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Training Media Review- Review: Advisor P.I.

12/08/00
Review by Sandy Chlanda

A caution to the company that purchases this product: there will suddenly be more perceived performance problems than ever before. Employees at all levels are going to have an unprecedented interest in finding and investigating performance issues - all because of this product. Beginning with the clever packaging, it will hook users. Making decisions really shouldn't be this easy or this fun.

ADVISOR P.I. is a computerized decision support tool. It conducts a root cause analysis of a performance gap and makes recommendations for the most cost-effective solutions leading to the desired productivity level. It's easy to install, and the excellent user guide also explains the installation process for use on a network. The guide explains in simple terms how to proceed through the process; as a result I had no problem navigating through it. If that isn't enough, the software offers a tutorial session. The only prerequisite is basic computer knowledge.

ADVISOR P.I. uses a series of modules to conduct analyses on both a macro and micro level. The modules include problem definition, assumptions, data collection, general costs, target population, performance gap, source of problem, specific costs, total costs, solutions, decision making, and summary. Each module seems complete - all the necessary steps leading to a decision are present, including multiple scenarios for performance gaps such as job tools, competencies, loss of productivity, equipment, costs, and training.

Road map

To perform the analysis, the user proceeds through the series of modules entering specifics and building a picture of the problem. The user guide gives examples of how to enter data properly in each module. The software provides possible responses, but the user always has the option of entering additional information. Throughout, support materials are available such as forms that can be printed and used in data collection.

The solutions module has three sections: recommended solutions, direct and indirect costs, and feasibility-effectiveness. I found this division helpful. Rationale for recommendations are provided as well as computed savings and return on investment. For me, the best feature of the module is the capability to generate charts, graphs, and other types of graphics to help in the presentation of recommendations - a great time saver.

You make the call

Remember that this is a support tool. It doesn't pretend to be something it's not: software that will do away with thinking and make the decision for you. The user needs to have a grasp of the problem and provide accurate and relevant data. Otherwise, the ancient rule of computing applies: garbage in, garbage out. The tool is useful precisely because it doesn't try to do the thinking. It supports the user with a disciplined process for investigating a performance problem and an array of resources that can help capture essential data. Just as important, it can improve the degree of confidence in the final decision.

There's another way this tool can be immensely valuable, one that should be of interest to training professionals. Because it's so thorough, easy to use, and provides rationales for recommended solutions, I could see it easily being used as a source for checking and correcting or reinforcing decision-making scenarios completed by students in a training situation. I also think that employees and managers at many levels, with guidance, could utilize the tool to assist them in decision making or, at the very least, in understanding the reasoning behind performance-related decisions.

Recommendation

Can you use software that structures performance-related decisions but doesn't make hollow claims for automated decision making? If so, you've found it. The program takes you step by step through a linear process leading to a recommendation about how to close a performance gap. Moreover, it speeds data collection and meeting presentations with a variety of forms and aids and a presentation graphics capability. The user guide is uncommonly helpful, and gasp!-it's clearly written. The network price however, makes that version affordable only for large organizations.

Product Ratings Advisor P.I.

Presentation            ****
Ease of use ****
Ease of installation ****
Production quality *** 1/2
Documentation          *** 1/2
Value of Purpose ***
Value for the money ***
Overall rating  *** 1/2

Rating

Outstanding ****
Very Good *** 1/2
Good ***
Above Average ** 1/2
Average **
Below Average * 1/2
Poor *


From Training Media Review, http://www.tmreview.com. Copyright © 1999, 2001 TMR Publications. Reprinted by permission.


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