Palisade's spreadsheet add-ins give realism to projections
By Peter Coffee
March 9, 1998
Spreadsheet software becomes far more useful with the added capabilities of DecisionTools Pro, a comprehensive suite of easy-to-use risk analysis and decision optimization add-ins for Microsoft Corp.'s Excel.
Palisade Corp. has packaged the latest versions of five of its products, still sold separately at a combined cost of more than $2,000, into this package that was released in January for less than $1,300. The result is not as integrated as it might have been, but the separate modules can be learned at a comfortable pace and will not burden users' machines as heavily as a monolithic tool.
For most spreadsheet users, the most important piece of DecisionTools Pro will be its uncertainty modeling aid, @RISK. @RISK requires direct entry of probability distributions, using a vocabulary of new cell functions with names such as RiskNormal (for a Gaussian normal bell curve). Those who are employing other spreadsheet documentation tools will find @RISK a good fit because the user's probability assumptions become an integral part of the normal cell formula syntax.
PrecisionTree graphically depicts a set of possible options as a branching network, letting users associate probabilities and outcomes with some nodes while other nodes represent either-or choices. PrecisionTree then lets users "roll up" the network, automatically calculating weighted values for the probabilistic outcomes.
The Pro version of PrecisionTree, included in the Pro suite that we tested, gave us the option of viewing a slimmed-down version of the network that showed only the branches we should follow in the various possible scenarios.
Another key component of Decision Tools Pro is TopRank, which analyzes a spreadsheet and determines which cell values most strongly affect the overall result. These cells can then be given extra attention in later simulations. TopRank Pro, included in the Pro suite, can analyze spreadsheets that use @RISK uncertainty functions and is therefore required to make full use of @RISK's capabilities.
The DecisionTools suite also includes modules that let users fit a formal probability distribution to actual data or to subjective estimates of how a quantity will behave.
PC Week Labs Executive Summary: DecisionTools Pro 1.0
Palisade's DecisionTools Pro suite combines a well-polished set of risk analysis add-ins to offer a cost-effective decision-support package that works well with Microsoft's Excel spreadsheet.
Pros: Intuitive treatment of risk and uncertainty; clear analytic summaries and presentation charts.
Cons: Minor quirks in graphical rendering; complex displays need high-resolution screen for clear presentation.
Palisade Corp.,Ithaca, N.Y. (800) 432-7475; firstname.lastname@example.org
Scoring methodology: www.pcweek.com/reviews/meth.html
By stating values as risky functions (top of screen) instead of using falsely exact estimates, Palisade's @RISK lets users build realistic models. Palisade's PrecisionTree module presents a series of decisions as a network of nodes that each represent a choice or an uncertain outcome.
For more information, contact:Randy Heffernan