Solutions Help Make Decisions Easy
By Jim Bray
If you're a marketer faced with a tough decision, there's a software-based
resource that might save you some extra skull sweat.
It's called Quick Insight, and it's a digital doohickey that
uses a question and answer format to give you a whole mess of virtual
analyses designed to bail you out of your corporate conundrum, while
giving you a computer-based scapegoat to blame if things don't work out
according to plan.
The manufacturer, Business Resource Software, bills Quick Insight as
an expert system and is targeting it at entrepreneurs, small
to medium sized business executives and product managers. The idea behind
the software is to give these people an arm's length perspective of their
brain child's market potential.
Quick Insight is pretty easy to use. According to an on-line demo I saw
on the companys Web site, the software walks you through a one-hour
interview process during which it gathers information about what the manufacturer
decrees as the critical factors that can affect the potential for success
of your creative burst.
The interview procedure begins with Quick Insight asking you to give
it some basic information, like the name of your enterprise, your competitors
names and topics like your pricing strategy, distribution techniques,
and market positioning.
The interview reminds me of the information gathering that accounting
software packages like Quickbooks put you through, which means it's pretty
painless in the grand scheme of things.
Once you've submitted to this virtual grilling, the software gives you
a 50-page report that rates its opinion of your concepts potential
for success and for making you or your company bags of money.
You also get a written summary that includes any perceived inconsistencies
or areas that require extra attention. This summary goes so far as to
touch on areas like actions you need to take to boost sales, and an analysis
of market factors that could influence your product or services
The experts behind this expert system are supposedly some 40 strategy
gurus whose brains the company has picked and stuck into the package.
It sounds like a rather disgusting procedure; I hope all these brains
have been stored safely in a plastic bag inside the softwares box,
or things could get quite messy when you first unpack it...
For people who really want to get graphic, the software also spits out
some 35 charts that supposedly illustrate critical marketing and sales
If, much to your chagrin, you get a report that suggests you'd be well
served if you start sending out resumes, you can second guess the software
and your project. Quick Insight has provisions for examining the underlying
reasoning the application used to reach each conclusion. You can also
take a look at how your interview answers influenced the program's conclusions,
and you can go back and change your answers to see how they change Quick
The company behind Quick Insight, Business Resource Software, has been
developing this type of software for over a decade, and claims that over
half of all Fortune 500 companies have used their stuff to help them screw
up their courage and make decisions. It also offers a Quick Insight
on steroids version of the expert system called Business Insight.
At $795, it's a lot more expensive than the $130 Quick Insight, so entrepreneurs
and small business people on a budget might want to try the more diminutive
version to see how it works out before stampeding to its big brother.
Better still, there's an on-line demo available at http://www.businessplansoftware.org/qidemo/qidemo.asp,
and it can give you a feel for how Quick Insight works. Some of the graphics
in the demo are pretty hard to read, but on the whole it's a pretty good
Quick Insight runs on all Windows platforms from Window 95 on, and only
requires 16 meg of Ram and 25 Meg of hard drive space. It's available
on-line from the company, at www.brs-inc.com.
I don't know if a one size fits all digital counselor can
be your ace in the hole, or if these expert systems are any substitute
for some good old fashioned thinking or market research, but I suppose
any tool with the potential of giving you a leg up on your competition
can't be all bad.
Besides, it's cheaper than hiring those forty experts in real life.
Jim Bray's technology columns are distributed by the TechnoFILE and Mochila Syndicates. Copyright Jim Bray.
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