Decision-making can be made easy

With new software from Avantos, even a novice
can create a decision table in just a few minutes


Sometimes making a complex decision can be difficult. Variables abound. Their relative importance is unclear. Reasonable people’s assessments can differ.

Consider, for example, choosing an expert witness. Presented with several candidates, you might look at such factors as credibility, personality, past testimony and fees, just to name a few. If one candidate is not the obvious winner on most criteria, selecting the right witness could be a problem.

Avantos Performance Systems of Emeryville has software that can help. DecideRight for Windows ($149 list price, $99 on the street) makes decision-making -- and group consensus-building -- easy.

Five steps

Even a novice can create a decision table in minutes using DecideRight’s QuickBuild function, which guides the user through a five-step process:

  1. Enter the title for the decision table. Above is an example decision table I called Select-a-Network Vendor. It is a simplified illustration of how to use DecideRight to choose the right integrator to implement a new computer network.
  2. List the options. Options (in the example, four candidate vendors) are listed along the left side of the table. Options can be listed in any order; as the options are evaluated in subsequent steps, DecideRight automatically re-ranks the options from best to worst.
  3. Enter the criteria. Criteria are listed along the top of the table. There are six criteria in the example: suitability of network design; number of similar systems already implemented; experience level of personnel who will be assigned to the project; the vendor’s financial strength and stability; results of reference checks and price.
  4. Weigh the importance of each criterion. Weights can be assigned numerically from the keyboard or by using the mouse to drag a Weighting Slider. The more important the criterion, the greater the weight. As weights are assigned, DecideRight automatically re-ranks the criteria from most- to least-important.
  5. Rate each option against each criterion. This is where the real work is done. Each cell in the table contains the rating for a given option and criterion. Excellent-good-fair-poor ratings can be entered quickly via the mouse and a Rating Slider. Yes-no and pass-fail ratings are available.

Numeric ratings can be scaled to meet the needs of each criterion. In the example, each rating under “# of similar implementations” is the number of prior implementations for the vendor; the range is one to 10, with higher numbers being better. Each rating under “price” is the total cost of all products and services divided by $1,000; the range is 100 to 200, with lower numbers being better.


DecideRight presents the overall score for each option in the “summary” column. Scores can be presented as numbers, bars or excellent-good-fair-poor evaluations.

Once the main decision table is created, users can create alternative scenarios that reflect changes to criteria weights and ratings. Scenarios can be particularly powerful tools for group decision-making. As each participant’s scenario is presented and discussed, other participants can reflect on their own scenarios and assumptions. The participants will better understand one another’s points of view and, with a little luck, will move quickly toward consensus.

DecideRight can produce a detailed report that explains the decision and all the factors that went into making it. The explanation of which factors were most critical in choosing among the options is particularly helpful. The report can be printed or sent to a file for editing via word processing software.

A Windows 95 version of DecideRight should be released by the time you read this. Avantos can be reached at 1-800/282-6867 or on the World Wide Web at

Dana H. Shultz is an Oakland-based lawyer, certified management consultant and speaker specializing in office technology and online marketing. He may be reached by e-mail at and on the World Wide Web at