Complex Business Modeling Made Easy
By Charles Seiter
May 1999
Reviewed in

May 1999

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
Tel: +1 607-277-8000
Fax: +1 607-277-8001

130 East Seneca Street
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800 432 RISK (US/Can)
+1 607 277 8000
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