When it comes to the kind of decisions that governments and aerospace companies routinely face, the tangle of trade-offs can be so complicated that those with influence can sway the outcome.

But a Virginia-based company pledges to bring more science and remove emotion from strategic decisions.

Decision Lens uses software that takes an organization’s priorities, quantitative and qualitative, to make informed choices, says John Saaty, founder and president. The software is based on the analytic hierarchy process developed by his father, University of Pittsburgh professor Thomas Saaty, and has been used in the life sciences, for food companies such as Kraft and by professional sports teams. It can analyze competing and conflicting considerations such as mission needs and constraints on cost, technology and manufacturing. It can run multiple scenarios side by side, for example, so its users can see what impact budget cuts might have on an item’s mission requirements.

In 2009, Navy Vice Adm. Adam Robinson told Congress that this kind of decision model was used to prioritize medical construction projects. “These changes yielded positive outcomes for Navy medicine,” he testified.

Decision Lens is finding its software works particularly well in the aerospace business, where it has helped the FAA’s NextGen Radio Technical Commission for Aeronautics decide which airport metroplexes would be the first to see certain NextGen ATM systems. It is also working with Boeing and Sikorsky to consider information technology investments for future rotorcraft and with U.S. Naval Air Systems Command to make capital investment decisions. The technology could be applied to knotty issues such as when and how to retire the A-10 Thunderbolt II. 

However, whether the software will ultimately produce good decisions depends on the strength of the requirements fed into the model. “A decision is a performance at a point in time,” Saaty says. And decisions, like priorities, can change.