Evaluating Alternatives

Firstly it is necessary to work up alternative solutions either to correct a problem or take advantage of a perceived opportunity or improvement.

The problem or opportunity will form the basis

for determining requirements that must be met by any solution. Here a model may be useful to clarify the issues involved. Having determined the requirements, they should be marked as either critical (prerequisite), not critical but desirable or not critical. The ideal solution would satisfy all the requirements but may not be cost effective.

It is helpful to set up a table with the following columns:

- Alternatives - this will list all the alternative solutions.

- Columns for each of the requirements. Critical, desirable and not critical may be in different colors to make it easy to distinguish them. A tick or cross would show whether theyay are met or not.

- Estimated Cost for each alternative. A ball-park figure.

- Expected benefits, quantified as well as possible to make comparison easier. But do not rely exclusively on such a quantification as they are often unrealistic.

- Expected completion time.

- Manpower Requirements. if possible, detailing the skilled categories required and the amount of time needed - fu;;- ot=r part-time.

- Risks. Whether high, low or medium risk with a description of particular risks associated with the alternative.  In this regard it is good to keep in mind that a seemingly low-risk solution such as Improving an existing system may be reliant on obsolescent technology which may limit the life of the solution and thus end up as being high-risk.

- Implementation Strategy  Can it be implented in stages or will it be possible to operate in parallel with an existing system before changeover or will there be a pilot project before rolling out the implementation to the rest of the enterprise.

- Expected life of the solution.

All of these are important factors which should be considered. It is a good idea to have a structured process to make sure that important issues do not get overlooked and them come back to haunt the project. There may well be other issues of importance in a particular case and columns for these should be added to the table. This is merely a general list of common issues and not exhaustive.

When evaluating the alternatives, all those which do not meet the critical requirements should be excluded from consideration, unless they are particularly attractive for some reason  It may be that a solution which seems high-cost but risky may offer very attractive benefits, in which case ways to mitigate the risk or reduce cost while retaining the benefits should be sought.

In the end a decision is more of an art than a science and the real purpose of this process is to clarify the issues and enable better decisions to be made. There are too many unknowns to allow certainty in any decision. one can only hope too be correct most of the time.