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take me six separate software packages to do all those things. I would love
to do it all in Excel, and I know that to some degree you can.
Julia: Just before I came over here my boss dumped another project on my
desk that he wants done in Excel. The Excel Wonder Woman convinced
him that we ought to be building all our important analytical tools on
Excel— Decision Support Systems she calls them. And if I hear the term
collaborative one more time, I’m going to explode.
Ram: Julia, I have to go, but let’s talk more about this. Maybe we can help each
other learn more about the capabilities of Excel.
Julia: This is exciting. Reminds me of our study group work in the MBA.
This brief episode is occurring with uncomfortable frequency for many people
in decision making roles. Technology, in the form of desktop software and hard-
ware, is becoming as much a part of day-to-day business analysis as the concepts
and techniques that have been with us for years. Although sometimes complex, the
difficulty has not been in understanding these concepts and techniques, but more
often, how to put them to use. For many individuals, if software were available for
modeling problems, it could be unfriendly and inflexible; if software were not avail-
able, then we were limited to solving baby problems that were generally of little
practical interest.
1.3 Why Model Problems?
It may appear to be trivial to ask why we model problems, but it is worth consider-
ing. Usually, there are at least two reasons for modeling problems—(1) if a problem
has important financial and organizational implications, then it deserves serious
consideration, and modeling permits serious analysis, and (2) on a very practical
level, often we are directed by superiors to model a problem because they believe
it is worthwhile. For a subordinate decision maker and analyst, important prob-
lems generally call for more than a gratuitous “I think
” to satisfy
a superior’s questions. Increasingly, superiors are asking questions about decisions
that require careful investigation of assumptions, and that question the sensitivity
of decision outcomes to changes in environmental conditions and the assumptions.
To deal with these questions, formality in decision making is a must; thus, we build
models that can accommodate this higher degree of scrutiny. Ultimately, modeling
can, and should, lead to better overall decision making.
1.4 Why Model Decision Problems with Excel?
So, if the modeling of decision problems is important and necessary in our work,
then what modeling tool(s) do we select? In recent years there has been little doubt
as to the answer of this question for most decision makers: Microsoft Excel. Excel
is the most pervasive, all-purpose modeling tool on the planet due to its ease of use.
It has a wealth of internal capability that continues to grow as each new version
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