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Business Modeling: No Spreadsheets Required

Lumina's Analytica rends the veil that has kept business managers from collaborating with analysts on complex business models
Added Dimensions

Analytica supports, in logical ways, quantitative operations on tables and cubes. One powerful feature lets you drag and drop a new dimension into place with everything integrating appropriately. Compare this to the mess you get when you add a third dimension to a 2-D model in a spreadsheet.

"Analytica allows you to easily build complexity into a model once you have a concept of how things interrelate," says Tim Nieman, a senior decision analyst at Geomatrix. "It's a great scenario-analysis tool. It's quick to build and quick to make adjustments on the fly. I use it in meetings as a live tool. With Excel, I would have to plan the variations beforehand."

But for all its unique capabilities, Analytica could be improved. For example, version 3.0 doesn't provide a convenient graphical interface for slicing and dicing, which OLAP users have come to expect. Also, it doesn't have some seemingly basic features, such as an "undo" button.

A team using Analytica must have someone with the aptitude of a quantitative MBA, but the tool helps experts communicate with stakeholders, and managers can drill into details to check if models are right.

CLOCKWISE FROM TOP LEFT: input form; concept objects and relationships; uncertainty distributions for this "rent vs. buy" analysis; a drill-down of the "cost to buy" object; (middle) specs for a "rate of inlation" object.

You might think that something that acts as both a design tool and a presentation whiteboard wouldn't be scalable, but users say that's not the case. Comparing Analytica to the spreadsheet tool he previously used for Monte Carlo simulation of warranty exposure and service provisioning and planning, Robert M. Holland, senior reliability engineer at Ballard Power Systems, says he experienced several performance improvements: The number of equations decreased from one per (worksheet) cell to one per array. File size decreased by a factor of 100 or more. Calculation speed increased by a factor of five to 10. Development time decreased by a factor of two to five. And the number of files decreased from one per program or product to one file containing all programs and products. Holland says he also prefers Analytica's ease of use, intuitive visual interface and the ease of modification through array abstraction.

• Analytica costs $1,295 to $11,000 for a permanent license, depending on features. A downloadable 30-day free trial is available at www.lumina.com.

Barry Grushkin is a senior partner at The Machine Intelligence Group. Write to him at [email protected].