The Decision Analysis and Resolution process area involves establishing guidelines to determine which issues should be subject to a formal evaluation process and applying formal evaluation processes to these issues. A formal evaluation process is a structured approach to evaluating alternative solutions against established criteria to determine a recommended solution. A formal evaluation process involves the following actions:
- Establishing the criteria for evaluating alternatives
- Identifying alternative solutions
- Selecting methods for evaluating alternatives
- Evaluating alternative solutions using established criteria and methods
- Selecting recommended solutions from alternatives based on evaluation criteria
Rather than using the phrase “alternative solutions to address issues” each time, in this process area, one of two shorter phrases are used: “alternative solutions” or “alternatives.” A formal evaluation process reduces the subjective nature of a decision and provides a higher probability of selecting a solution that meets multiple demands of relevant stakeholders. While the primary application of this process area is to technical concerns, formal evaluation processes can be applied to many nontechnical issues, particularly when work is being planned. Issues that have multiple alternative solutions and evaluation criteria lend themselves to a formal evaluation process.
Typical examples of formal evaluation processes include the following:
- Trade studies of equipment or software
- Comparisons of potential service capabilities to develop
During planning, specific issues requiring a formal evaluation process are identified. Typical issues include selection among architectural or design alternatives, use of reusable or commercial off-the-shelf (COTS) components, supplier selection, engineering support environments or associated tools, test environments, delivery alternatives, and logistics and production. A formal evaluation process can also be used to address a make-or-buy decision, the development of manufacturing processes, the selection of distribution locations, and other decisions. Guidelines are created for deciding when to use formal evaluation processes to address unplanned issues. Guidelines often suggest using formal evaluation processes when issues are associated with medium-to- high-impact risks or when issues affect the ability to achieve work objectives. Defining an issue well helps to define the scope of alternatives to be considered. The right scope (i.e., not too broad, not too narrow) will aid in making an appropriate decision for resolving the defined issue. Formal evaluation processes can vary in formality, type of criteria, and methods employed. Less formal decisions can be analyzed in a few hours, use few criteria (e.g., effectiveness, cost to implement), and result in a one- or two-page report. More formal decisions can require separate plans, months of effort, meetings to develop and approve criteria, simulations, prototypes, piloting, and extensive documentation. Both numeric and non-numeric criteria can be used in a formal evaluation process. Numeric criteria use weights to reflect the relative importance of criteria. Non-numeric criteria use a subjective ranking scale (e.g., high, medium, low). More formal decisions can require a full trade study. A formal evaluation process identifies and evaluates alternative solutions. The eventual selection of a solution can involve iterative activities of identification and evaluation. Portions of identified alternatives can be combined, emerging technologies can change alternatives, and the business situation of suppliers can change during the evaluation period. A recommended alternative is accompanied by documentation of selected methods, criteria, alternatives, and rationale for the recommendation. The documentation is distributed to relevant stakeholders; it provides a record of the formal evaluation process and rationale, which are useful to other work groups that encounter a similar issue. While some of the decisions made throughout the work involve the use of a formal evaluation process, others do not. As mentioned earlier, guidelines should be established to determine which issues should be subject to a formal evaluation process.