Support for @product function added (#1782)


The Almanac Exercise: A Decision Analysis Classic

Decision Analysis Almanac Exercise

If you're a member of the Decision Analysis choir, you can stop reading now. Otherwise, have you ever taken or given an almanac exercise? If not, you should! Here's what it is...

The almanac exercise is a probability assessment game well known within some DA circles, but as I keep reminding my choirboy friends, not everybody comes from ADA/SDG/DFI/EES/UT/etc.

Performance Reviews: A Decision Analysis Perspective

Personnel decisions are real decisions, but rarely (if ever?) do decision analysts talk about them in the terms of the trade. Perhaps we should. To get started, I'll offer my take on the DA of HR, so to speak.

A performance review seeks to determine the performance of an employee -- how well is s/he doing the job. (Let's not get into scales, weights, etc, but assume there is a metric.) Ostensibly, that measurement is supposed to answer/inform three questions/decisions:

1. Should this employee be fired?

5 Ways to Celebrate the 50th Birthday of Decision Analysis!

Get your party hats out folks. Fifty years ago our DA forefathers, Howard Raiffa and Ron Howard, independently established the field of decision analysis as it is practiced today in thousands of companies and universities across the globe. For those of you who aren't in the know, Decision Analysis, put simply, is a formal method for making decisions.

DPL 8.00.05 update is available

The DPL maintenance update 8.00.05 is now available for download. This update includes several enhancements and bug fixes, including these:

ENH: New/changed API functions DBDeleteData, UpdateReport, SetProjectIDs (#1726)
CHG: Prevent installation of potentially conflicting DPL versions (#1748)
ENH: Search node collection when selected (#1672)
BUG: Internal error 94 updating portfolio data reports with certain lookup errors (#1761)
CHG: Default precision for reduction increased (#1749)


Information Only Has Value if it Could Change Your Decision

A recent article from the Bangor Daily News provides a colorful illustration of the principle, long known to decision analysts, that the value of information is zero if the information couldn't change your decision. "Man charged after he asked police for a Breathalyzer test, was told not to drive, then drove anyway"

5 Ways to Screw Up a Decision Analysis Project

(Or, how about just a little bit of process to go with that gorgeous decision tree?)

Personally, I've always loved a beautiful model, whether it's based on decision trees, Monte Carlo, dynamic programming, or any other quantitative method. I've made a few beautiful models myself, and have admired many more created by colleagues and DPL users. However, fairly early on in my career I began to notice that the correlation between the beauty of a model and the success of a project (as measured on the armchair decision quality index) was quite small.

Decision Trees without Decisions? What's that About?

It's surprising to me how often I encounter "decision models" that don't actually include any decisions. I'll answer the question suggested by the title straight away: I think it's a mistake not to include an explicit decision, for reasons that will follow.

Nobody ever wants to admit that their model is a worry analysis, a pointless forecast, an anxiety management device, etc -- they will always say there is a decision. The decision is implicit, of course, can't you see it?

INFORMS Business Analytics Conference Wrap-Up: A Booth-Only Perspective

As the Marketing Coordinator (i.e., not programmer, analyst, consultant, etc.) at Syncopation Software, I'm the first to admit that I'm an amateur when it comes to business analytics and operations research. I've never taken a course relating to anything to do with business, advanced mathematics, decision science, operations research, etc. I've got a B.A.


Big Data and Decision Analysis: From Data to Information to Decision Quality

Most decision analysts greet "Big Data" with considerable scepticism. Eyes roll, arms are crossed, someone mumbles something about driving while looking in the rear view mirror. It's safe to say Big Data hasn't been welcomed with open arms by the DA community.

When some new/rebranded management science thing comes along, we can react in one of several ways:

   0. This thing is worthless rubbish.
   1. This thing isn't new, we've been doing this all along.

When is a Decision Analysis Model Too Simple?

I'm often asked to comment on or critique someone else's decision analysis model, and I'm actually happy to do so. The space of models is vast, and with each new one there's always the possibility I'll discover something truly new, a flavor of uncertainty or unusual approach to capturing it that I've never thought about before. (Matter of taste I guess ... some people prefer baseball statistics.) Most of the time I'm able to offer suggestions that might improve the model.

As a matter of policy I don't offer an opinion about whether a model is "correct".


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