Making Risk & Decision analysis accessible to all

It’s clear that the financial crisis has exposed a number of failings in the practice of risk management. In my last post I talked about the relevance risk analysis and the disciplines of ‘quantitative risk management’ (QRM) and ‘decision making under uncertainty’ (DMU) are to all sizes of organisations, be it large or small. 

However, how accessible are these disciplines to the average size business across the globe today?

With the need to make more informed decisions more pressing by the day, thankfully QRM and DMU and now far more accessible than ever before.  Traditionally systems tended to be expensive, enterprise-based applications targeted at large companies who were prepared to spend considerable time, money and human resources.  The result was an all-singing, all-dancing product which often ended up underused due to confusion on the part of the very employees who were supposed to make it work.

Steady increases in computer processing have given the desktops of today as much power as the high-end servers of a few years ago, meaning that risk analysis and management is now an achievable goal for businesses of all sizes.  Palisades @RISK and Decision Tools Suite software are such desktop risk and decision analysis tools – working within Microsoft Excel and therefore being accessible to a large number of users.

‘Monte Carlo Simulation’, a technique originally conceived by scientists working to develop the atomic bomb as part of the Manhattan Project, is an inherent part of @RISK, a cornerstone of the Suite.  It enables users to introduce uncertainty into their previously static spreadsheets, which lets them look at things in a probabilistic, rather than a deterministic way.  In layman’s terms, this means that rather than companies and individuals making decisions based on estimates or best guesses, they can see all the potential outcomes to a venture – and how likely these scenarios are to occur.

For many companies this significantly improves the decision-making process.  Firstly it requires a change in the methodology of employees responsible for assessing risks and opportunities and secondly for the first time employees have a tool which allows them to communicate their recommendations to management or colleagues in a transparent and standardised way.  Equally, being able to look at scheduling risk in a probabilistic and quantitative sense allows for the allocation of labour and resources in a way which minimises slack and wastage whilst maximizing ROI.

So, it would seem that the new ‘risk management’ language that is starting to develop in the workplace and being taught to a new generation of managers on MBA courses should be welcomed.  With the accessibility of the technology available to assist them, we need to make sure that organisations do more than just pay lip service to QRM and DMU if they are to reap the rewards.

In my next blog I’ll be giving you the my top ten tips to adopting a health approach to risk, that will help businesses of all sizes maximize their risk management programmes.

Craig Ferri
EMEA Managing Director of Risk & Decision Analysis

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