By Charles Seiter
If you're trying to model complex business situations, Excel's
Solver function will get you only so far; traditional risk-optimization
products like @RISK and Evolver
(see New Products, November 1998) take you a bit further. RISKOptimizer,
from the maker of @RISK and Evolver, handles scheduling, equipment
usage, and financial and other problems that cannot readily be crunched
with conventional risk-optimization software. For instance, it could
allow a shop to use staffing costs and its sales records to determine
the best business hours. Scheduling studies in RISKOptimizer could
also use time-based estimates of traffic jams, rather than simple
distance, to plan optimal routes.
In a plain Excel model, you use single numbers for all variables to come up with a simple result--for example, Profit = Income Expense. Classic tools like Solver let you plug in a range of values for variables to optimize the result. RISKOptimizer incorporates probability data, so you get not only a range of results but also an assessment of the most likely outcomes. The ability to optimize using actual data from business records as well as most-likely values of inputs (while adjusting statistically for other possible values) makes RISKOptimizer a better tool than its predecessors
The product demands hefty processing power: In my tests with a shipping copy, small problems with ten adjustable cells took a minute or so to process at 300 MHz. But this beats the weeks you'd need using simple spreadsheets to calculate scheduling, portfolio, distribution, or other problems. This Excel add-in costs more than Excel itself, and it's serious, MBA-level software. But it's easy to learn, and for many business problems, it's the most practical power tool around.
PRO: Uniquely versatile business problemsolver that is surprisingly easy to learn.
CON: Puts serious number-crunching demands on hardware
VALUE: Easily pays for itself on complex problems.
For more information, contact:Randy Heffernan