“THE “RAD” APPROACH TO SIMULATION MODELS

 

“Rapid Application Development”…When we look for ways to facilitate recurring, complex business decision-making processes, attention often turns to developing computer-based simulation models. In an earlier economic era, we had a different perspective on what resources were called for to build such systems. Our frame of reference often involved pricey consultancies, high-end software requirements, and protracted development calendars. Those were the days of bloated corporate budgets. Clearly, that era has passed, probably permanently.

Fortunately, modern web-based technologies have evolved to allow us to build such applications within the constraints of today’s real-world budgets, in terms of both time and treasure.

THE NEW GUIDING PRINCIPLE: “RAPID APPLICATION DEVELOPMENT”

The good news is that technologies have evolved that enable us to develop robust business simulation models with a true RAD (Rapid Application Development) mindset.  That serves two important purposes. First, it tames development budgets into a rational, digestible range. That enables consideration of development and integration of highly functional, web-based decision support models into a much broader range of potential strategic processes.

They aren’t constrained to high-profile, senior management sponsored initiatives. They should also be considered for lower level, specialized management processes, like…

 

  • The Engineering department’s analytical protocols for developing a new package design
  • Marketing’s process for allocating marketing budgets
  • Finance dashboards for division-level VPs
  • A delivery scheduling and routing application for Logistics
  • Etc.

“JUST IN TIME DELIVERY”

The second major benefit with a RAD context is that new decision-support models can be made operational within the front end of the actual life-cycle of the process itself. This may sound like a self-evident requirement for a development initiative, but experience shows that it often does not play out that way. Bureaucracy burdened development initiatives often stretch out to a point that the original analytical process morphs into a completely different set of concepts and sub-models.

We have seen such projects where the original analytical need has become replaced with a new set of strategic analysis processes, driven by a new overarching corporate strategic plan. It comes with its own set of new buzzwords, essential “strategic pillars” and brand new modeling requirements.  Another new reality is that the trend is for decreasing half-lives in strategic and analytical processes.

So it is now more important than ever to take an approach that is nimble, fast and more easily disposable, as the corporate meme takes new turns.

HOW WE DO THIS-OUR TECHNOLOGY STACK

Most commercial, modern web sites are built on top of a CMS, a Content Management System. This enables developers and site owners to quickly and easily add or edit content. There are a number of good open-source CMS platforms available. We have researched and compared current competing systems and have found the Wordpress software system to be the most powerful, secure and professionally-coded infrastructure for our simulation modeling projects. We have acquired substantial experience in this platform and particular expertise in this specialized field of web-based management simulation models.

Historically, we have completed many successful model development projects using the old-fashioned method :  Excel models controlled by VBA macros. That approach continues to satisfy many needs and client requests, but more often we find that client needs dictate an online, interactive web-based platform. This promotes a more orderly process for version control,  selective access by specific personnel, and remotely dispersed user teams. It also enables a very powerful role-based functionality which allows us to craft limited access to specific views into the simulation models.

Decision-support simulation models almost always require a few fundamental analytical tools operating in the background, such as:

  • A robust computational engine (think spreadsheet frameworks like Excel or Google Spreadsheets)
  • A secure database system
  • Powerful user input forms
  • Flexible navigational menus
  • Role-based selective access to specific content areas and menu items
  • Dashboards and sophisticated data visualization tools

In order to replicate the capabilities of the computational toolset of traditional desktop-bound spreadsheet models, we use some best-of-breed web-based APIs (Application Programming Interfaces).  While there are many available, our research has led us to use specific programming code libraries such as Google’s spreadsheet and data visualization APIs for most of our model development work.  These are supported by a recognized industry leader with a reputation for continuously improving their feature sets.

Typically, the decision-support simulations our clients want to develop will require comprehensive security to ensure they are not accessed by unauthorized personnel.  The WordPress CMS platform we build upon provides for a number of powerful security-related features. Because the WordPress system is used for web sites for many large, well-established corporate brands and government agencies, not surprisingly it has spawned an aftermarket for very robust security features and code plugins.

We take advantage of current best practices and those tools to provide highly secured online tools for the most security-minded environments.

Have An Application That Comes to Mind?

We have a simple proposal:  Let us spend some time with any analytical business protocol you currently have (on a confidential basis). Then let us show you a quick prototype design and a proposal for how we would build out a comprehensive model for you. If we don’t have a meeting of the minds, you will have invested nothing in the process except a minimal amount of time.